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A Brief History Of The Pennsylvania Institution For The Deaf And Dumb

Creator: H. Van Allen (author)
Date: 1893
Source: Available at selected libraries
Figures From This Artifact: Figure 2  Figure 3  Figure 4  Figure 5  Figure 6

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In spite of repeated enlargements, in 1875 it was found necessary to adopt some means to increase the capacity of the Institution, the number of pupils at that time being 225, and the number of applications for admission being far beyond the ability of the Institution to accept. Efforts had been made in vain to obtain a suitable site in the suburbs, and the city of Philadelphia had been appealed to without avail to donate a site, and the Board of Directors therefore concluded to enlarge the existing edifice. The fine brick structure occupying the whole western half of the Institution property and containing ample play-rooms and dormitories and numerous school-rooms, was accordingly erected. This improvement increased the capacity of the school to 350.


In July, 1876, the convention of the American Instructors of the Deaf and Dumb met at, and was entertained by, the Institution.


For a considerable period the Board of Directors had been considering the advisability of opening a day-school in connection with the Institution for the benefit of deaf children residing in the immediate neighborhood of the Institution. It was hoped that the establishment of a school of this kind, for which accommodations would be required only during school hours, would serve as an expedient for relieving the Institution from its crowded condition, while, at the same time, it would make it possible to extend the benefits of education to a much larger proportion of the deaf children of the city. In 1871 an inquiry was made to ascertain the number of children whose parents would be willing to send them to such a school. The number was so small, however, that the project was temporarily abandoned, though not lost sight of. In 1881 the day-school was finally opened at Seventeenth and Chestnut streets, under charge of Miss Emma Garrett, who had been in the employ of the Institution as teacher of articulation for some time. The method of instruction adopted was what is known as the "pure oral." The original intention had been to make room for the day-school at Broad and Pine streets, but on account of the difference of the methods pursued an entire separation of the two schools was deemed advisable.


The history of oral teaching in the Pennsylvania Institution for the Deaf and Dumb is at once peculiar and interesting. The system of instruction originally adopted by the Institution was the manual or Sicard system, and for half a century the employment of no other was attempted. There are indeed vague hints of efforts to preserve and cultivate the speech of such semi-mutes as retained some power of articulation, but no systematic instruction, as we now understand it, was undertaken. In 1870, however, the Board of Directors, impressed by the reports of the success of such teaching that reached them, sent a committee consisting of F. Mortimer Lewis, James J. Barclay, and the principal, Joshua Foster, to inspect the Clarke Institution at Northampton, Mass., and the articulation department of the Hartford and New York Institution. This committee was so favorably impressed that upon its return it recommended that arrangements be at once made for giving instruction in articulation to all semi-mute and semi-deaf children. Miss Rebecca Cropper was sent to New York for instruction under Professor Bernard Engelsmann, and upon her return was placed in charge of the articulation class. In 1876 Mr. Edward Crane, a pupil of Alexander Graham Bell, was placed at the head of the articulation department. The success attending this form of instruction was so marked that the Board was led to consider the advisability of introducing separate oral instruction for such pupils as retained a considerable command of speech, and, incidentally, as a means of testing the practicability of teaching speech to the congenitally deaf. When, therefore, the day-school was established it was decided to employ the oral method exclusively. Instruction in articulation at Broad and Pine streets was carried on without interruption.


The growth of the "day-school" was rapid. In 1883 the attendance was 70, and nine teachers were employed. Early in that year the accommodations at Seventeenth and Chestnut streets were found to be inadequate and the school was removed to a larger house at the corner of Eleventh and Clinton streets. The experiment of a day-school did not prove as satisfactory as had been anticipated, and in 1885 it became a boarding-school, and was known thereafter as the Branch for Oral Instruction.


At the main Institution an experimental class was formed in which the children were taught in the school-room by speech alone, but were permitted to mingle with the manually taught children out of school. A second class for this species of instruction was subsequently formed. Thus the Institution had experiments in three kinds of speech-teaching going forward at one and the same time and it was upon the practical results obtained, and not upon any mere theory, that subsequent action in regard to speech-teaching was based. In 1887 it was determined to discontinue the teaching of articulation to the pupils of manual classes, and at the present time the oral work of the school is carried on in a pure oral department, and a small oral class in connection with the manual department.

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