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A Virtual Window into Deaf History

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In honor of Deaf History Month, we are offering a webinar showcasing photographs and prints of Deaf people, notable figures, education, careers, and activities found in the Prints and Photographs Division’s collections. The first half of the presentation will be in American Sign Language (ASL) with closed captioning and voice interpretation for non-signing viewers. The second half will be in English with an interpreter using ASL as well as closed captioning. The session will be offered twice.

Our two staff members who will be sharing their knowledge of Deaf history in ASL during the first half of the presentation offered a few images as a preview.

Digital Library Specialist Pete Richey selected the following two related items. The first is an 1881 lithograph of what is now known as The American School for the Deaf in West Hartford, Connecticut. The print includes significant individuals connected with the school as well as images of sights around the campus arrayed around the main building. Founded in 1817, the school is the oldest permanent school for the Deaf in the United States.

American Asylum for Deaf and Dumb, Hartford, Conn. Lithograph by Hiram P. Arms, c1881.

Pete also shared this circa 1850 steel engraving of a prominent figure in the history of deaf education, Rev. Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet. (The same pose of Gallaudet is shared in the above lithograph, top center.) Gallaudet was the founder of The American School for the Deaf.

Gallaudet University, the world’s only university specifically designed to accommodate deaf and hard of hearing students, was founded in 1864 by an Act of Congress, which was signed into law by President Abraham Lincoln. The school was named in honor of Rev. Gallaudet in 1894.

Yours sincerely, Thomas H. Gallaudet. Steel engraving, circa 1850.

Technical Services Technician Ellen M. Kays shared images of two Deaf individuals she will sign about in her portion of the presentation.

First, we have William “Dummy” Hoy, centerfielder for the Washington Statesmen baseball team, crouching to catch the ball in this photographic baseball card from 1887.

[Dummy Hoy, Washington Statesmen, baseball card portrait] Photo copyrighted by Goodwin & Co., 1887.
And second, Ellen will reference several Deaf artists during the webinar, including John Louis Clarke, shown below carving a bear sculpture. Clarke (previously known as Clark) was a Blackfoot artist from Montana.

John Clark, carving bear. Photo by Bain News Service, between 1910 and 1915.

Join us for one of the two sessions to learn more about the images above, and much more!

Finding Pictures: Deaf History

Tuesday, April 12th, 2022, 12 noon – 1:00 pm Eastern
Register for this session:

Wednesday, April 20th, 2022, 3:00 pm – 4:00 pm Eastern
Register for this session:

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Comments (4)

  1. We no longer recognize National Deaf History Month between March 13 to April 15 but during April 1-30 according to the National Association of the Deaf statement. The reason is because of the equality, diversity and inclusion.

    Second – stop practicing use words “first” before a permanent school on the same statement. That is causing a confusion. American School for the Deaf is NOT the first deaf school in the USA. It is the OLDEST permanent deaf school, because other school before ASD was running its program between 1812 and 1821. Also, three of the Braidwood deaf students in Virginia enrolled at ASD as their SECOND school. We cannot eradicate their alumnus status. Respect the alumni of Braidwood who already were signing old British signs and written English before they enrolled at ASD.

    Before 1817, there were several sign languages circulated around for years. Recognize that.

    ASD was established in 1816, so that school OPENED its doors to students on April 15, 1817, not established. However, New York School for the Deaf was established that day. NYSD opened its doors in 1818.

    Be authentic on the deaf history facts, please.

    • Hello Ms. Brockway, Thank you for providing us with corrections so we can be more accurate in telling this history. I am happy to update the points about the new dates for Deaf History Month and reflect ‘oldest’ vs ‘first’ for ASD, as that is most accurate and will not lead to wrong assumptions, as you say. I chose to say founded in 1817 for ASD, as that is how they refer to their beginnings themselves:

      Thank you for sharing your expertise.

      Readers: Note the first version of this blog post has been updated as noted above.

  2. Were these webinars recorded? I have friends I’d like to share them with.

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