Clarke School for the Deaf History







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History of the Connecticut Valley in Massachusetts. Volume 1. Philadelphia: Louis H. Everts, 1879.

Page 180

The Clarke Institution for Deaf Mutes

This humane institution was the first public establishment in the United States where the deaf were taught to read lips, and the dumb to speak.

It was chartered in 1867, and was endowed by its generous founder, the late John Clarke, in the sum of $50,000. Immediately thereafter the school was established, and the system of instructing by articulation decided upon, and Miss Harriet B. Rogers, who had been successful in teaching this method, was chosen principal.

Mr. Clarke died in 1869, and made the institution his residuary legatee. The whole endowment of the school is derived from bequests, which now amount to over $365,000. The school was opened in what is known as the Gothic Seminary

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building, on Gothic Street, owned by L. J. Dudley. Here it was continued until the year 1870, when the Round Hill property, consisting of 11 acres, was purchased at a cost of $31,500, and in the fall of that year the school was opened. The old buildings were remodeled and new ones erected. Clarke Hall is used for recitations, Baker Hall for boys' dormitory, and Rogers Hall for the girls' dormitory and residence of the principal. There is also a large workshop, a laundry, a stable, and a cottage for the farmer.

In the matter of the system of instruction in this institution, it was said by the president of the institute in his first annual report: "Articulation is used as the means of instruction, because we believe it the best method for our pupils. The institution is not, however, pledged to any unchangeable system, but only to that, whatever it may be, which experience shall prove to give the best results." An experience of more than eight years has confirmed this opinion concerning the essential characteristics of the system, but modifications in its application have been made; and these modifications, with the causes which have induced them, it is our purpose now to present. In order to do this, it will be necessary to not some points in the history of the Clarke Institution, and also to mention the school which formed the germ of this, -- a private class in Chelmsford, Mass.

In the fall of 1864 the present principal, Miss Harriet B. Rogers, took under her care a deaf-mute child, intending to teach it by means of articulation and lip-reading. This she knew had been done in Germany, though she had not learned the details of the system employed there. As the needs of her pupil demanded, she fashioned a system of her own, which, as later comparison showed, had many points of resemblance to the German method. She proposed also to employ the manual alphabet, during the first years of instruction, in the use of words which the child could not articulate. A brief trial of this combined method convinced Miss Rogers of the impossibility of attaining complete success in articulation and lip-reading unless these were employed as the sole means of communication; for the pupil, during his early instruction, finding it more difficult to read words from the lips than from the fingers, was in danger of becoming dependent on the latter rather than the former, and thus would be content with that which was intended only as an aid to the higher attainment of lip-reading. She therefore abandoned the manual alphabet, and retained only articulation and lip-reading, and the result exceeded her expectations. Encouraged in her success by the by the favorable opinions of several leading educators in Boston, she made further trial of this method with seven other pupils, three of whom were congenitally deaf.



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