Deaf History: The founding of the first School
for the Deaf in America
Regarding Deaf History, one achievement stands out among the rest:
The founding of the first School for the Deaf in America. The
founder, Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet, is an icon in deaf as well as
hearing culture. Gallaudet took the bold first step in educating the
deaf. Founding the American School for the Deaf revolutionized
education and took great strides in educating everybody; for
purposes such as Literacy, Salvation, and teaching the skills needed
to earn a living.
Thomas Gallaudet was born December 10, 1781. He could never
keep up with his friends as a child, because he was born naturally
weak with breathing problems. He wore hand-me-downs from his younger
brother because of his small stature (Bowen, 1995). While he was a
child, his parents moved to Hartford Connecticut so he could go to
grammar school (Corporation, Thomson).
from Yale University with the highest honors, he started a career as
a traveling sales man. As he taught the children on his travels
things like history and the Bible, it allowed him to realize he
wanted to be a minister (Enders). Gallaudet went to Andover
Theological Seminary. After graduating in 1814, (Corporation,
Thomson) he came across a deaf and mute girl named Alice Cogswell
(Enders). Alice had been stricken with a fever that caused her
deafness when she was two (American School for the Deaf, 2009).
Intrigued by Alice, he desired to educate her, and taught her words
using sticks in the mud. Dr. Cogswell, Alice's father, encouraged
Gallaudet to instruct her. Eventually, Cogswell and other families
funded Gallaudet's trip to Europe to find means of educating the
deaf (Hager, 2006).
While he was touring Great Britain in search of greater methods of
education for the deaf-mute, Abbe Sicard, was giving lectures there
(Gallaudet, 1888). Sicard was the Director of the French school for
the deaf (American School for the Deaf, 2009). Gallaudet also met up
with Laurent Clerc, a pupil and assistant of Sicard (VirtualologyTM,
2001). While attending the lectures, Gallaudet convinced Clerc to
travel back to America with him. In a couple years, Gallaudet
mastered these new methods and went back to America (Enders). On the
long way home, Gallaudet and Clerc exchanged teachings and learned
each other's languages. Gallaudet effectively mastered French Sign
Once Gallaudet returned to America, he and Clerc (with the help from
the Cogswell family) established the Connecticut Asylum for
the Education and Instruction of Deaf and Dumb Persons (Hager,
2006). The school got special attention from the president, James
Monroe. Soon, the government gave large grants of land and funds to
help support the institution. He and Clerc developed the American
Sign Language, and taught it to the individuals who went to their
Today, although the institution is out of commission, newer
institutions, like the American School for the Deaf and Gallaudet
University, have replaced it with newer facilities and resources.
(Hager, 2006). Ever since the first student, Alice Cogswell, had
attended the school; both Deaf and Hearing people of all ages could
find means of education in the institution. Gallaudet successfully
revolutionized education for the Deaf world.
VirtualologyTM. (2001). Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet. Retrieved
Janurary 16, 2011, from famousamericans.net: http://www.famousamericans.net/thomashopkinsgallaudet/
American School for the Deaf. (2009). A Brief History of ASD.
Retrieved Janurary 17, 2011, from asd.org: http://www.asd-1817.org/page.cfm?p=429
Bowen, A. R. (1995). A World of Knowing: A Story about Thomas
Hopkins Gallaudet . Minninapolis.
Corporation, Thomson. (n.d.). Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet from
Encyclopedia of World Biography. Retrieved Janurary 2011, from
Enders, K. (n.d.). Gallaudet, Thomas Hopkins. Retrieved
Janurary 16, 2011, from learningtogive.org: http://learningtogive.org/papers/paper98.html
Gallaudet, E. M. (1888). Life of Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet:
founder of deaf-mute instruction in America. New York: Henry
Holt and Company.
Hager, R. T. (2006, Fall). Gallaudet, Thomas Hopkins.
Retrieved Janurary 16, 2011, from pabook.libraries.psu.edu: http://www.pabook.libraries.psu.edu/palitmap/bios/Gallaudet__Thomas.html