The first school for the deaf in the United States was established in Hartford, Connecticut. It owed its origins to Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet, a Congregational minister who traveled to Europe in 1815 to study methods of communicating with deaf people. The Connecticut Asylum for the Education of Deaf and Dumb Persons opened its doors in 1817 in Hartford, with Laurent Clerc as sign-language teacher.
The Ohio Deaf and Dumb Asylum Act was passed during the 1826-1827 legislative session and the first annual report of the board of trustees of the Ohio Institution for the Education of the Deaf and Dumb was submitted to the Ohio Legislature in 1827. Lucas Sullivant's third son Michael was a member of the board; physician members of the board were Lincoln Goodale, Robert Thompson, and Samuel Parsons. The early institution began in 1829, operating from rented quarters on North High Street in Columbus. A legislative appropriation in 1828 was followed by purchase of a ten-acre site about half a mile east of the center of the city on Town Street. By 1830 permanent-building plans were in pace, and the school principal, Horatio N. Hubbell, who had been sent to the Hartford Asylum for 18 months of training - was at work with two assistants, both educated at Hartford.
The annual reports of the institution are comprehensive and include lists of the pupils' names, their places of residence, and how they were supported - whether by their families, friends, or (if indigent) by the state. By 1834 the main buildings were finished and occupied, and Hubbell was working with four assistants, three of whom were themselves deaf mutes who had been educated at Hartford. Hubbell's 1834 principal's report included a summary of the history of teaching the deaf and a discussion of sign language as the natural language of the deaf, as opposed to articulation as taught at some schools. Education of the deaf was entering a controversial era as authoritative proponents of two major systems of communication - sign language, and the oralism or articulation system - took sides in battles over the control of the institution of the deaf. In one form or another, the conflicts surrounding language, linguistic expression, and the education of deaf children have persisted and even heightened during the second half of the 20th century.
Robert Thompson was the physician to the Ohio Institution for the Education of Deaf and Dumb from 1833 to 1857. During the later years of his appointment, the annual reports contained Thompson's detailed physician's reports to the board of trustees regarding the health of the residents of the institution, along with his recommendations to the board. Topics included smallpox vaccination and causes of death among the residents in 1844; repeated requests for the completion of sewers in 1849; the need for a separate building for the sick ("for want of a hospital") with an outbreak of cholera in 1852; his continuing concerns about "a want of capacity and adaptation in the buildings" in 1853.
Most of the deaf students were of school age. They received vocational training that include bookbinding in the deaf-school bindery, sewing, cooking, and housekeeping. Over the years the school for deaf was variously known as the Ohio Deaf and Dumb Asylum, Ohio State School for the Deaf, and the Ohio Institution for the Education of the Deaf and Dumb. The next school for deaf was at 450 East Town Street. It was completed in 1868 to a design by George W. Bellows, Sr., father of George Bellows, the well-known Columbus artist. The latest school, the Ohio State School for the Deaf, was built at 500 Morse Road in Columbus in 1953.
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