Oldest School for the Deaf in the US

American School for the Deaf
West Hartford

The American School for the Deaf (ASD) is the oldest permanent school for the deaf in the United States. What’s more, the school became the first recipient of state aid to education in America when the Connecticut General Assembly awarded its first annual grant to the school in 1819. When the United States Congress awarded the school a land grant in the Alabama Territory in 1820, it was the first instance of federal aid to elementary and secondary special education in the United States.


The things I learn.

The American School for the Deaf (ASD) is the oldest permanent school for the deaf in the United States. It was founded April 15, 1817 in Hartford, Connecticut by Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet and Laurent Clerc and became a state-supported school in 1817.

The first deaf school established was Virginia School for the Deaf in 1780′s, but it closed few years later.

asd-1The impetus behind its founding was the fact that Alice Cogswell, the daughter of a wealthy local surgeon (Mason Fitch Cogswell), was deafened in childhood by fever at a time when the British schools were an unacceptable substitute for a local school. Dr. Cogswell prevailed upon the young Gallaudet (who had recently graduated from Yale University’s School of Divinity and had begun studying at Andover). Gallaudet met young Alice in Hartford, where he was recovering from a chronic illness.

Cogswell and nine other citizens decided that the known 84 deaf children in New England needed appropriate facilities. However, competent teachers could not be found, so they sent Gallaudet in 1815 on a tour of Europe, where deaf education was a much more developed art. Gallaudet turned to the Parisian French schoolteachers of the famous school for the Deaf in Paris, where he successfully recruited Laurent Clerc.

On the strength of Clerc’s reputation, the ASD was incorporated as the “American Asylum for Deaf-mutes” in May, 1816. When it opened in 1817, there were seven students enrolled: Alice Cogswell, George Loring, Wilson Whiton, Abigail Dillingham, Otis Waters, John Brewster, and Nancy Orr. The original name of the school was: The Connecticut Asylum (at Hartford) for the Education and Instruction of Deaf and Dumb Persons.

Gallaudet would be principal until 1830. His son would follow in his legacy, establishing Gallaudet University, which followed the ASD’s lead and taught students primarily in American Sign Language (derived from the methodical signs and Parisian sign language of the French Institute for the Deaf).

And the best part? The school has an excellent museum and archives! CTMQ Visit here

12 responses to “Oldest School for the Deaf in the US”

  1. Robert Azensky says:

    While studying the collection of papers I own, of the James Henry Wells family of Hartford Connecticut. I happened upon numerous dinner invitations signed T H Gallaudet 1840-50 to James H Wells. Also I found extracts of Asylum Business which describes the annual contract and payment for Abby Dillingham & Charles Burgess, Augusta Kimball. Abby having entered on April 16, 1817. Just some of a large cache of historical documents from the Wells Family of Brattleboro VT and Hartford Connecticut passed down through the Wells family and through marriage to the Huggins then Porter Families.

  2. Meredith says:

    The school established in Virginia was NOT the Virginia School for the Deaf. That school was not opened until 1839, in Staunton. Its full name is the Virginia School for the Deaf and Blind (VSDB).

    The school in Virginia that you are thinking of was operated by John Braidwood, of the British family of deaf educators. He opened it in 1812 and it closed in 1815. It was located near Richmond and was started at the request of William Bolling, who had deaf children.

  3. Steve says:

    Thank you, Meredith.

  4. S. M. Manzur Iqbal says:

    I am applying for this education.

  5. Mrs. Shakuntala R. Dani says:

    I am from India, n I like social service. I nave a great experience in dumb and deaf field. I want to join this school as a teacher…

  6. Manohar V. Chiplonkar says:

    I am from Mumbai (INDIA). As an ideal teaching aid, I have developed a unique product – SCRIPTO semi-transparent slate. Use of this slate will help teachers to teach and kids with hearing and speech problem to learn alphabets in short time. Kindly let me know if your esteemed institute is interested in getting a free specimen.

    Thanks for your time. Regards.

  7. Oldest School for the Deaf in the US | Mary LeBlanc Realty Buying and Selling Connecticut says:

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  8. demetrius says:

    weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee this school is so awsome

  9. Jean C. Martin says:

    My mother’s sister took a train from Minnesota to West Hartford where she had applied for a teaching poisition at American School for the Deaf many years ago.
    The administrator did not realize that she was hearing impaired but did hire her and she worked there as a teacher for many years. I was told that the library may have been named after her.
    Her husband was employed by and worked with the children and adolescents for many years at American School for the Deaf.
    They lived on the campus in a red brick ranch style home.

    Their names were Margaret and Robert Taylor.

    I have always wanted to re-visit ASD. I am now retired. I recall visiting from Minnesota as a young child.
    I now live in Duxbury, Massachusetts and would love to bring my family some day to tour the school and museum.

    For my Aunt, Margaret Taylor and her husband Robert Taylor, ASD and the students of this wonderful school were their life, their career and calling in life. Two very special people.

    The school mascot lived with them. I remember him as a beautiful German Shepherd.

    Thank you.
    And should there ever be museum or school tours, I would so welcome this.

    Jean C. Martin

  10. francisco reyes says:

    My Boy is 13 year,he is deaf,and I want soccer school for him

  11. dave nisidh says:

    I am nisidhkumar.c. asst.Techer at baroda gujarat india deaf-mute teacher
    since 1981 and teach approximate 2000 and more students learn from me speech therapy, language developing,speech reading subjects and sine language so i would like to visit your school and many more schools witch is situated in USA so what i have to do.

  12. Johann Gunesekera says:

    My name is Johann Gunesekera from Melbourne, Australia. I am deaf born. It would be nice to meet you when I am around New York area and other States,and also interestingly meeting deaf people/teachers. I am already booked a travel ticket from the 26th December 2014 to the 24th January 2015. It is regarding for my accommodation, contacts, agencies, deaf communities and making new friends. I do living in single househusband-hood, but I do love writing – this is my passion and dream to become a successful author especially short stories.

    Before I leave Melbourne, I would like to contact you or other Deafies because I don’t know where I will be on New Year Eve Night. Is that okay with you?

    Look forward to hearing from you again. Have a wonderful day.

    All the best and cheers,
    Johann Gunesekera
    6 Friuli Place
    Victoria 3977
    e: [email protected]
    61 4 400 026 990 (only SMS)

    (You are welcome to add me as friends on Facebook with a logo of USA flag)

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