American School for the Deaf

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American School for the Deaf
File:American School for the Deaf, main building, August 10, 2008.jpg
West Hartford, Connecticut
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Type Public
Established April 15, 1817
Staff 200
Grades K-12
Number of students 200
Color(s) Black and orange
Athletics Soccer, Volleyball, Basketball, Cheerleader, and Track/field
Mascot Tigers

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, Dr. Mason Cogswell, and Laurent Clerc and became a state-supported school later that year.


The first deaf school in the United States was short-lived: established in 1815 by Col. William Bolling of Goochland, Virginia, in nearby Cobbs, with John Braidwood (tutor of Bolling's two deaf children) as teacher, it closed in the fall of 1816.[1]

During the winter of 1818–1819, the American School for the Deaf became the first school of primary and secondary education to receive aid from the federal government when it was granted $300,000.[2][3] As a result of its pivotal role in American deaf history, it also hosts a museum containing numerous rare and old items. While it is situated on a 54-acre (220,000 m2) campus, the ASD has a small enrollment — in its history, the ASD has graduated approximately 6000 graduates.[4]

The 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. After being rebuffed by the Braidwoods, 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.[5] John Brewster Jr., was a 51-year-old itinerant portrait painter.

Gallaudet was principal until 1830. His son followed 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).


  • Fall: Soccer and Volleyball
  • Winter: Basketball and Cheerleader
  • Spring: Track and field

Camp Isola Bella

Isola Bella is ASD's summer camp for Deaf and Hard of Hearing children located in northwestern Connecticut (Salisbury, CT) on an island on Lake Washining. It was established in 1964, after a will of the island from ASD trustees Ferrari and Muriel Ward. There are two sessions, session 1 for ages 8–12 and session 2 for 13-18.

National Theater of the Deaf

In 2004, America's National Theatre of the Deaf (NTD) moved its corporate headquarters to the campus of the American School for the Deaf.[6]


Edmund Booth helped establish the Iowa School for the Deaf.[7]

John Flournoy helped establish the Georgia School for the Deaf.


  1. Camp, Ted. "Deaf Timelines: History and Heritage",, Jan. 2011; Loth, Calder, ed. Virginia Landmarks Register, 4th edition, Univ. of Va. Press, 1999.
  2. Dewey, John. 1917. Address, in: Proceedings of the Twenty-First Meeting of the American Instructors of the Deaf," p. 50
  3. Gallaudet, Edward M. (1886). "History of the education of the deaf in the United States". American Annals of the Deaf and Dumb. 31 (2): 130–47.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. Gannon, Jack. 1981. Deaf Heritage–A Narrative History of Deaf America, Silver Spring, MD: National Association of the Deaf, p. 16 (PDF)
  5. Buchanan, Bob (ed.), "Gaillard in America--Portrait of the Deaf Community, 1917", p. 172 (Link to Google Books)
  6. National Theater of the Deaf (US): NTD moves to ASD in West Hartford, CT (2004); NTD/ASD press release: NTD moves to ASD campus
  7. Edmund Booth. Retrieved on 2013-08-02.

External links