Reprise: Ohio School for the Deaf

Former site of the State School for the Deaf, located on Town Street in downtown Columbus. The school later relocated to its present location near Morse Road and North High Street. Courtesy of Ohio History Connection. Via Ohio Memory.

On February 15, 2024, the State Library of Ohio Board passed a resolution, proclaiming March 13 through April 15 to be Ohio Deaf History Month.  While this blog post, which first appeared in the Ohio Memory blog in 2014, will appear slightly after April 15, it is a worthy topic for revisiting at any time of the year.  What follows is a slightly edited version of that 2014 post.

On April 17, 1817, the first United States school for the deaf was opened in Hartford, Connecticut by clergy member Thomas Gallaudet.  Three years later, a parent from Stark County applied for state aid to send his son to the school, as no comparable facilities were available in Ohio.  The state legislature took no action at that time but, in 1822, Referend James Hoge, an appointee to a board to establish a public education system in Ohio, began studying the need for education for the deaf.  In 1827, the Ohio General Assembly passed legislation which established the State Asylum for the Deaf and Dumb (note: this is the name used for the school until 1908).  Finally, in 1829, Ohio opened the fifth residential school for deaf students in the United States, making it one of the nation’s longest-running educational centers for the deaf and hard of hearing.

Back cover of 175 Glorious Years. Courtesy of the State Library of Ohio. Via Ohio Memory.

The Ohio School for the Deaf, located at 500 Morse Road, continues to serve students from kindergarten through 12th grade, with preschool programs for children as young as six weeks old.  Their curriculum is designed to engage their students, providing them with the means to navigate the world in which they live and help them to become contributing members of their communities.  Both spoken English and American Sign Language (ASL) are used throughout the program to promote bilingualism.  The school is also the only elder care facility in the nation run by, and designed for, deaf and hard of hearing people.

Baseball card for William Ellsworth “Dummy” hoy, from p. 85 of 175 Glorious Years. Courtesy of the State Library of Ohio. Via Ohio Memory.

To celebrate the school’s 175th anniversary in 2004, Lance and Catherine Fischer authored “The Ohio School for the Deaf: 175 Glorious Years.”  Three years later, the book, a thorough history of the school, its students, faculty, and staff, was published.  It included copious illustrations and stories about prominent attendees, such as William Ellsworth “Dummy” Hoy, former Cincinnati Reds outfielder and the first deaf athlete to play Major League Baseball.   Readers can read about students’ experiences via first-hand accounts from two alumni: William H. Zorn (Class of 1889) and Marjoriebell Stakley Holcomb (Class of 1943), or see reunion pictures from the 2004 anniversary celebration, with photos of reunited graduating classes from 1930 through 2004.

Please take a moment and read about this Ohio treasure!

Thank you to Shannon Kupfer-Trausch, Digital Initiatives Librarian at the State Library of Ohio, for this week’s post!

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