Areas of Study

Papers of Olof Hanson, 1862-1948

Gallaudet University Archives

Descriptive Summary

Repository:Gallaudet University Archives
Call No.: MSS 15
Title: Papers of Olof Hanson, 1862 – 1948.
Quantity: 4.0 Linear Feet (8 document boxes)
Abstract: Olof Hanson (1862 -1933) was a Deaf architect and clergyman. Olof designed several buildings at some schools for the deaf and one building at Gallaudet University. Olof was the 8th President of the National Association of the Deaf from 1910 to 1913.
Note: The Archives holds Olof Hanson’s architectural drawings from 1891 to late 1910s. There are about 75 different buildings that he designed. There are several photographs of buildings in a separate collection. Please consult an archivist for more information.

Administrative Information

Acquisition Information: The collection of Olof Hanson Papers was donated to the library by Agatha Tiegel Hanson, wife of Olof Hanson in 1954. Additional papers were donated by the family of Olof and Agatha Hanson periodically until 1983.
Processed by: Michael J. Olson.
Processing Note: The collection was processed and completed on November 1979 and later revised in February 2006.
Conditions on Use and Access: This collection is open to the public with no restrictions. Photocopies may be made for scholarly research.

Related Material in the Archives

Deaf Rare
  • Oral teaching of the deaf: reply to an address by Mr. Carroll G. Pearse, President, National Education Association / [Olof Hanson]. Gallaudet University Archives, Call Number: Deaf Rare
  • Collection, National Association of the Deaf, 1880-1996. Gallaudet University Archives, Call Number: MSS 81 [Olof Hanson’s business letters while he was the president of the NAD between 1910 and 1913 regarding oral law in Nebraska and motion pictures are included.]
  • Papers, Alice Hanson Jones, 1959-1983. Gallaudet University Archives, Call Number: SMSS
Vertical Files
  • Olof Hanson. Gallaudet University Archives, Call Number: Deaf Biographical
  • Olof Hanson. Gallaudet University Archives, Call Number: Portraits Photograph album of Olof Hanson. Gallaudet University Archives, Call Number: Photograph Album AL 3
  • Scrapbook of clippings from various deaf publications on deaf persons and events for the deaf belonged to Olof Hanson. Gallaudet University Archives, Call Number: Scrapbook Album 35
  • Scrapbook of clippings on Gallaudet College belonged to Olof Hanson. Gallaudet University Archives, Call Number: Scrapbook Album 18
  • Scrapbook of clippings on the National Association of the Deaf belonged to Olof Hanson. Gallaudet University Archives, Call Number: Scrapbook Album 23
Museum Artifacts
  • Commencement hood
  • Gavel presented to Olof Hanson during his term as President of the NAD, 1913. Donated by Mrs. Charles Merrick Rice
  • Color photograph with a frame of Olof Hanson in his ministerial uniform

Gallaudet University Library

  • Olof Hanson Papers complied by Michael J. Olson. Gallaudet University Library, Call Number: DEAF 720.92 O4 1979 c. 2 [This book contains in depth descriptive list of Olof Hanson Papers.]

Biographical Sketch

Olof Hanson, a Deaf architect and minister, was born in Fjälkinge, Sweden on September 10, 1862. He became deaf in one ear at the age of 10 by exposure to cold weather while returning home from school in Sweden.

Olof immigrated to America in 1875 and settled on a farm with his mother, brother and sister in Willmar, Minnesota. He attended the Minnesota School for the Deaf at Faribault where he graduated in 1881.

He matriculated at the National Deaf-Mute College, then known as Gallaudet University from 1881 to 1886. He received his Bachelor of Arts degree in 1886 and also received a Master of Arts degree in 1889.

Following his graduation from Gallaudet, he secured a job as a draftsman at an architect’s office in Minnesota. Then he went to Europe for professional study in architecture from 1889 to 1890. Upon his return to America, he found a job as an architect for an architectural firm in Philadelphia for a year. He returned to Faribault, Minnesota in 1891.

In 1896 he set up his own office as architect in Faribault, Minnesota where he remained until 1902. During his seven years as architect in Faribault, Olof designed 24 private residences, 18 store buildings and hotels, 10 school buildings, and two churches. In 1895 he designed a dormitory building for Kendall School students on the campus of Gallaudet University.

Olof married Agatha M. Tiegel on July 3, 1899 in Pennsylvania. Agatha was the first female graduate with a Bachelor of Arts degree from Gallaudet University in 1893. Agatha, at that time of marriage, was a teacher at the Minnesota School for the Deaf. Three daughters, Marion, Alice, and Helen were born to Olof and Agatha.

In 1902 they moved to Seattle, Washington where Olof set up his business with his partner, Frank Thayer. They designed several buildings in the Seattle area. Later, Olof was appointed as consulting architect at the University of Washington.

In 1909, Olof set up a Bible Class for the deaf people in Seattle. He became interested in ministry to the deaf and he studied for the ministry. He was ordained as a deacon on March 30, 1924 and also was ordained as a priest of the Episcopal Church on January 6, 1929. He spent his time traveling around Washington State, conducting his ministry services to the deaf people.

Olof was very active in leadership for the deaf community in the Seattle area. His earlier years as active leader in the Minnesota deaf community were his starting point where he eventually became one of the charter members of the Minnesota Association of the Deaf.

He was also involved in activities for the Puget Sound Association of the Deaf in Washington State. Olof served as president of the National Association of the Deaf from 1910 to 1913. During his tenure as a president, Olof learned that the U. S. Civil Service Commission set up its rule that no deaf persons be permitted to take the Civil Service examination for federal government employment.

He wrote a letter to U. S. President Theodore Roosevelt to let him know that he felt that it was unfair for the deaf people not to take the examination. In the letter, Olof requested President Roosevelt to remove all of the discrimination against the deaf people. His letter to the President was acknowledged by the President and was an important factor in the opening of such examinations to the deaf.

Olof died in Seattle, Washington on September 8, 1933.

Scope and Content of the Papers of Olof Hanson

The Olof Hanson Papers consist of letters, clippings, certificates, diary, poems, calling cards, receipts, account books, publications, lecture papers, sketch books, architectural papers, and reports.

The collection, which consists of approximately 6,800 pages, dates from 1862 to 1948. The bulk of the collection consists of his correspondence between his family and relatives; also his correspondence concerning the architectural works. The bulk dates are mostly between 1870s and 1920s.

The largest subject in the collection is focused on the architectural works of which Olof was employed as an architect. He corresponded with the contractors and builders concerning the construction of several buildings.

Olof wrote numerous letters to his family, relatives, and friends. He kept early letters written by his father, mother, siblings, and relatives in Swedish and he transcribed all of the early letters from Swedish into English.

Included in the collection are the letters Olof wrote to President Theodore Roosevelt concerning discrimination among the deaf people whom were barring from taking civil service examination.

Also included in the collection are debate papers and course works that Olof wrote while he was a student at the National Deaf-Mute College, now Gallaudet University. Olof spent a year in Europe where he studied architecture and in the collection there are sketchbooks of buildings and people that he drew while in Europe.

In the collection there is a folder that contains Olof’s conversation notes with an imposter who acted as a deaf person.

There are numerous original architectural drawings in a separate collection; also photographs of buildings that Olof designed. There are several photographs of Olof’s family and relatives.

Series Descriptions and Folder Lists

Series 1: Family Correspondence and Files
Boxes 1 – 2 (Folder 21) 1863-1934

Olof Hanson corresponded with his parents, siblings, family and relatives. Some letters are written in Swedish and English. There are three last will and testaments executed by Olof’s relatives. Included in the collection is a booklet that contains testimony by Olof’s oldest brother Hans in relating to Hans’ patent rights.

Series 2: General Files
Box 2 (Folder 22) – Box 4 (Folder 31) 1862-1945

There are some articles on sign language and deaf education that Olof Hanson wrote, including his autobiography. Olof corresponded with deaf friends such as Douglas Tilden, Cadwallader L. Washburn, Anson R. Spear, James L. Smith, and George Veditz.

Olof also corresponded with Edward Miner Gallaudet and Percival Hall. Included in the collection there is a file of wealth information on civil service examination for the deaf people. One interesting item in this series is a diary of which he described his experiences as a hunter on a hunting trip in Washington State.

Series 3: National Deaf-Mute College
Box 4 (Folder 32) – Box 4 (Folder 39) 1881-1888

Olof Hanson attended National Deaf-Mute College, now Gallaudet University, from 1881 to 1886. Included in the collection are Olof’s essays for his graduation requirements. Olof wrote debate papers between 1883 and 1886

There are course works that Olof wrote for his class projects. A sketch book drawn by Olof contains drawings of buildings and people in the Washington, DC area and also in Minnesota is included.

Series 4: Europe
Box 4 (Folder 40) – Box 5 (Folder 20) 1889-1890

Olof Hanson traveled to Europe to study architectural for a year. Included in the collection Olof wrote articles on his trip to Europe for a school for the deaf publication.

Also included in the collection are three folders of conservation notes with people that he wrote with while he was in Europe. Olof corresponded with some people when he was staying in some countries in Europe.

There are several sketch books of buildings, architectural details, and people. Olof made notes of deaf education in Italy and Germany.

Series 5: Church Works
Box 5 (Folder 21) – Box 5 (Folder 38) 1891-1933

Olof Hanson was a Lay Reader and Episcopal priest in Washington State. Included in the collection are letters that Olof wrote with his deaf and hearing priests. He kept a record book of religious services with deaf people in the Seattle area. He wrote some reports related to the church works for the deaf.

Series 6: Architectural Works
Box 6 (Folder 1) – Box 8 (Folder 21) 1889-1948

Olof Hanson was a Deaf architect and he designed many buildings in Minnesota, North Dakota, Washington, DC, and Washington State. Included in the collection Olof wrote numerous letters with contractors and builders for architectural designs and details.

He kept record books and ledgers of buildings that he designed between 1891 and 1913. There are some specifications, sketches, clippings and drawings of buildings. Most of the collection included correspondence concerning the construction of buildings at the Washington State School for the Deaf and the Blind.

Click here for Folders listing
Click here for Photographs listing
Click here for Architectural Works listing

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