Areas of Study

MSS 147

Gallaudet Family

Papers of Gallaudet Family, 1814-1940

Gallaudet University Archives

Descriptive Summary

Repository: Gallaudet University Archives

Call No.: MSS 147


Title: Papers of Gallaudet Family, 1814-1940

Quantity: 14.5 Linear Feet (18 document boxes and 9 oversized boxes)


Note: This document last updated 2008 February 8.

Administrative Information

Acquisition Information: The Gallaudet Family collection was given to the Gallaudet University

Archives by Richard V. Fabian, Jr. and late Peter G. Fabian in the memory of their mother Ellen S. Gallaudet (daughter of Herbert D. Gallaudet on October 1991.

Processed by: Ulf Hedberg. 1992.

Processing Note:

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:


  • Photograph album of Edward Miner Gallaudet’s European Trip of 1867 [picture]. Gallaudet University Archives, Call Number: Photograph Album AL 18
  • Photographs of member of the Gallaudet Family [picture]. Gallaudet University Archives, Call Number: Original Photograph Vertical File – Gallaudet Family
  • Photographs of Edward Miner Gallaudet [picture]. Gallaudet University Archives, Call Number: Original Photograph Vertical File – Presidents

Vertical Files

  • Gallaudet Family. Gallaudet University Archives, Call Number: Deaf Biographical

Biographical Sketch

The Gallaudet Family has been recognized as paving the way for deaf people and deaf educators more than any other family in history. The name ‘Gallaudet’ has become synonymous with ‘deaf education’. On December 10, 1787, Reverend Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He attended Yale College, earning his bachelor’s degree (1805) and master’s degree in 1810. In 1814, Gallaudet became a preacher.

Reverend Gallaudet’s interest in the deaf peeked when he met Alice Cogswell, the deaf-mute daughter of an affluent surgeon, Dr. Mason F. Cogswell. Reverend Gallaudet was commissioned to travel to Europe and find the most efficient way to educate and communicate with the deaf. Reverend Gallaudet witnessed various techniques being employed but was most impressed with the French manual method of signs. While at the Institution Nationale des Sourds-Muets in Paris, Gallaudet studied the language through the teacher preparation training program. When it was time to return to the United States, he invited Laurent Clerc, a highly educated graduate and professor at the institute, to aid in establishing schools in the United States. The boat ride back to the United States was 55 days, Gallaudet taught Clerc English, and Clerc taught Gallaudet French sign language.

On April 15, 1817, the goal of education in American for the Deaf finally came to fruition with the first school’s opening, the American School for the Deaf in Hartford, Connecticut. Reverend Gallaudet was married in 1821 to Sophia Fowler, a former pupil; together, they had eight children. Edward Miner Gallaudet, the youngest of 8, also felt the family’s desire to advance the field of deaf education. On June 13, 1857, The Columbia Institution for the Deaf, what is now known as Kendall School, was established. Amos Kendall was the first president and continued until 1864. He appointed Edward Miner Gallaudet (EMG) as the first principal of the school. Amos Kendall obtained federal support for both the Kendall school and the Gallaudet College that was to be established in 1864.

Edward Miner Gallaudet married twice, the first to Jane Fessenden in 1858 and birthed 3 children together, the second was Susan Denison in 1868, and they had 5 children together. Edward Miner Gallaudet was not the only child to acquire interest in the deaf community, the eldest son of Reverend Gallaudet, Dr. Thomas Gallaudet was also involved in the Deaf community, and he founded St. Ann’s Church for the Deaf in New York City.

The Gallaudet Family made advances towards deaf education that were not made before 1817 in the United States. They are honored in the Deaf Community and especially at Gallaudet University, and remain prominent figures in deaf history.

Scope and Content

The Gallaudet Family collection consists of 18 boxes of documents and nine oversized boxes filled with memorabilia and personal items belonging to the Gallaudet Family. Amongst the contents, there are correspondence, manuscripts, clippings, marriage records, and articles penned by family members, diaries, poems, and wills. The collection is divided into five series; they are Edward Miner Gallaudet Collection, Herbert Draper Gallaudet Collection, Susan Denison Gallaudet Collection, The Denison Family Collection, and the Fessenden & Gallaudet Families Collection.

These letters and documents enable researchers and subsequent generations in understanding the Gallaudet family and their intense ties with the Deaf Community.

Series Descriptions and Folder Lists

No Series.

Click Here to View the Folders List

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