MSS 162

Pennsylvania School for the Deaf, 1820-
Records of Pennsylvania School for the Deaf, 1816-1984

Gallaudet University Archives
Descriptive Summary

Repository: Gallaudet University Archives
Call No.: MSS 162
Creator: Pennsylvania School for the Deaf
Title: Records of Pennsylvania School for the Deaf, 1816-1984.
Quantity: 255.0 Linear Feet (343 document boxes and 123 oversized boxes)
Abstract: Pennsylvania School for the Deaf (since 1820) was a residential school for the deaf in Philadelphia. It was founded by David Seixas and the school began in his private home. Laurent Clerc served briefly as principal at the school. In 1825, the school moved to its first school building at the corner of Broad and Pine Streets. It had two separate schools operating in manual and oral methods in separate locations. In 1892, they were merged in a new location so called Mt. Airy which operated until 1984. Due to declining enrollment and economic factors, it was required to downsize which led the school to move to a new location in the Germantown subdivision.
Note: The Archives holds the photographs separately from this inventory. Please consult an archivist for more information. Five boxes contain 135 engravings.

Administrative Information

Acquisition Information: The records of the Pennsylvania School for the Deaf were donated to the Archives by the Pennsylvania School for the Deaf in 1983 and 1985.
Processed by: Michael J. Olson and Ulf Hedberg, partly processed in 1985, completed on October 1, 2007.
Custodial History:
Processing Note: The collection was partly processed in 1985, but it was pending, then re-started processing during 2005 and 2006 and it was processed and completed on October 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

  • Constitution and by-laws of the Pennsylvania Institution for the Deaf and Dumb and: with the address of the Board of directors and a list of the officers. Gallaudet University Archives, Call Number: Deaf Rare
  • Documents in relation to the dismissal of David G. Seixas, from the Pennsylvania Institution for the Deaf and Dumb: published for the information of the contributors, in pursuance of a resolution of the Board of Directors, passed the 3d of April 1822. Gallaudet University Archives, Call Number: Deaf Rare
  • An address delivered in the Capitol, in Washington City, February 16th, 1828, at an exhibition of three of the pupils of the Pennsylvania Institution for the Education of the Deaf and Dumb. … Published by request. Gallaudet University Archives, Call Number: Deaf Rare
  • The charter, by-laws, and acts of assembly relating to the Pennsylvania Institution for the Deaf and Dumb: together with the acts of assembly of the States of Maryland, New Jersey, and Delaware relative to the instruction of deaf-mutes. Gallaudet University Archives, Call Number: Deaf Rare
  • Memoir of Edward K. Diettrich, deaf and blind: a pupil of the Pennsylvania Institution for the Instruction of the Blind. Gallaudet University Archives, Call Number: Deaf Rare
  • An address commemorative of the virtues and services of Abraham B. Hutton, late principal of the Pennsylvania Institution for the Deaf and Dumb, delivered at the request of the Directors, on the 4th of October, 1870. Gallaudet University Archives, Call Number: Deaf Rare
  • Report of the special committee of the Board of Directors of the Pennsylvania Institution for the Deaf and Dumb, appointed March 5th, 1884, to collect information as to the lives and occupations of those pupils who left the institution during the ten years prior to 1884. Gallaudet University Archives, Call Number: Deaf Rare
  • Discussion and results of oral work: a paper read before the Teachers’ Association of the Pennsylvania Institution for the Deaf and Dumb. Gallaudet University Archives, Call Number: Deaf Rare
  • A brief history of the Pennsylvania Institution for the Deaf and Dumb by H. Van Allen … illustrated with numerous engravings by W.R. Cullingworth. Gallaudet University Archives, Call Number: Deaf Rare

Vertical Files

  • Pennsylvania School for the Deaf. Gallaudet University Archives, Call Number: Deaf Schools


  • Pennsylvania School for the Deaf. Gallaudet University Archives, Photograph Collection: Special Topics; Schools-Pennsylvania-Philadelphia


  • Scrapbook of clippings. Gallaudet University Archives, Call Number: Scrapbook Album 2

Historical Sketch

The Pennsylvania School for the Deaf (PSD) is the third oldest school of its kind in the United States. Formerly, it was called the Pennsylvania Institution for the Deaf and Dumb (PIDD) until its name change occurred in 1934.

In 1819, David Seixas, a young tradesman, became interested in a number of deaf children whom he found wandering about the streets of Philadelphia. In 1820, the school began in David Seixas’ private home on the corner of Seventeenth and High (Market) Streets. From his own limited means, he undertook to found a home for their care and instruction. The little school was opened and carried on for a short time. Mr. Seixas’ efforts were soon brought to the attention of a philanthropic group of Philadelphia citizens who met in the Hall of the Philosophical Society to consider the organization of a permanent institution for the instruction of the “deaf and dumb.” Several committees were appointed to solicit funds for a more suitable location and for the necessary equipment. A committee was charged with approaching the legislature of Pennsylvania to request an act of incorporation and financial aid from the State. Mr. Seixas was formally appointed teacher and his small group of fifteen pupils formed the nucleus of the school which then moved to the southeastern corner of Eleventh and Market Streets in 1821.

One of PSD’s first principals was the noted Deaf Frenchman Laurent Clerc, who served briefly as Principal from late 1821 until mid-1822. By 1822 there were 58 pupils under the instruction of a principal and three teachers. There is reason to believe that the first vocational training in Philadelphia, if not in the State, was begun that year. Such useful occupations as spinning, weaving and housewifery were stressed for the girls. The boys were taught coopering, cobbling, cabinet-making, and carpentry.

To accommodate the rapidly growing school, a site was then purchased at the northwestern corner of Broad and Pine Streets, and a new and modern building was built and made ready for occupancy in November 1825. Additions were made to this building from time to time.

In 1881, the day school was opened at Seventeenth and Chestnuts Streets, under the charge of Miss Emma Garrett. The method of instruction adopted was the “pure oral.” The original intention had been to make room for the day school at Broad and Pine Streets, but on account of the difference of methods pursued an entire separation of the two schools was deemed advisable. Because of the rapid growth of the day school, in 1883, the school moved to the corner of Eleventh and Clinton Streets. In 1885, the day school became a boarding school and was known as the Branch for Oral Instruction. The accommodations for both the main “Institution” and the “Oral Branch” became inadequate. The plan to move the schools to new quarters began in 1889.

In 1892, the school opened in its new setting, a spacious, thirty-three acres with 20 additional acres of woods located in Mt. Airy. Fourteen buildings were constructed. There was ample room for the ten buildings, playgrounds, and football, hockey, and track fields. Pupils were housed in three buildings, each a separate unit with dormitories and living quarters, dining, and kitchen facilities. Each hall had a principal, a matron and a staff of teachers and supervisors. In Cresheim Hall was the Primary Department, in Wingohocking Hall the Intermediate Department, and in Wissinoming Hall the Advanced Department. The Administration offices were also in Wissinoming Hall. Located in Morris Hall were the Vocational Department with various shops, food laboratories, and a housekeeping apartment. There was also the office of the Business Manager, and the laundry. Next to Morris Hall was the heat, light, and power plant with another small building nearby where supplies were received and stored.

Gilpin Hall, the gymnasium, was the newest and most modern building on the campus in 1927, while Scout Lodge, originally a stone barn built in 1801 and renovated in 1939 was the oldest. The Infirmary, with two registered nurses and its own household staff, was housed a separate building equipped with modern facilities for the care of bed patients and the various clinics. The Headmaster’s home was a charming old house on one corner of the campus facing Germantown Avenue. In 1962, the latest modern building, the George W. Nevil Vocational Building, was built on the campus between Cresheim Hall and Wissinoming Hall to meet the growing demand of various vocational training programs. All Administration offices were then relocated to Morris Hall.

In the 1980s, declining enrollment and resources prompted relocation to a smaller setting. In 1984 the Board of Directors of the PSD decided to purchase the former Germantown Academy campus from the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority. The campus was completely renovated while preserving its unique historic character. The PSD serves deaf children ranging in age from three through young teens in preschool, elementary, middle and high school classes.

Scope and Content

The records of the Pennsylvania School for the Deaf consist mainly of administrative files and financial records, such as admission records, annual reports, applications, correspondence, memoranda, minutes, reports, bills paid, checks, ledgers, and payroll.

The collection, which consists of approximately 396,100 pages, dates from 1816 to 1984. Most documents date from one of three eras: prior to 1840, 1860s-1890s and 1940s-1960s. In the first group, the volume of papers from the 1820s is larger than that from the 1830s and 1840s because, on the founding of the school, there were not only acts of incorporation but also many letters, reports, and financial records.
The principal subjects in the collection are the establishment of the PSD, school records related to student admissions, correspondence relating to buildings and detailed financial reports. There is a small collection related to student extracurricular activities, such as basketball and other sport tournaments and an athletic association.
Series Descriptions

Series 1: Administration
Boxes 1- 100, OV 1-4, 23-26

In this group, there are the published annual reports from 1820 to 1947; census records from 1884, the headmaster Albert L. E. Crouter’s published speeches, hearing surveys from the 1940s, the physician’s reports on the students. The largest part of this group of documents concerns pupil applications from 1824 through 1938. Finally, there are folders of the headmaster’s correspondence, including Abraham B. Hutton, Joshua Foster, Albert L. E. Crouter, Elbert A. Gruver, and M. Wistar Wood. These papers are separate from the larger set of superintendents’ correspondence. The latter concern mainly the school’s everyday operations, such as maintenance, budget, state government, and curriculum during the Edward M. Twitmyer and John G. Nace administrations (1948 through 1969).

  • Sub-series: Admission Boxes 101-102, OV 5-6, 100-123

This group of documents concerns mainly admission to the school. There are boxes of governor’s warrants from Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey and District of Columbia authorizing admission of Deaf pupils to the school (At the time, there were no established schools for the deaf in those states.) In this unit, there are many boxes of admission records, spanning the period 1820 through 1953. Records of admissions are divided by departments such as Intermediate and Advanced.

Click Here to View the List of Pupil Applications

  • Sub-series: Athletic Committee Box 103

A box covers reports relating to athletic issues at the school.

  • Sub-series: Board of Directors Boxes 103-146, OV 7-17

In this sub-series, the minutes of board meetings from 1820 to 1967 can be found, along with the treasurer’s reports. Also, there is correspondence with the members of the board of directors, especially with the presidents from 1934 through 1966, secretaries from 1840 to 1899 and 1934 to 1969 and treasurers mostly from 1822-1896 and 1950-1968.

  • Sub-series: Building Committee Boxes 147-160, OV 18

In this unit, one will find correspondence, minutes from the meetings, and reports of detailed plans regarding expanding the school’s grounds during the late 1870s. Also there are documents concerning the new buildings at Mt. Airy from 1889 through 1895 and maintenance of the school through the beginning of the 1900s, including reports from the Grounds Committee.

  • Sub-series: Employment Committee Box 160

This box contains both minutes of the meetings of the Employment Committee and reports relating to the employment issues at the PSD.

  • Sub-series: Executive Committee Box 161

This covers only minutes recorded from the Executive Committee’s meetings from 1828 to 1879.

  • Sub-series: Finance Committee Box 162

In this part, there are incomplete documents related to financial issues; dates vary 1870 to 1936.

  • Sub-series: Ground Committee Boxes 162-163

There are some documents on grounds issues that are separate from the Building Committee. This group dates from 1851, 1894-1896, 1899, and 1914-1919. See also Building Committee for other information.

  • Sub-series: Household Committee Boxes 163-173, OV 19-22

The records of the Household Committee have included bills, reports, and minutes of the meetings related to the household operations, such as boys’ clothing, dry goods room, shoemaking, store room and tailoring. Also, there are reports prepared by the Housekeeper, the First Assistant Matrons, and the Second Assistant Matron, each for the main school and the Oral Branch (1886-1892).

  • Sub-series: Inspection Committee Box 173

A folder contains the 1871 report from the Inspection Committee.

  • Sub-series: Instruction Committee Boxes 173-188

In the unit of the Instruction Committee, there are two main groups of minutes. (1) From 1851 through 1967, except 1882-1884 and 1886-1894 and (2) incomplete reports from 1848 to 1917, with a few years missing. All documents related to curriculum, schedules, change of hours, speaking and lip-reading.

  • Sub-series: Ladies’ Committee Boxes 189-191

The Ladies’ Committee was created to assist the school in fundraising for its financial needs and in recruiting volunteers for the school’s events. There are various documents relating to the Ladies’ business with school such as correspondence, minutes of the meetings, and reports.

  • Sub-series: Oral Branch Boxes 192-193

Two boxes cover documents from the Oral Branch, which was a department of the main school but at a separate location. There are bills, minutes of the meetings and reports from 1881 to 1887. There is correspondence with Miss Emma Garrett (1881-1884).

  • Sub-series: Other Committee Boxes 193-194

There are seven different committees represented; documents relate to school affairs in the period 1873 to 1951.

  • Sub-series: Treasurer John L. Evans Boxes 195-208

These boxes contain voluminous records maintained by the school treasurer John L. Evans covering 1913 through 1946. This includes correspondence regarding bank loans, funds, trusts, retirements, receipts, expenditures, and the steward’s reports.

Series 2: Finance
Boxes 209-317, OV 4, 27-87

For the most part, these documents relate to financial issues at the school. One will find correspondence and bills relating to the construction of the Nevil Vocational Building; bank books from 1820 to 1869; bills paid between 1820 and 1882; checks from 1820 to 1926, with canceled checks from 1820 to 1926; and cash books from 1820 to 1956 with missing years 1927-1946. There are day books from 1821 to 1879, detailed of lists of salaries from 1887 to 1945, along with financial statements, reports from the estates, and reports of operations.

Series 3: Student Life
Boxes 318-321, OV 88-96

There are folders of newspaper clippings related to the school’s events from 1868 through 1895 and 1905 to 1981, except 1960-1963. Also, one can find scrapbook albums with pasted newspaper clippings from 1849 to 1983.

  • Sub-series: Athletic Boxes 322-342

This unit contains correspondence with athletic activities at the school, including contracts for games, and scorebooks for baseball, basketball, and football. One will find tournaments both held at the school and off-campus and documentation of the weights of the school’s pupils.

  • Sub-series: Athletic Association n Boxes 343, OV 97-99

Originally, the Ivanhoe Athletic Association of the Pennsylvania Institution for the Deaf was founded but later documents simply refer to the Pennsylvania Institution for the Deaf Athletic Association. The cash books, constitutions, correspondence, and minutes of the meetings are included.

List of the Headmasters of the PIDD/PSD
1820-1821 David G. Seixas
1821-1822 Laurent Clerc
1822-1830 Lewis Weld
1830-1870 Abraham B. Hutton
1870-1884 Joshua Foster
1884-1925 Albert Louis Edgerton Crouter
1925-1936 Elbert A. Gruver
1936-1939 Margaret Bodycomb (acting headmaster)
1939-1948 Morris Wistar Wood
1948-1956 Edward M. Twitmyer
1956-1969 John G. Nace
1969-1977 Philip A. Bellefleur
1978-1987 Joseph P. Finnegan, Jr.
1987-2008 Joseph E. Fischgrund

Click Here to View the Folders List
Click Here to View the Drawings List
Click Here to View the Photographs ListClick Here to View the Objects List

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