History Through Deaf Eyes – A Very Solemn Responsibility

“. . . a cup of consolation, for the deaf and dumb who heretofore had been wandering in a moral desert, from the same fountain the Hinddo, the African, and the savage are beginning to draw the water of eternal life.”

Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet was a Congregational minister, who described his life’s work as hastening Christ’s return to earth by spreading the gospel. Like many early teachers of deaf children in America, Gallaudet learned sign language for the same reason other missionaries learned Native American or African languages to bring the gospel to people seen living beyond its reach.

“No other object that the salvation of souls of the pupils can be named as of the highest moment; and to accomplish this object a very solemn responsibility is devolved upon all who are concerned in the affairs of the Asylum.”

~ Reverend Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet, 1817 Young ladies in long Victorian dresses signing, "Nearer My God to Thee" in unison.

Students from the Michigan School for the Deaf sign the hymn “Nearer My God to Thee.” Public performances of signed songs, particularly religious songs, were popular.

The Silent Worker, 1906.

Gallaudet University Archives

Gallaudet wrote this “Catechism for the Deaf and Dumb” to teach students religious lessons.

Pennsylvania School for the Deaf Collection