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In 1864, Congress passed a bill authorizing the institution, known as the Columbia Institution for the Instruction of the Deaf and Dumb and the Blind, to establish the National College for the Deaf and Dumb which would provide college-level instruction and confer college degrees.

On April 8, 1864, United States President Abraham Lincoln signed the bill into law.

Edward Miner Gallaudet, superintendent of the Columbia Institution under founder Amos Kendall, was made president of the institution, including the college, after Kendall stepped down earlier that year. In that first year there were eight students enrolled and during the first commencement in June 1869, three young men received diplomas. Their diplomas were signed by President Ulysses S. Grant, and to this day, the diplomas of all Gallaudet graduates are signed by the presiding U.S. President.

As part of Gallaudet’s 150th Anniversary in 2014, we hope to collect one original diploma for each year that Gallaudet conferred degrees. If you are interested, please send us your original diploma. Unfortunately we cannot accept scanned copies or commemorative versions. The originals of all the diplomas displayed here are housed in the Gallaudet Archives

In addition to Gallaudet diplomas, the Archives welcomes gifts of photographs, documents and memorabilia related to Gallaudet University and to deaf people-their lives, organizations, schools and culture. Visit the Archives Donations page for more information or contact the Archives at Contact here.

All images, scans of diplomas, and images of Gallaudet alumni are courtesy of the University Archives unless otherwise indicated.

Gallery of Diplomas – Barack Obama

Gallery of Diplomas signed by US President Barack Obama

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: History

Gallery of Diplomas – Benjamin Harrison

Gallery of Diplomas signed by US President Benjamin Harrison

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: History

Gallery of Diplomas – Calvin Coolidge

Gallery of Diplomas signed by US President Calvin Coolidge

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: History

Gallery of Diplomas – Chester A. Arthur

Gallery of Diplomas signed by US President Chester A. Arthur

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: History

Gallery of Diplomas – Dwight D. Eisenhower

View the Hall of Fame gallery of Gallaudet diplomas signed by then-President Dwight D. Eisenhower.

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: History

Gallery of Diplomas – Franklin D. Roosevelt

Gallery of Diplomas signed by US President Franklin D. Roosevelt

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: History

Gallery of Diplomas – George Herbert Walker Bush

Gallery of Diplomas signed by US President George Herbert Walker Bush

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: History

Gallery of Diplomas – George W. Bush

Gallery of Diplomas signed by US President George W. Bush

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: History

Gallery of Diplomas – Gerald Ford

Gallery of Diplomas signed by US President Gerald Ford

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: History

Gallery of Diplomas – Grover Cleveland

Gallery of Diplomas signed by US President Grover Cleveland

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: History

Gallery of Diplomas – Harry S. Truman

Gallaudet University graduate and undergraduate students and signed by United States President Harry Truman who was president from 1945 until 1953.

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: History

Gallery of Diplomas – Herbert Hoover

Gallery of Diplomas signed by US President Herbert Hoover

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: History

Gallery of Diplomas – James Earl Carter, Jr.

Gallery of Diplomas signed by US President James Earl Carter, Jr.

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: History

Gallery of Diplomas – James Garfield

Gallery of Diplomas signed by US President Gerald Ford

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: History

Gallery of Diplomas – John F. Kennedy

Gallery of Diplomas signed by US President John F. Kennedy

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: History

Gallery of Diplomas – Lyndon B. Johnson

Gallery of Diplomas signed by US President Lyndon B. Johnson

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: History

Gallery of Diplomas – Richard M. Nixon

Gallery of Diplomas signed by US President Richard M. Nixon

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: History

Gallery of Diplomas – Ronald Reagan

Gallery of Diplomas signed by US President Ronald Reagan

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: History

Gallery of Diplomas – Rutherford B. Hayes

Gallery of Diplomas signed by US President Rutherford B. Hayes

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: History

Gallery of Diplomas – Theodore Roosevelt

Gallaudet University graduate and undergraduate students and signed by United States President Theodore Roosevelt who was president from 1901 until 1909.

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: History

Gallery of Diplomas – Ulysses S. Grant

Gallery of Diplomas signed by US President Ulysses S. Grant

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: History

Gallery of Diplomas – Warren G. Harding

Gallery of Diplomas signed by US President Warren G. Harding

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: History

Gallery of Diplomas – William Howard Taft

Diplomas granted to Gallaudet University graduate and undergraduate students and signed by United States President William Taft who was president from 1909 until 1913.

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: History

Gallery of Diplomas – William Jefferson Clinton

Gallery of Diplomas signed by US President William Jefferson Clinton

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: History

Gallery of Diplomas – William McKinley

Gallery of Diplomas signed by US President William McKinley

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: History

Gallery of Diplomas – Woodrow Wilson

Gallaudet University graduate and undergraduate students and signed by United States President Woodrow Wilson who was president from 1913 until 1921.

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: History

Contact Us

National Deaf Life Museum

Chapel Hall

(202) 250-2235

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