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Historical Timeline

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1829 Dr. John Fisher charters the first school for the blind in the United States upon his return from France where he observed advancements in the education of people who were blind.

1832 Using rooms in his father's house located in downtown Boston, Samuel Gridley Howe, the School's first director, begins teaching a handful of blind students.

1833 Enrollment grows, and Thomas Perkins, vice president and School trustee, offers his larger home to the School to meet the growing demand for educational services for children who are blind.

1837 Laura Bridgman enrolls in the School and becomes the first documented deafblind person to be educated. Years later, Bridgman teaches Perkins student Anne Sullivan how to communicate with a person who is deafblind.

1839 Sixty-five students are enrolled at the School, and a still larger facility is needed. Thomas Perkins sells his house and donates the proceeds in order to move the School to a former hotel in South Boston. In honor of his generosity, the School is named for Perkins.

1842 Charles Dickens visits Perkins and enthusiastically praises Howe's work with Laura Bridgman in his book, American Notes. Years later, Kate Adams Keller reads Dickens' book and realizes there is hope that her six-year-old daughter, Helen - deafblind since age 19 months, can be educated.

1881 Howe Press is established to emboss books, first in Boston Line Type and later in braille, a new technology created by Louis Braille to help people who are blind read and write.

1887 Growing success in educating children who are blind leads Perkins to open the first kindergarten for the blind in the U.S.

1887 Director Michael Anagnos sends Perkins graduate Anne Sullivan to teach Helen Keller at her home in Alabama.

1888 Helen Keller returns to Perkins with her teacher Anne Sullivan, where they remain until 1893.

1910 A new campus is purchases and built on 38 acres on the banks of the Charles River in Watertown, Massachusetts, the School's current site. The new location opens in 1912 and allows the School to increase the quality of service to the students.

1923 Perkins School creates another "first" - the Hayes-Binet test, which reveals that the intelligence of the blind population is no different from the sighted.

1931 The Perkins Braille & Talking Book Library is one of 19 libraries around the United States instituted as part of a national library network for the blind.

1932 Perkins celebrates its first century of service and organizes a separate Deafblind department.

1951 The current Perkins Brailler is designed and produced by David Abraham at Perkins Howe Press.

1955 The School name changes from Perkins Institution for the Blind to Perkins School for the Blind.

1956 Helen Keller revisits Perkins to dedicate the Keller-Sullivan building in memory of her teacher, Anne Sullivan.

1977 Howe Press produces the 100,000th Perkins Brailler less than 30 years after the first model was produced.

1982 The Perkins School Board of Trustees decides to change the charter and admit students with multiple handicaps other than blindness.

1989 Thanks to a generous contribution from the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, Perkins Director Kevin Lessard creates the Hilton/Perkins Program to expand services throughout the United States and in 50 developing countries.

1991 Perkins Outreach Services launches its Elders Program to help seniors who are visually handicapped - the fastest growing blind population - regain their independence.

2000 The new Perkins Braille and Talking Book Library is unveiled to better serve the growing number of patrons in New England who are blind, visually handicapped or otherwise unable to read traditional print. Founded in 1931, the Library annually circulates more than more than 50,000 recorded titles and magazines and 16,000 braille books available in more than 60 foreign languages.

2004 Perkins celebrates its 175th anniversary of service including opening Perkins Training Center to expand its work to train teachers and others in the United States

2005 300,000 Perkins Braillers have been produced and distributed in 170 countries around the world.

2010 Perkins expands its services to 114,000 people whose lives we impact in 63 countries around the globe.