It was 186 years ago today that the Commonwealth of Massachusetts signed a charter authorizing the first school in the country dedicated to the education of students with blindness – the New England Asylum for the Blind. The school itself opened in 1832, three years after receiving the charter.
Four name changes and four locations later, it had evolved into Perkins School for the Blind in Watertown.
Over the years, the world has noted the longevity and life-changing impact of Perkins. Our archives hold scrapbooks of commemorative newspaper articles for Perkins’ 50th and 100th anniversaries.
But perhaps the most intriguing was Perkins’ 150th anniversary celebration. This 500-pound cake was designed in the shape of the Howe building, including the iconic bell tower that loomed so high it couldn’t fit into the picture frame. The cake was briefly admired by staff, students and lucky guests before they devoured the confectionery masterpiece.
In the years since that charter was signed, Perkins has grown into an organization with an international scope that touches the lives of more than 1 million people every year. The original school has been joined by divisions that distribute assistive technology (Perkins Products), lend braille and audio books (Perkins Library), develop online training for teachers of the visually impaired (Perkins eLearning) and promote educational opportunities for children around the world (Perkins International).
All this from the stroke of a pen back on March 2, 1829.