Dennis A. Reardon (c.1847-1916)

Perkins Graduate, Architect for the Kindergarten in Jamaica Plain, Inventor, and Manager of the Perkins' Printing Department

A man with curly hair and beard

Studio portrait of Dennis A. Reardon with curly hair and beard, eyes closed, 1870s.

August 2, 2013

"A man of rare mechanical ability. His inventions bear the stamp of originality and the evidences of a powerful mind. His talents are found to be of great service everywhere in our establishment, but most especially in our printing-office, of which, he has a general supervision. "
-Michael Anagnos, Perkins Director

Dennis Alvin Reardon was sent to the Perkins Institution in 1855 when he was 8 years old, an orphan, and homeless. He had partial vision in one eye that slowly improved and by the time he graduated from Perkins he left Boston to work in the U. S. Coast Survey in planning and charting. He later became a clerk in the Freedman's Bureau and moved to Michigan where he was employed as a carpenter. Reardon returned to Boston "down at the heel" and went to Dr. Howe for a job. He started as a general laborer doing kitchen work and driving a donkey cart. Shortly after arriving in Boston Reardon's sight failed and he became totally blind. After a period of despondency Reardon started working in the printing office as "help", and within five years he became the manager. Reardon carried many feathers in his hat, dabbling not only in mechanical engineering, but in physics, all things electrical, and extensively in architecture, building renovation and planning. He served as treasurer for the Perkins' Alumni Association, and was a trusted friend to the students.*

Michael Anagnos, Perkins Director on Dennis A. Reardon: 

"His inventions bear the stamp of originality and the evidences of a powerful mind. His talents are found to be of great service everywhere in our establishment, but most especially in our printing-office, of which, he has a general supervision. In the words of the director, "His mechanical genius, power of putting perfection into the minutest details, and love of the simple and beautiful, are remarkable mental characteristics, and are of great use in the planning and execution of our improvements in the best and most economical manner. It is a striking instance of the power of the mind to overleap outward barriers, that, where experienced workmen have been baffled by mechanical difficulties and unforeseen obstructions, his keen insight and correct judgment have invariably found a way out of every dilemma." The system of electric bells which are placed in different parts of the establishment, and rung simultaneously by a clock, is not the least of Mr. Reardon's inventions; and the perfection of our new press, in the planning of which he has had a prominent part, is another proof of his mechanical genius." 

From the 1879 Annual Report of the Perkins Institution and Massachusetts Asylum for the Blind.

*Source: Allen, Edward E. "Dennis A. Reardon", Outlook for the Blind, Spring, Volume XI, Number 1, 1917

"Invention was his hobby, and he rode it well:-- indeed, it became his blessed safety valve. He early contrived a horseshoe with adjustable caulks for slippery weather which received a bronze medal at a Boston Mechanics Fair of that period.
- Edward E. Allen