Open to the public on the afternoon of the first Saturday of every month

Illustration of a building

Illustration of the Perkins Institution in South Boston and surrounding land including people on foot and two horse-drawn carriages, circa 1856.

October 24, 2014

According to Sights in Boston and suburbs, or, Guide to the stranger, by R. L. Midgley, 1856, the Perkins Institution was open to the public once a month and demand was such that visitors needed to procure a ticket in advance in order to prevent a crowd! Read the full text below for the complete account or check out the full book on the Internet Archive.

In this institution, for the first time in the world's history, successful attempts were made to break through the double walls in which blind deaf mutes are immured, and to teach them a systematic language for communion with their fellow-men. Laura Bridgman and Oliver Caswell are living refutations of the legal and popular maxim that those who are born both deaf and blind must be necessarily idiotic. They are pioneers in the way out into the light of knowledge, which may be followed by many others.

Suburban Sights: Dorchester Heights: Perkins Institute for the Blind

Here, also, stands the Perkins Institute for the Blind. It is open to the public on the afternoon of the first Saturday in each month ; but in order to prevent a crowd, no persons are admitted without a ticket, which may be obtained gratuitously at No. 20 Bromfield Street. A limited number of strangers, and persons particularly interested, may be admitted any Saturday in the forenoon by previously applying as above for tickets.

The pupils in the school are taught reading, writing, arithmetic, geography, history, natural philosophy, natural history, and physiology. They are carefully instructed in the theory and practice of vocal and instrumental music. Besides this they are taught some handicraft work by which they may earn their livelihood. In this institution, for the first time in the world's history, successful attempts were made to break through the double walls in which blind deaf mutes are immured, and to teach them a systematic language for communion with their fellow-men. Laura Bridgman and Oliver Caswell are living refutations of the legal and popular maxim that those who are born both deaf and blind must be necessarily idiotic. They are pioneers in the way out into the light of knowledge, which may be followed by many others.

In 1844 a supplementary institution grew out of the parent one, for the employment in handicraft work of such blind men and women as could not readily find employment at home. This establishment has been highly successful. A spacious and convenient workshop has been built at South Boston, to which the work men and women repair every day, and are furnished with work, and paid all they can earn.

The general course and history of the Perkins Institution has been one of remarkable success. It has always been under the direction of one person. It has grown steadily in public favor, and is the means of extended usefulness. In 1832 it was an experiment; it had but six pupils ; it was in debt, and was regarded as a visionary enterprise. In 1833 it was taken under the patronage of the state ; it was patronized by the wealthy, and enabled to obtain a permanent local habitation and a name.

The terms of admission are as follows : the children of citizens of Massachusetts not absolutely wealthy, free ; others at the rate of one hundred and sixty dollars a year, which covers all expenses except for clothing. Applicants must be under sixteen years of age. Adults are not received into the institution proper, but they can board in the neighborhood, and be taught trades in the workshop gratuitously. After six months they are put upon wages. This department is a self-supporting one, but its success depends upon the sale of goods at the depot, No. 20 Bromflield Street. Here may be found the work of the blind — all warranted, and put at the lowest market prices ; nothing being asked or expected in the way of charity. The institution is not rich, except in the confidence of the public and the patronage of the legislature