Howe Press Correspondence and Printed Material Collection

Samuel P. Hayes Research Library
Perkins School for the Blind
175 N. Beacon Street
Watertown, MA 02472


Perkins School for the Blind

Date Range: 
Circa 1911-1997, bulk 1940s-1960s
Call number: 

Correspondence, photographs, and marketing materials from the Howe Press circa 1911-1997. The bulk of the collection consists of correspondence related to the Perkins Brailler most of which are addressed to or from its designer David Abraham (1896–1978). This collection also includes photographs, prints, price lists, catalogs, brochures, and clippings. Photographs include the Howe Press staff, facilities, products, and processes such as the embossing of braille plates for book-printing. Some photographs are reproductions of material from the 1930s and earlier. Products featured in the collection include the Perkins Brailers 1 and 2, the Free Hand Drawing Stylus, the Life-Time Eraser, the Reversible Stylus, the E-Z Read Slate, and the Howe Press Braille-Master Vertical Plate Stereotyping Machine. An illustration of games designed or modified for people who are blind and made in the manual training department of Perkins in 1911 is also included.

0.5 linear feet
Processed by: 

Jen Hale, 2015, updated in 2019 by Jen Hale

Biographical/Historical notes: 

When Michael Anagnos became Perkins’ second director in 1876, the printing department had been producing tactile books for more than 40 years. The press had always struggled for funding, and Anagnos was determined to make it self-sustaining. A consummate fundraiser, Anagnos created a $100,000 endowment for the printing department, renaming it Howe Memorial Press as a tribute to his father-in-law Samuel Gridley Howe, Perkins’ first director.

In the 1880s, Howe Memorial Press began producing books in American Braille as well as in the embossed alphabet Boston Line Type system developed by Samuel Gridley Howe. Many years later, when standard braille was adopted, the press shifted its production to that system. Howe Press also developed and sold simple mechanical braille writers, maps, slates, ciphering boards and other school materials used by students with visual impairments throughout the country. In 1951 the first Perkins Bailler, designed by David Abraham went on the market. By 1969, over 50,000 machines were in use in 75 countries around the world. The Perkins Brailler is still manufactured today with only minimal changes to its original design and used around the world. 

David Abraham (1896–1978), an English immigrant with a manufacturing background, joined the Perkins Industrial Arts Department in the mid-1930s. Abraham’s manual skills and experience in manufacturing and design brought him to the notice of Director Farrell. Abraham agreed to create a prototype of a braille writer that incorporated a list of desirable features. The prototype was a success and is still manufactured as the Perkins Brailler with only minimal changes to its original design. David Abraham went on to become Chief Engineer at Howe Press.

Sources of information: 

McGinnity, B.L., Seymour-Ford, J. and Andries, K.J. (2004) Howe Press and the Perkins Brailler. Perkins History Museum, Perkins School for the Blind, Watertown, MA.

McGinnity, B.L., Seymour-Ford, J. and Andries, K.J. (2004) Figures in Perkins History. Perkins History Museum, Perkins School for the Blind, Watertown, MA.

Credit line/Citation: 
Howe Press Correspondence and Printed Material Collection, Perkins School for the Blind.

This collection documents the history of the Howe Press, particularly the 20th century when Perkins School for the Blind designed and manufactured several models of braille writers. 

This collection primarily focuses on the Perkins Brailler. Several photographs document the Perkins Braillers as well as their manufacture from the 1950s through the 1970s. The bulk of the collection is correspondence which is primarily written to David Abraham and all related to the brailler. Publicity for Howe Press products and services include a few catalogs and price lists from the 1950s, 1970s, and 1990s. Instructions for the brailler from 1967, include two copies in braille.

This collection also documents book printing and other Perkins products developed at the Howe Press. Photographs document stereotyping, printing, and binding of books from the early turn of the century through the 1970's. Photographs also include several publicity shots of Perkins products for writing tools such as braille slates and stylus.


 1 box arranged by material and chronologically within.

Container List: 

Box 1: 

B1:F1:   Document with account of early titles from Howe Press, undated

B1:F2:   Howe Memorial Press photographs, clipping, and photocopies of stereotyping, undated

B1:F3:   Howe Press stereotyping machine photographs, undated

B1:F4:   Howe Press stereotyping machine brochures, circa 1952

B1:F5:   Labeled and unlabeled prints showcasing Perkins products, undated, 1911

B1:F6:   Perkins Brailler correspondence, 1932-1954

B1:F7:   Perkins Brailler original publicity and correspondence, 1947-1958

B1:F8:   Perkins Brailler 2 photographs, 2 brochures, and print, circa 1940s and 1950s

B1:F9:   Howe Press  Catalog, 1956

B1:F10: Perkins Brailler photographs, undated, circa 1964

B1:F11: Perkins Brailler instructions, undated, 1967

B1:F12: History of the Howe Press, by Waterhouse, 1975

B1:F13: Howe Press Price lists, 1976-1977

B1:F14: Howe Press booklet in braille, ca. 1990s 

B1: F15: Howe Press sales catalog, 1983

B1:F16: Howe Press catalogs, price lists, and 1959 Perkins Brailler schematic photocopies, undated, 1995-1997

The collection is part of Perkins School for the Blind, with the exception of the Howe Press Sales Catalog form 1983 donated in 2019.
Subject Headings: 

Perkins School for the Blind. Howe Press


Maps for the blind


Assistive computer technology


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