Perkins Postcard Collection

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



Date Range: 
Call number: 

This collection consists of stereographs and postcards of the Perkins campus, in the original location in South Boston, the first kindergarten for the blind in Jamaica Plain, and the current location in Watertown, Massachusetts.  The 60 images are in both black and white, and color, and include views of the campus, as well as students doing various activities in their daily routines.  A number of the postcards have messages on the reverse, some of which discuss Perkins, and some of which are general correspondence.   Some of the photos were taken by well-known photographers, such as Margaret Bourke-White.

0.5 linear feet
Biographical/Historical notes: 

Perkins is the oldest school for the blind in the United States.  Since its incorporation in 1829, it has had a number of different names, as well as various locations in the greater Boston area.  Under the leadership of its first director, Samuel Gridley Howe, the New England Asylum for the Blind opened its doors in August of 1832 at 140 Pleasant Street in Boston. In 1833 the school moved to a house on Pearl Street that had been donated by Colonel Thomas Handasyd Perkins, a wealthy merchant and philanthropist.  Perkins later allowed the property to be sold to enable the school to purchase a former hotel in South Boston, and the school moved there in May 1839.  In recognition of his generosity, the Board of Trustees named the school the Perkins Institution and Massachusetts Asylum for the Blind.  In 1887, the second director of Perkins, Michael Anagnos, founded the first kindergarten for the blind, located in Jamaica Plain.  The school moved to its current location in Watertown in 1912, where it is located on a 38.5 acre property on the banks of the Charles River.

Throughout its history, Perkins has attracted visitors from around the world.  One of its first prominent guests was Charles Dickens, who visited in 1842 and wrote about the experience in his book American Notes.  This book caught the attention of Helen Keller’s mother, and prompted her to contact the school in search of assistance to educate her daughter.

Sources of information: 

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

Credit line/Citation: 
Perkins Postcard Collection. Perkins School for the Blind.
Container List: 

Folder 1: Stereographs—South Boston [1871-1883], 8 items. Sepia images with views of building exterior, classroom, students and staff.

Folder 2:  Postcards—South Boston [1906-1908], 15 items. Sepia and black and white images of building exterior, with cancellations and messages to: Mrs. Edwin Gould, Mrs. John Whittier, Miss Julie F. Dow, Miss. Marcella Lodi, Mr. Arthur Miller, Mr and Mrs. H. P.   __field [Fairfield].

Folder 3: Postcards—South Boston [1906-1911], 6 items. Color images of building exterior with cancellations and messages to: Mrs. G. S. Underwood, Mrs. Balsen, Mrs. Lillian Rarsell, Mr. Johnson, and Miss. Margaret Farrell.

Folder 4: Postcards—Jamaica Plain [1912], 2 items. Black and white images of building exterior, one with invitation to 25th anniversary of kindergarten and to honor founder Michael Anagnos.

Folder 5: Postcards—Boston Nursery for Blind Babies [no date], 1 item. Invitation with message to Mrs. Norton L. Thomas to a membership drive at the home of Mrs. Edwin D. Mellen following “The Fair”.

Folder 6: Postcards—Watertown [no date], 6 items. Sepia and black and white images of view of buildings with Charles River, one overhead view of Watertown with Perkins campus highlighted, and one Christmas card with braille message.

Folder 7: Postcards—Watertown [no date, 1958], 5 items. Sepia and one black and white image of campus buildings, students, children in sandbox, staff cleaning, and one cancelled postcard with message to Mrs. Haskin.

Folder 8: Postcards--Watertown—Greeting Cards [1913], 3 items. Black and white images by Bourke White with tower reflection over the Charles River and texts: “Greetings from the Perkins Institution, Watertown”, and “Compliments of the Tuning Department” with piano tuning solicitation.

Folder 9: Postcards--Watertown—Color [1915], 2 items. Hand colored images of building exteriors, dormitories, Boy’s Close, and people rowing on the Charles River with messages  to Mrs. W. Humbert.

Folder 10: Postcards—Postcard Book Collection [1913-1925], 14 items. Black and white images, of building, students, staff, Kindergarten with Miss. Humbert, boats, cafeteria, one intact booklet and loose duplicates some with cancellations and messages to: Mrs. Wm. Severy,

Folder 11: Postcards—Watertown—By Margaret Bourke-“The City” collection [no date], 8 items. Black and white images of school buildings, Charles River, tower, garden, Girl’s Close, and entrance to Howe building. One addressed postcard to Mrs. Marion P. Kimball.

Folder 12: Postcards—First Day of Issue—Julia Ward Howe [1977, 1978], 3 items. Color images. Two with view of Howe building over Charles River with 14 cent Julia Ward Howe stamp and 15 cent Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan stamp. One with portrait of    Julia Ward Howe with biographical information printed on back.

Folder 13: Postcards—Watertown—Color [1993] 3 items. Color image of aerial view of campus.

Folder 14: Correspondence [1982], 2 items. Letters between Director Woodcock and Gale N. Stickler at the New Hampshire Association for the Blind regarding the donation of a cancelled 1908 postcard.

Folder 15, 16: Miscellaneous postcard of South Boston and slides of Laura Bridgman, North Building Deaf Blind Dept., Lower School, Adult Dorms, and North East Building.

Subject Headings: 

Perkins Institution and Massachusetts School for the Blind
Perkins Institution and Massachusetts School for the Blind. Kindergarten for the Blind
Perkins School for the Blind
Perkins School for the Blind--History.
South Boston (Boston, Mass.)--History.

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