Special Reports, Perkins Board of Trustees and Administration Collection: 1833-1888 Finding Aid

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


Perkins School for the Blind

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Assortment of documents and correspondence relating to various activities and issues relating to Perkins School for the Blind, including student behavior, financial issues, and legal papers.  Highlights of the collection include correspondence from former directors Samuel Gridley Howe and Michael Anagnos, reports made by various committees of the Board of Trustees, reports on racial relations, cold water bathing, and the school’s workshop.

1.38 linear feet 1 series, 2 boxes
Processed by: 

Stephanie Molnar, 2013. This collection was processed with support from the National Endowment for the Humanities, Division of Preservation and Access, Washington, D.C., 2012-2015.

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.  The school was founded by John Dix Fisher and trustees included some of the most prominent figures of early 19th century Boston society, including William Prescott, a blind historian, Colonel Thomas H. Perkins, a well-known China Trade merchant, Edward Brookes, Horace Mann, and members of the Thorndike and Lowell families.  This group persuaded the Massachusetts legislature to sign an act incorporating the New England Asylum for the Blind on March 2, 1829.  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.


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

Credit line/Citation: 
Special Reports, Perkins Board of Trustees and Administration Collection: 1844-1888, Perkins School for the Blind

B1:F1 = Box 1: Folder 1

Correspondence, copies of legal documents, petitions, testimonies relating to former students, and documents relating to school workshops/machinery.


Container List: 

Series 1: Samuel Gridley Howe Correspondence   

Box 1

B1: F1: Correspondence, addressed to and from Samuel Gridley Howe regarding debt of Mr. James M. Stone including testimonies confirming debt form various persons, Mr. Stone was the Speaker of the Massachusetts House of Representatives from 1866-1867, 2 letters and 1 copy of testimony, 1872   
B1:F2: Correspondence, addressed to and from Samuel Gridley Howe, 1837-1839, 1867-1869   

B1:F3-B1:F14: Correspondence, addressed to Samuel Gridley Howe/Director of Perkins School for the Blind, 1860    

B1:F15:-B1:F16: Correspondence, addressed to Samuel Gridley Howe/Director of Perkins School for the Blind, 1865   

Series 2: Michael Anagnos Correspondence   

B1:F17: Correspondence, addressed to Michael Anagnos, 1881-1889

Series 3: Estimates   

Box 2  

B2:F1: Laundry, Estimates from Crawford & Poland and Oakley & Keating for laundry machinery, 3 letters, 1888   

B2:F2: Steam Heating, Estimate from T.S. Clogston & Co. For a steam heating apparatus addressed to Samuel Gridley Howe, 1 letter, 1868   

Series 4: Staff Duties/Affairs   

B2:F3: Duties of boys’ matrons and music teachers, n.d.   

B2: F4: Agreements with facilities staff, 1835   

B2: F5: Report on salary of director, about 1855   

B2:F6: Report on salary of director, 1867     

Series 5: Student Boarding    

B2:F7: Report of Committee on Method of Boarding Pupils, made by Edward Brooks and John Dix Fisher, 1833   

B2:F8: Report on Committee on Boarding of the Pupils, made by Edward Brooks and John Homans, 1834   

B2:F9: Report on Committee on Boarding Pupils, made by William Hikling Prescott, 1838   

B2:B10: Report on Committee on Boarding Pupils, Read and Accepted, made by J.K. Mills and Sam A. May, 1840    

B2:F11: Correspondence, to Howe in regards to separation of sexes in housing arrangements, 1868

Series 6: Financial Information for School Facilities   

B2:F12: Cost of printing office, 1842-1869   

B2:F13: Report on shop business to Mr. Fairbanks, 1843, 1844   

B2:F14: Report of Boy’s Shop, 1850-1852   

B2:F15: Report of Boy’s Shop, 1853   

B2: F16: Store expenses, 1857   

Assets and liabilities, 1857   

Special report on workshop, 1856   

Letters and invoices relating to the printing of various books, 3 pages, 1856-1857   

Documents regarding the running of the work department, 1844-1846      
Correspondence, wages for workshop, 1868   

Correspondence, employment of D. Long and discussion of employment and salary, 1 letter, 1856   
Correspondence, addressed to Samuel Gridley Howe from D. Long regarding employment and salary, 1 letter, 1856    
Proposal of J.G. Robbins to L.K. Marston for running workshop and laundry, 1868    

B2:F17: Financial document for workshop, n.d. 

Series 7: Cold Water Bathing   

B2: F18: Report, by Dr. Edward Jarvis to the Board of Trustees on cold water bathing, 1872   

B2: F19: Report, by Dr. Edward Jarvis, 1872        
Petition to Physicians and others against cold water bathing, referring to it as “abusive and injurious,” signed by 65 people, n.d.   

Copy of the vote of the committee on public charities, signed by B.B. Breed and [M.]D. Stedman, 1872   

Correspondence, from Hamilton A. Hill to Dr. Edward Jarvis of Perkins regarding Committee on Public Charities, 1872   

Minutes made by Dr. Jarvis on bathing, n.d.   

Extract from Combe’s Physiology in regards to bathing, n.d   

Correspondence, addressed to Misters Brooks and Elliott (Committee of Trustees) on the Application of J.M. Lewis and other persons, 1872   

Directors Quarterly Report to the Board of Trustees from Dr. Edward Jarvis, 1872   

Series 8: Dempsey Sherrod   

Dempsey B. Sherrod was a blind man from Mississippi.  He helped to establish The American Printing House for the Blind in the 1860s in Kentucky.  In 1875, Samuel Gridley Howe wrote a pamphlet entitled: “Warning Against Dempsey B. Sherrod, and his Proposed American Printing House, and University for the Blind. Showing the True History and Character of the Man and of His Pretended Establishments.”  In this pamphlet, Howe denounces Sherrod as a “bold, bad, blind man” and accused him of raising money for printing, without giving “one page of printed matter to the blind.”  He also refers to Sherrod as a “marauder,” “quack,” and “utterly unworthy of having funds or names entrusted to him.”   

Source: Howe, Samuel G. Warning Against Dempsey B. Sherrod, and His Proposed American PrintingHouse, and University for the Blind. Boston: Inquirer Job, 1875. Print.   

B2: F20-21: Documents are in original order in file.  Copies of the Appendix are signed by principals and superintendents of various schools/organizations of the blind, denouncing Dempsey Sherrod’s character.  Several copies are accompanied by a personal message to Howe or, lacking a copy of the Appendix, just a letter was sent.  Unless otherwise noted, all letters/copies are dated March 5, 1875.  Also, a large number of the documents are copies of the Appendix with a copied signature of John Nichols, Principal, North Carolina Institution for the Blind/ North Carolina Institution for the D. & D. & Blind, stating that the signee does not know the facts of the case but is satisfied with the Appendix statement.

“Appendix,” denouncing the character of Dempsey Sherrod with a list of several leaders of national schools for the blind, signed by:

McWorkman, [Jas], Superintendent, Missouri Institution for the Blind, with accompanying letter, April 1, 1875

Noyes, J.L., Superintendent, Minnesota Institution for the D. & D. & Blind, March 11, 1875

Wait, Esq., W.D., New York Institution for the Blind, with accompanying indecipherable

letter, March 25, 1875

Hall, H.L., Superintendent and Financial Agent for Pennsylvania Work Home for Blind Men and Sole Agent for American Print House for the Blind

Chapin, William, Principal of the Pennsylvania Institution for the Blind

Sturtevant, J.M., Superintendent, Tennessee Institution of the Blind

Smead, G.L., Superintendent, Ohio Institution of the Blind

Nichols, John, Principal, North Carolina Institution for the Blind, possible amendment written by Mr. Nichols

Covell, J.C., Principal, West Virginia Institution for D. & D. & the Blind

McCoy, Chas D., Principal, Virginia Institution for D. & D. & Blind, on back: “Chas D.

McCoy authorizes Dr. to sign for him if other superintendents sign”

Wilkinson, Warring, Principal, California Institution for the D.D. & Blind, March 16, 1875

Babcock, John H., Superintendent, Oregon Institute for the Blind, March 19, 1875

Johnson, Jo. H., Principal, Institution for the D. & D. & the Blind, Alabama, March 11, 1875

Churchman, W.H., Superintendent, Indiana Institute for the Blind

Huntoon, B.B., Superintendent, Kentucky Institution for the Blind

Bacon, Samuel, Superintendent, Nebraska Institution for the Blind, March 1875

Williams, W.D., Principal, Georgia Academy for the Blind, March 1875

Parker, J.D., Superintendent, Kansas Institution for the Blind

Merrill, Mrs. S.B., Former Superintendent, Mississippi Institution for the Blind, signed copy of Appendix

Bangs, Egbert L., Principal, Michigan Institution for the D. & D. & Blind, with accompanying letter from Egbert Bangs, April 3, 1875

Phillips, T.W., Superintendent, Illinois Institution for the Blind

Knapp, S.A., Principal, Iowa College for Blind

Parker, John D., letter to Howe regarding Appendix, April 2, 1875

Phillips, T.W., letter to Howe regarding Sherrod’s character, April 1, 1875

Lane, P., copy of Appendix with a letter glued to the bottom signed by Mr. Lane, n.d.

Morrison, F.D., Superintendent, Maryland Institution for the Blind

Patten, Otis, Superintendent, Arkansas Institution for the Blind, letter dated March 10, 1875

Series 9: Student Behavior

Subseries 1: Frank Van Dusen   

B2:F22: Documents concerning the character of former Perkins student Frank Van Dusen, correspondence from Samuel Gridley Howe to Frank Van Dusen regarding a denial of his request for readmittance, and a copy of the minutes of the board meeting from December 1, 1858 regarding Frank Van Dusen’s alleged arson and subsequent “mania,” 1864   

Subseries 2: Joseph Emerson   

B2:F23: Comprehensive report including the testimonies and evidence regarding the suicide of student Joseph Emerson by hanging.  Testimonies outline Emerson’s mental state at the time, recent activities, and his history of suicidal thoughts, 1867. 

Subseries 3: Special Reports

B2:F24: Special report, regarding dismissal from institution of Henry P. Thayer and Cornelius McCullach for running away, 1844

B2:F25: Letter to Senate and House of Representatives on murder, involuntary manslaughter, and its relation to mental illness, 1870

Series 10: Administrative Papers

B2:B26: Report on extension of premises and repairs, 1833, 1835

B2:F27: Report on relocation of Perkins, partially written by Samuel Gridley Howe, 1838, 1859

B2:F28: Correspondence, to Samuel Gridley Howe from architects Preston, Snell, Cummings, and Sears regarding construction of new buildings and letter “urging state appropriation for new buildings,” 5 letters, 1869

B2:F29: Documents relating to the name change of the school, 6 documents, 1874

Correspondence, from Howe, 1 letter, 1874

Correspondence, addressed Howe and Board of Trustees from E.N. Perkins, 3 letters, 1874

Extract from Annual Report on the name and objects of the Institution, 2 documents

Series 11: Various Special Reports

B2:F30: Report on admitting colored pupils, 1833

B2:F31: Report on memento (painting/bust) to Colonel Perkins, 1833

B2:F32: Report on maps, 1835

B2:F33: Report of Committee on Organ Music, made by John Dix Fisher, 1835

B2:F34: Report of Committee on Organ Music, made by William P. Mason and John Dix Fisher, 1835

B2:F35: Report of Committee on Labour of Pupils, 1835

B2:F36: Report on future wants of the institution, made by Samuel Gridley Howe, 1835

B2:F37: Report of Committee for Investigating Changes, made by Edward Brooks and John Dix Fisher, 1840

B2:F38: Specials reports on Parker’s legacy, made by Samuel Gridley Howe, 1845

B2:F39: Report of Committee on Admission of Pupils, made by William Hickling Prescott, n.d.

Series 12: Miscellaneous Papers

B2:F40: Notes on curriculum and policies of the school, possibly written by Samuel Gridley Howe, n.d.

B2:F41: Treasurer’s Report, 1834

B2:F42: Documents on a variety of topics itemized below, 1869-1883

Copy of Deed to Commonwealth, 1870

Correspondence, from Attorney General, 1870

Order from the Council Chamber of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, 1870

Correspondence, from Cummings Sears, memo of lots deeded to the Commonwealth, n.d.

Blethen & Blethen Libel & Order, 1878

Harnett & Solomons agreement to supply a “Post Press.” 5 cent stamp, 1870

Correspondence, from the Executor of the estate of John Simpleton, 1874

Legal opinion in regard to right erect houses for rent to Misters Sturgis and Glover of the Committee of the Perkins Institution from F.V. Balch, 1883

Correspondence, addressed to Perkins School from James Sturgis, Joseph Glover, and [S.G. Snelling], 1883

Agreement on purchase of a printing press and patterns from Preston R. Mansfield, Administrator of the Estate of S.P. Ruggles, 1881

B2:F43: Memo receipt from Wm. Endicott, Treasurer regarding the Deed of Thomas H. Perkins to N.E. Institution for the Blind, 1869

Contract with City of Boston regarding the cleaning and repair of all pianos owned by the city from May 1878 through May 1879, 1878

Correspondence, from City of Boston clerk William Porter for Perkins to tune pianos from May 1, 1880-May 1, 1881, 1880

Correspondence, regarding cleaning and repair of all pianos owned by the city, 1880

Measurements and value of Perkins property on corner of Day and Perkins Streets Award from Centennial Fair for good work of the school, International Exhibition, Philadelphia, 1876

Original copy of petition of pupils, against Mr. Campbell’s return, 1870

James S. Bowen Statement, lists names and dollar amounts, [1875]

B2:F44: Copy of last will and testament of William Oliver, 1843

B2:F45: Horace Mann accounts and bills paid, 1859-1865

B2:F46: Resolutions of The Alumnae Association, 1889

Box 3

Original file folders with ties

Subject Headings: 

Anagnos, Michael, 1837-1906.

Brooks, Edward, 1784-1859

Fisher, John D. (John Dix), 1797-1850

Howe, S.G. (Samuel Gridley), 1801-1876.

Howe, S.G. (Samuel Gridley), 1801-1876—Correspondence.

Perkins School for the Blind.

Perkins School for the Blind—History.

Perkins School for the Blind. Alumni Association.

Sherrod, Dempsey B.

Stone, James M., -1880

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