Teacher Journals of Laura Bridgman and Other Pupils in the Deafblind Program

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

On the left, black and white portrait of Laura Bridgman. On the right, artwork of Laura Bridgman guiding Oliver Caswell's hand over a book.

Two images: portrait of Laura Bridgman in three-quarter profile wearing a sash around her eyes, circa 1845, and artwork by Alvan Fisher of Laura Bridgman guiding Oliver Caswell's hand over an embossed volume.


Sarah Wight, Eliza Rogers, Mary Swift and others

Date Range: 
1841- 1849
Call number: 
1.25 linear ft.
Biographical/Historical notes: 

Laura Dewey Bridgman (1829-1889), born in Hanover, New Hampshire was the first child with deafblindness to gain a significant education. Bridgman entered the Perkins School for the Blind just before her eighth birthday and became a pupil of Dr. Samuel Gridley Howe, the schools’ first director. Howe taught Bridgman the English language via embossed materials and later the manual alphabet. Howe’s accounts of Laura Bridgman gained international attention, including that of Charles Dickens who wrote about Bridgman in his book American Notes. Among the other pupils at Perkins with deafblindness, was Oliver Caswell whom Bridgman delighted in teaching. Other students include Frank, Susan, and Lucy (last names unknown).

Credit line/Citation: 
Teacher Journals of Laura Bridgman and other Deafblind Pupils, Perkins School for the Blind

1 Series:  1 box with 14 journals (boxed individually)

Detailed accounts of daily activities, lessons, travel, interactions between the students, conversations, thoughts and temperament of students with deafblindness at the Perkins Institution (now Perkins School for the Blind) including Laura Bridgman, Oliver Caswell, and others. Contains pencil notes in the margin highlighting sections and quotes. The bulk of the content surrounds Laura Bridgman, who is sometimes referred to as “L”.

Container List: 

Box 1:

Volume 1: 6/1/1841- 1/5/1842

Students: Laura Bridgman (bulk), Lucy, and Oliver Caswell

Instructor: Mary Swift

Note: June 9, Laura asks who made water- Dr. Howe answers. Aug 16, LB outing with JWH and SGH. Broken cover, possibly some water damage.

Volume 2: 6/22/1841- 10/26/1841

Students: Laura Bridgman, Oliver Caswell, and others (Lucy, David, William, Abby, Olive, Robert, Sophia

Instructor: [Lydia] Drew, Mary Swift

Note: Mary Swift see October 8.

Volume 3: 1/6/1842-1/3/1843. In poor condition with broken binding and water damage.     

Students: Laura Bridgman and Oliver Caswell

Instructor: Eliza Rogers, Mary Swift

Note: Orrin’s death Aug 20-21. Back page contains a list of books in the Boys School.

Volume 4: 5/8/1842- 4/4/1843

Student: Oliver Caswell. Also Julia, Laura Bridgman, and others (Betsey, Dorothy, Louisa, Susan, and Rebecca)

Instructor: Eliza Rogers, also Sarah Wight.

Note: On Sept. 13 LB leaves for vacation in Hanover with Morton and J.

Volume 5: 1/4/1843- 4/1/1843

Student: Laura Bridgman

Instructor: Mary Swift

Volume 6: 4/10/1843- 9/28/1843

Student: Laura Bridgman

Instructor: [Lydia] Drew?

Note: see letter about visit of Julia Brace April 14, 1843. Letters to JWH and SGH August 13, 1843. July 7 visit to menagerie.

Volume 7: 5/31/1843- 2/2/1844

Students: Oliver Caswell, Frank, and Susan

Instructors: Sarah Wight, Eliza Rogers

Note: Transcripts of letters from Oliver Caswell to SGH and to his family home. Entries from this journal appear in The Education of Laura Bridgman, by Mary Swift Lamson.

Volume 8: 10/26/1843- 3/1844

Student: Laura Bridgman

Instructor: “Miss Rogers takes over”

Note: includes letters to SGH

Volume 9: 2/12/1844- 9/17/1845, winter term 11/1845- 2/13/1846

Students: Laura Bridgman and Oliver Caswell, and others (Frank, Susan)

Instructor: Eliza Rogers?

Note: mentions Susan and Frank’s prayers.

Volume 10: 3/12/1844- 9/14/1844.

Student: Laura Bridgman

Instructor: Mary Swift

Contents: Transcripts of letters from Laura Bridgman to SGH, JWH, Dr. Clifford, and others.

Volume 11: 6/1/1844- 9/16/1844

Journal followed by a series of attendance notes and other student lists. Half the journal is blank. Includes scrap of paper between pages with an attendance list: Alice Snow, Maria Snow, Sarah Cass, Sarah Smith, Ellen Crockett, Grace Reed, Mary Lufkin, Lizzie Chick, John Marr, Joseph Jones, Augustus Childs.

Students:  General progress of boys (Lorenzo, Albus Lorenzo, Theodore Datton, Joseph Blaisdell, Joseph Hatton, Enoch, Henry [Thayer], Cornelius McCullough, Cornelius Smith, , Edward Smith, Montgomery, George Nichols, George Osgood, Cyrus, David, Austin Johnson, Charles [Wild], Ross [Feasler], Augustus Goddard, Richard, William, Andrew, John Drew,

Instructor: Mr. Park, unknown

Note: Cover of journal reads: “Notes of Examination”. First page “Journal of the Boys School summer term 1844.”

Volume 12: 11/1/1844- 5/1/1845

Student: Laura Bridgman

Instructor: unknown

Volume 13: 8/29/1845- 2/1946, Hanover 6/1846-9/1846, and 1/1847-10/1847

Student: Laura Bridgman

Instructor: Mary Swift?

Note:  pencil notes in margin. Broken cover.

Volume 14: 10/12/1848- 11/10/1849

Student: Laura Bridgman

Instructor: unknown

Note: Journal half the size of the others, possibly a large amount of pages have been ripped out. Child-like doodles cover front and back covers. Notes in pencil made in the margins. 

A loose piece of paper stuck between pages reads:

Nov 17th Laura writes word “creates.” She had just come to the Inst. In Nov. 1841 explained. Laura writes “creates like make noise had.” (Miss R. had told her that she created noise.)

Nov. 18th Arithmetic Laura, when asked the number of tens in 100, persists in saying “two” for some time.

Nov. 20th Laura numerates- had stumbles at 1001 Arithmetic.

Nov. 22nd [the following line is crossed out] “Borrowing seems beyond her comprehension” (in subtraction.)

Subject Headings: 

Bridgman, Laura Dewey, 1829-1889

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

Lamson, Mary Swift, 1822-1909

Perkins School for the Blind--History.

Deafblind people--Education--United States--History--19th century.

Boston (Mass.)--History--19th century.

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