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The Deaf Mute Howls

Albert Ballin

Publication Year: 1998

“Albert Ballin’s greatest ambition was that The Deaf Mute Howls would transform education for deaf children and more, the relations between deaf and hearing people everywhere. While his primary concern was to improve the lot of the deaf person ‘shunned and isolated as a useless member of society,’ his ambitions were larger yet. He sought to make sign language universally known among both hearing and deaf. He believed that would be the great "Remedy,” as he called it, for the ills that afflicted deaf people in the world, and would vastly enrich the lives of hearing people as well.” --From the Introduction by Douglas Baynton, author, Forbidden Signs Originally published in 1930, The Deaf Mute Howls flew in the face of the accepted practice of teaching deaf children to speak and read lips while prohibiting the use of sign language. The sharp observations in Albert Ballin’s remarkable book detail his experiences (and those of others) at a late 19th-century residential school for deaf students and his frustrations as an adult seeking acceptance in the majority hearing society. The Deaf Mute Howls charts the ambiguous attitudes of deaf people toward themselves at this time. Ballin himself makes matter-of-fact use of terms now considered disparaging, such as “deaf-mute,” and he frequently rues the “atrophying” of the parts of his brain necessary for language acquisition. At the same time, he rails against the loss of opportunity for deaf people, and he commandingly shifts the burden of blame to hearing people unwilling to learn the “Universal Sign Language,” his solution to the communication problems of society. From his lively encounters with Alexander Graham Bell (whose desire to close residential schools he surprisingly supports), to his enthrallment with the film industry, Ballin’s highly readable book offers an appealing look at the deaf world during his richly colored lifetime.

Published by: Gallaudet University Press

Title Page

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pp. ix-x

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pp. xi-xii

WITH THE PUBLICATION of Albert Ballin's The Deaf Mute Howls, Gallaudet University Press inaugurates a new series, Gallaudet Classics in Deaf Studies. The series will make available modern editions of historically significant works...

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pp. xiii-xxxvi

ALBERT BALLIN, a deaf artist and writer, lived a life of many ambitions. His greatest ambition was that the publication of his book, The Deaf Mute Howls, would transform not only education for deaf children but also the relationship between deaf and hearing people...

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pp. xxxvii-xli

THIS PREFACE is an afterthought, written after many a fluttering moment of hesitation and adopted only upon my becoming convinced that a few explanations for publishing this book, as it stands, seem to be both necessary and prudent. The original manuscript has been read...

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pp. 1-4

LONG, LOUD and cantankerous is the howl raised by the deafmute! It has to be ifhe wishes to be heard and listened to. He ought to keep it up incessandy until the wrongs inflicted on him will have been righted and done away with forever...

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pp. 5-8

DEAFNESS IS a catastrophe that smites us unexpectedly in a great variety of ways, mostly by disease and accidents after birth. About forty percent of the deaf are born so; about the same percentage are deafened by scarlet fever, the rest by meningitis, falls, catarrh, colds, brain-fever, accidents, etc., at all ages....

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pp. 9-13

IN PRESENTING my experiences as a pupil, I am going to attempt to make of myself a composite of all the deaf-mutes in the land, in order to average their different personalities. The school I attended will also make a composite of the many of its kind. So far as methods of educating and taking care of deaf children...

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pp. 14-17

My FIRST LESSON in the schoolroom was to follow the example set by my teacher in shaping my fingers to spell the letters of the alphabet. He pointed to printed letters on a chart on the wall, and explained that they corresponded with those to be shaped by my fingers...

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pp. 18-21

AFTER SEVERAL years, I reached the point where it was assumed I was able to wresde with grammar. But, consistent with my earlier childish resolution, I simply allowed words to float and swirl heedlessly around my head, making no effort to grasp them. Resolution may not be the correct term to apply to this case, for my ambition to advance myself in other directions was never quenched. Nothing was really the matter with my brain...

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pp. 22-25

ONE OF THE greatest wrongs inflicted on deaf children is their enforced herding together under one roof. In these quarters they do not contact the customs, habits, or life of the normal human beings with whom they must associate after leaving school. Under the one roof, they are kept in close contact with one another day in and day out for fifteen years or longer...

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pp. 26-31

THE PURE oralists are those so-called experts who claim that all the deaf children can be taught to articulate correctly and speak good English...

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pp. 32-35

TODAY THE deaf-mute graduates and goes into the world poorly equipped and prepared for the task of taking care of himself. During his life at school, every one of his actions has been regulated by rules designed more for the benefit of his teachers than for himself. He has so long been denied the right...

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pp. 36-42

I WAS FORTUNATE in having had for my father an artist-a lithographer to be exact. He took me out of school when I was sixteen, which is five years earlier than is usually allotted to a pupil for graduation. I am certain it was this step that saved me from becoming a confirmed dummy,...

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pp. 43-46

ONE UNFORGETTABLE night, Dr. Bell and I ensconced ourselves in a cozy corner at his hotel, and we talked from eight in the evening to four in the morning. We touched on a great variety of subjects. To be exact I should say it was he who did the talking, and I the listening. He was a fascinating...

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pp. 47-50

JUST A FEW words more about my life in Italy-three years that were fruitful in experiences and made interesting because of my study of other worthwhile subjects...

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pp. 51-53

A GREAT MANY of the deaf are employed at manual labor side by side with hearing co-workers. Throughout the day they must limit conversation to matters pertaining to the work at hand. At the close of the day, each seeks the company of his own kind. At their clubs, fraternities, etc. congregate all classes...

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pp. 54-59

THE IDEA of the Universal Sign Language as the bridge dawned on me slowly. While it was still but a shadowy vision:, I discussed its possibilities with some of the brightest of my fellow deaf. It dazzled a few, but to others it did not appear surprising. Some scoffed at it as too Utopian. They reminded me how they had tried to interest the public through conventions, addresses...

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pp. 60-62

To RETURN to Mr. Read, when I met him again he was business manager of the late Thomas H. Ince, director and producer. They had just arrived in New York to arrange for the Eastern premiere of "Civilization:'...

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pp. 63-67

FOR MANY years, more for amusement than for any serious purpose, I improvised some new features for the sign language. They were along the lines of picture painting in the air. You may recall what I said about the habit of deaf-mutes, from infancy, thinking only in pictures...

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pp. 68-70

You ARB probably aware that the inability to read and write is not confined to the deaf. It is in certain sections of this country all too common among the hearing. But I found that those hearing people who could neither read nor write were not always lacking intelligence. It did, however, seem strange to me that such a condition could exist in a country which is supposed to have one of the best school systems in the world...

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pp. 71-80

WITH HIGH hopes and ambition, I packed what litde I possessed in worldly goods into my grip and boarded the good ship Finland to sail for California, the home of our beloved Cinema Child. Some deaf friends came to wave me God-speed on my...

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pp. 81-82

I TRUST I convinced you, by presenting facts and proofs, that the Universal Sign Language would be a help to mankind. Further discussion seems needless, so I will offer a few prognostications as to probable results were it in effect...

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pp. 83-86

EARLIER IN this little volume I mentioned how the deaf hold International Conventions where the delegates "speak." with ease and without the aid of interpreters. Let us compare these conventions with the frequent meetings of ambassadors, ministers, or delegates of foreign nations...

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pp. 87-90

UPON THE assumption that you are, by this time, in accord with my ideas, you may ask what you can do to learn the Universal Language and use it to remedy the ills I have mentioned.The first and most important step is to learn the single-hand manual alphabet, plainly illustrated here. Imitate the way the letters are formed from A to Z..


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pp. 91-94

E-ISBN-13: 9781563682001
E-ISBN-10: 1563682001
Print-ISBN-13: 9781563680731
Print-ISBN-10: 1563680734

Page Count: 112
Illustrations: 1 figure, 7 photos
Publication Year: 1998

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Subject Headings

  • Deaf -- Means of communication -- United States.
  • Sign language -- United States.
  • Ballin, Albert, 1861-1932.
  • Deaf men -- United States -- Biography.
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