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Deaf Heritage

A Narrative History of Deaf America

Jack R. Gannon

Publication Year: 2011

Now, Jack R. Gannon’s original groundbreaking volume on Deaf history and culture is available once again. In Deaf Heritage: A Narrative History of Deaf America, Gannon brought together for the first time the story of the Deaf experience in America from a Deaf perspective. Recognizing the need to document the multifaceted history of this unique minority with its distinctive visual culture, he painstakingly gathered as much material as he could on Deaf American life. The result is a 17-chapter montage of artifacts and information that forms an utterly fascinating record from the early nineteenth century to the time of its original publication in 1981. Deaf Heritage tracks the development of the Deaf community both chronologically and by significant subjects. The initial chapter treats the critical topics of early attempts at deaf education, the impact of Deaf and Black deaf teachers, the establishment of schools for the deaf, and the founding of Gallaudet College. Individual chapters cover the 1880s through the 1970s, mixing milestones such as the birth of the National Association of the Deaf and the work of important figures, Deaf and hearing, with anecdotes about day-to-day deaf life. Other chapters single out important facets of Deaf culture: American Sign Language, Deaf Sports, Deaf artists, Deaf humor, and Deaf publications. The overall effect of this remarkable record, replete with archival photographs, tables, and lists of Deaf people’s accomplishments, reveals the growth of a vibrant legacy singular in American history.

Published by: Gallaudet University Press

Series: Gallaudet Classics in Deaf Studies Series

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 2-9


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pp. ix-xii

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pp. xiii-xiv

Every book has a reason for coming into being. Basically, it is a response to a long-felt and Oft-expressed need for a volume which deals with the contributions of deaf Americans to society. ...

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Preface 2012. About This Book and a Changing Deaf America

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pp. xv-xvii

In the late 1970s, the National Association of the Deaf (NAD) and Gallaudet College (now University) jointly sponsored a project to develop a book that would recognize the many accomplishments of the NAD (founded in 1880) as it approached its centennial. ...

Copyright Acknowledgements

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pp. xviii-19

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pp. xix-xx

The seed for this book was planted on a train ride from Washington, D.C., to West Trenton, New Jersey, in the winter of 1977. Cary Olsen and I were on our way to present a National Association of the Deaf and Gallaudet College-sponsored leadership training program for deaf adults ...

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pp. xxi-xxii

In the 1521 publication De Interventione Dialectica, the pioneering humanistic educator Rudolf Agricola made the statement that deaf people can be taught a language. This is one of the earliest positive statements about deafness on record. Further back, in the shrouded mists of antiquity, references to deaf persons tended to be negative, ....

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Prologue: A Journey Begins/Chronology

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pp. xxiii-xxxiv

The wind billowed, filling the sails. The rigging snapped taut as the little wooden ship, the Mary Augusta, alternately floundering and plowing the seas of the Atlantic Ocean, made its way westward to the city of New York. Several days before, at high tide, on the afternoon of June 18, 1816, the Mary Augusta had left Le Havre on the northern coast of France. …

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Chapter 1. The Early Years

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pp. 1-58

Almost 200 years after the Pilgrims arrived in this country there were still no schools for deaf children. Dr. William Thornton, the first to head the U.S. Patent Office and also the architect of the U.S. Capitol, was the first to call the attention of the American press to the educational needs of deaf people. ...

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Chapter 2. The 1880s

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pp. 59-74

In eighteen hundred and eighty, Helen Keller and Douglas MacArthur were born. Will Rogers was a one-year-old toddler. Lewis Wallace wrote Bell Hur many of Wallace's novels include deaf characters who use sign language. Before the decade was out, Mark Twain produced The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. …

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Chapter 3. The 1890s

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pp. 75-92

Should deaf persons be allowed to marry each other? That was a question that had been raised in the preceding decade and one that was being asked repeatedly during the 1890s. One of the persons who had grave doubts about the wisdom of such intermarriages was Dr. Alexander Graham Bell. ...

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Chapter 4. Artists

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pp. 93-156

Hillis Arnold was born in North Dakota; he became deaf from spinal meningitis when he was six months old. When he was 12 his family moved to Minneapolis where he attended a class for deaf students in a public school. He graduated cum laude from the University of Minnesota in 1933 ...

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Chapter 5. The 1900s

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pp. 157-172

During the alumni reunion held on the campus of the Michigan School for the Deaf late in 1898, a group of 13 young men met to explore the possibility of providing some form of insurance protection for themselves and other deaf men. ...

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Chapter 6. The 1910s

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pp. 173-180

In 1914 Roy J. "R. J." Stewart succeeded Oscar H. Regensburg as chairman of the National Association of the Deaf Motion Picture Committee upon the latter's death. When oralism took a strong hold on education of the deaf during the early part of this century, concern was expressed that the beauty of sign language might be lost. ...

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Chapter 7. The 1920s

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pp. 181-202

The 1920s saw the arrival of the washing machine, electric irons, and vacuum cleaners. The radio appeared, linked Americans, and changed their lives. The automobile became popular, and travel increased. The 19205 was the decade of Prohibition, America's move from the farm to the city, the "Roaring Twenties," ...

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Chapter 8. Our Deaf World

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pp. 203-210

Two deaf men, one tall and thin and the other short and fat, round the hallway corner coming from their rooms on the third floor of the hotel and stop at the elevator area. They are attending a National Association of the Deaf convention and have not seen each other for several years. ...

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Chapter 9. The 1930s

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pp. 211-218

As the nation was coming out of the Depression there was clamor in the deaf community for the establishment of state labor bureaus for the deaf. The Depression had created so much unemployment that it was very difficult for many deaf people to find jobs. ...

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Chapter 10. The 1940s

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pp. 219-236

In the early 1940s there were an estimated 60,000 deaf persons in this country; one deaf person for every 2,150. Deaf persons were classified as congenitally (born) deaf and adventitiously deaf (deafened later). The term "deaf-mute" was used liberally in the press and the term "partly deaf" was used to define hard of hearing persons. ...

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Chapter 11. Publications of the Deaf

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pp. 237-254

Levi S. Backus (b. 1803) is credited with being the originator of what eventually became known as the silent press. The word "silent" was a popular term used to describe newspapers and magazines published in the interests of deaf people in the early part of the century but it has since lost its popularity. ...

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Chapter 12. The 1950s

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pp. 255-270

As a lady carrying a grocery bag in each arm emerged from the supermarket she was approached by a peddler. She nodded her head, "yes," when he showed her a card and the peddler followed her to her car where she unloaded her groceries. ...

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Chapter 13. Sports

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pp. 271-316

William E. Hoy, the deaf baseball outfielder for the Cincinnati Reds and Washington Senators claims that he was the reason for the hand count. He could not hear the call so umpires began raising their arm to indicate a strike and it soon caught on. ...

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Chapter 14. The 1960s

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pp. 317-356

Freiderick C. Schreiber called the decade the "Sizzling Sixties." To Hugo Schunotf, an educator and superintendent of the California School for the Deaf at Berkeley, it was the "Bountiful Sixties." Both were appropriate labels for that decade. ...

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Chapter 15. American Sign Language: Our Natural Language

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pp. 357-376

Sign language traces its recorded history back to some Benedictine monks in Italy around A. D. 530. These monks had taken vows of silence and, it is believed, created a form of sign language in order to communicate their daily needs. Sign language has been passed down through the centuries. ...

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Chapter 16. The 1970s

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pp. 377-418

The 1970s was the decade of more awareness of deaf people, better understanding, and increased involvement. Interest in sign language continued to grow, legislation was passed benefitting deaf people, and more deaf people began standing up for their rights. ...

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Chapter 17. The National Association of the Deaf

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pp. 419-436

Endowed with a deep sense of social consciousness for the needs of grassroots deaf people, Frederick C. Schreiber was an action-oriented individual who has left a lasting impact on the lives of all of us, deaf and hearing alike. Brilliant, articulate, aggressive, and yet sensitive and blessed with a gift of humor, warmth, and peopleness, ...

Appendix A: Known Deaf Persons Who Have Been Ordained

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pp. 437-438

Appendix B: Known Deaf Persons with Earned Doctoral Degrees

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pp. 439-442

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Special Acknowledgment

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pp. 443-478

Writing a book is a long, drawn-out and tiresome process that greatly influences the lives of the writer's family and friends. It is a project which involves months and months of research. That means living with pockets full of notes, and with piles of paper, photographs, magazines and newspapers, books, etc. ...

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About the Author

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pp. 444-479

Becoming deaf from meningitis at the age of eight, Jack entered the Missouri School for the Deaf in 1946 and graduated in 1954. There he found deaf people like himself, and they were an inspiration to him. The fine deaf teachers on the staff were especially impressive. ...

Chapter Notes

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pp. 445-448


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pp. 449-462


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pp. 463-484

E-ISBN-13: 9781563685156
E-ISBN-10: 1563685159
Print-ISBN-13: 9781563685149
Print-ISBN-10: 1563685140

Page Count: 188
Illustrations: 200 photographs, figures
Publication Year: 2011

Series Title: Gallaudet Classics in Deaf Studies Series