Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Open Letter to the Associated Press (AP)

In the factual in correction of your recent Associated Press's Daily Historical Fact Reminder, 4/15/09 regarding the first American school for the deaf opened in Hartford, Connecticut (1817).

The correct known fact about the first existing American school for the deaf was the Cobbs Plantation School in the present Fredericksburg area of Virginia, not the American School for the Deaf in Hartford, CT. The short-lived school for the deaf (Cobbs Plantation School) only existed from 1812 to 1815 in the Chesterfield County (Virginia Piedmont area) where the young George Washington raised in the very same area.

The following information could be found in countless reputable sources -

"The Virginia Landmarks Register" by Calder Loth, Virginia Department of Historic Resources, University of Virginia Press, 1999, p. 194

"A Place of Their Own: Creating the Deaf Community in America" by Dr. John Vickery Van Cleve and Dr. Barry A. Crouch of Gallaudet University, Gallaudet University Press, 1987, p.21-28 - "The Bollings and Deaf Education"

Many people still get confused with the general misassumption about the American School for the Deaf of Hartford, Connecticut being the first American school for the deaf. It was technically known as the first "permanent" school for the deaf.

The real difference between the first "existing" and first "permanent" school for the deaf. The American School for the Deaf in Hartford, Connecticut still serve as the residential education center for deaf youngsters.

You, the Associated Press editors owe the factual correction to your own readership.

Respectfully yours,
Robert L. Mason


  1. The AP might be *technically* correct, since it said that ASD was the first "public" school for the Deaf. Is that correct? Probably the Cobbs school did not receive any public funding.

  2. Wait, you are correct, Robert. The AP made a mistake. However the UPI article did mention that ASD was the first "public" school for the Deaf, so the UPI has outdone the AP today.

  3. BR,

    I just read "the first American school for the deaf on April 15, 1817" via AP contribution wire service.

    I did not see anything said
    the first "public" American school for the deaf.


  4. Dear Mr. Mason:

    You are certainly correct in stating that the Braidwood School in Virginia was the first attempt at a Deaf school in America. Due to Braidwood's dissipated habits it didn't last long, but it does have the distinction of being the "first".

    Here at ASD (American School for the Deaf), in all our historical statements we are careful to make clear that we are the first "permanent" or long-lived school for Deaf persons in America.

    Sometimes the press gets a little careless in its language, and you are right to make the distinction.


    Gary E. Wait, Archivist
    American School for the Deaf

  5. Hello Mr. Gary E. Wait,
    ASD Archivist:

    We have to educate the general public with all the correct facts about our deaf history.

    That is my own intention to get the Associated Press to do more deaf-related issues in the near future after acknowledging their own factual error. :)

    Every of us know about the direction of deaf education would be much transformed if the Braidwood private school at the Cobbs Plantation became real successful.

    We would not have Laurent Clerc and the American School for the Deaf in the first place with the use of sign language at all.

    Thank God, Mr. Braidwood was the real drunkard and gambler led to the closure of the short-lived private school.

    The Almighty God seems had the plan for us, culturally deaf people to flourish, instead of letting the Braidwood people running up the deaf education in America.

    Thanks for your comment, Mr. Wait. Have a nice weekend with your loved ones and friends.