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Sign language history: 18th and 19th Century

17th Century

Juan Pablo de Bonet published the first book on teaching sign language to deaf people that contained the manual alphabet in 1620. -- Butterworth, et al., 1995 Though, sign language was already instinctively developed by deaf signers.

18th Century / Romantic Period of Art (1780-1850)

Abbe L'Epee

Abbe Charles Michel de L'Epee of Paris founded the first free school for deaf people in 1755. He demonstrated that deaf people could develop communication with themselves and the hearing world through a system of conventional gestures, hand signs, and fingerspelling. He first recognized and learned the signs that were already being used by deaf people in Paris and developed his sign system. He added a signed version of spoken French.
Butterworth, et al., 1995

Critchley (p. 33) noted that Charles Michel (the Abbe de l'Epee, 1712-89) opened the school for the deaf in Paris in 1759.

"A prominent deaf educator, Samuel Heinicke (1778) of Leipzig, Germany established the first public school for deaf people that achieved government recognition. He did not use the manual method of communication but taught speech and speechreading. These two methods (manual and oral) were the forerunners of today's concept of total communication. Total communication espouses the use of all means of available communication, such as sign language, gesturing, fingerspelling, speechreading, speech, hearing aids, reading, writing, and pictures."
Butterworth, et al., 1995

Abbe Sicard

Abbe Sicard (1742-1822) was the successor to De L'Eppe at the French School for the Deaf in Paris.

1815: Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet, a Congregational minister who helped his neighbor's young deaf daughter, Alice Cogswell, traveled to Europe in 1815, to study methods of education for the deaf. In England, Abbe Roche Ambroise Sicard invited him to his school for deaf in Paris. After several months in Paris, Gallaudet returned to the United States with Laurent Clerc, a deaf teacher. They founded the American school for the deaf in 1817.
Butterworth, et al., 1995

Clerc and Gallaudet, 1817

The American School for the Deaf was founded by Laurent Clerc, Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet, and Mason Cogswell in Hartford, Connecticut in 1817, where sign language was used in Deaf education. Laurent Clerc became the U.S.'s first deaf teacher. He brought Old French Sign Language (OFSL) to America. OFSL was part of the developement of ASL. Deaf people prospered in various fields from politics to journalism to education until the "Dark Age" after the infamous Milan 1880.

December 16, 1817: Eliza Young's birthday. She was the wife of William Willard, and together they founded the Indiana School for the Deaf.

Schools for the Deaf founded

New York School for the Deaf (1818); Pennsylvania School for the Deaf (1820); Kentucky School for the Deaf (1823); Ohio School for the Deaf (1829); Virginia School for the Deaf (1839); Florida School for the Deaf (1883); Kansas School for the Deaf (December 9, 1861)

College, 1864

The National Deaf-Mute College (now Gallaudet University) was founded by Thomas Gallaudet's son Edward Miner Gallaudet, who became the first president of this institution and was also fluent in ASL. President Abraham Lincoln signed the bill into law. The two acres of the land in northwest Washington, D.C. was donated by the wealthy businessman Amos Kendall in 1856 (originally to establish a school for the deaf). ASL has been used on campus since then.

Alexander Bell, 1876

Alexander Graham Bell was "credited" with inventing the telephone. He involved in the scheme of banning the use of sign language in Deaf education at the Milan conference in 1880.

Milan 1880

A pre-planned resolution was passed that sign language was to be forbidden in favor of speech at International Congress on Education of the Deaf in Milan, Italy. Eventualy, it had made an enormous impact on the lives and an education of sign language users until the 1960s when ASL was recognized as a true, natural language.

1893: First deaf woman graduate

1893: Agatha Tiegel Hanson was the first deaf woman to graduate from Gallaudet with a four-year degree. She also served as valedictorian for her graduating class. (Source: Gallaudet Today, Winter 2014. Vol. 15, No.1, p. 2)

Baseball Signals

William "Dummy" Hoy (1862-1961), the first deaf Major League baseball player, was the reason umpires adopted hand signals: "out", "safe", and "strike".

Football Huddle

1894: The Gallaudet University football team invented the football huddle to keep the opponents from eavesdropping on the quarterback in American Sign Language.

Related links: Timeline: 1900s.