Together in the Dorms

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, daily life in most boarding schools was highly regimented, and schools for deaf children were no exception. Students slept in rows and kept rigid weekday routines of dressing and eating together and moving as a group between meals, classes, and activities in the dormitories. Bathing and brushing teeth became a regular evening ritual in many dorms, along with a last minutes, lights-out dash to bed.


Girls brush their teeth and get ready for bed at the Missouri School for the Deaf. Children could sign freely and communication was clear and comfortable in most dorms. The shared experiences of dorm life helped the students build close relationships.


Gallaudet University Archives


Younger children often signed prayers in unison before bedtime.


Gallaudet University Archives.
Image of Malone School, New York


In dining halls, such as that of the Kansas School for the Deaf, above, silverware was often engraved with the school name or with the letters "D and D" for "Deaf and Dumb."


From S. Tefft Walker.¡°The Kansas Institution," in Histories of American Schools for the Deaf, 1817-1893, ed. Edward Allen Fay (Washington D.C. Volta Bureau, 1893).
Gallaudet University Archives


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