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ASD Receives Priceless Artifacts from Family of Co-Founder

Members of the Clerk family at a reception. Courtesy photo

The American School for the Deaf in West Hartford has accepted a donation of priceless artifacts from the family of the school’s co-founder.


The American School for the Deaf (ASD) is honored to share news that they are the recent recipients of a generous donation from descendants of one of ASD’s founders, Laurent Clerc.

Originally from France, there is some uncertainty as to whether Clerc was born deaf or lost his hearing later due to illness or injury. What is certain, is that by age 12 he was enrolled at what is now known as L’Institut National de Jeunes Sourds de Paris (National Institute for Deaf Youth of Paris). Upon his graduation, Clerc stayed on as a teacher where his work as an educator brought him to England.

It was during these travels that he met Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet who had travelled to Europe to research deaf education. The two men became close friends and Clerc returned to America with Gallaudet to open the first permanent school for the deaf in the United States– ASD!

Some of the items in the Clerc collection include: early family photos; Laurent Clerc’s personal writing desk; Clerc’s marriage announcement to Eliza Boardman; Clerc’s 1838 application for citizenship in the United States; numerous other documents and letters, such as those between himself and Gallaudet, and one to his granddaughter Charlotte from November 1864 in which he writes that he is glad Lincoln was re-elected, exclaiming “Down with Slavery!”

To acknowledge and celebrate these generous gifts, ASD hosted a private reception for the Clerc family on July 6 at the Cogswell Heritage House, home to the school’s archives, on ASD’s West Hartford campus. ASD plans to create a special exhibit to showcase this collection, while also digitizing the items to be easily accessible to the worldwide Deaf Community, students, educators and researchers.

Founded in 1817 as the nation’s first permanent school for the deaf and special education school, the American School for the Deaf is a comprehensive learning community that welcomes all deaf, hard of hearing, and hearing children with unique communication needs. We develop the whole child – intellectually, emotionally, physically, and socially. ASD is a leader in providing innovative programs and services for deaf and hard of hearing students, empowering them to become educated and self-directed lifelong learners. For more information, please visit www.asd-1817.org.

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