Printing in Schools

A black and white photograph of a nineteenth century school printshop. The large room includes four rows of large wooden cases of type at left and several printing machines at right. Several fair-skinned young men are visible at the workspaces. At rear, a white presenting woman stands near the doorway. In the foreground, a bearded, fair-skin older man stands at a printing machine.

Students in the Printing Shop of the Maryland School for the Deaf at Frederick, Maryland in the 1900s. Courtesy of the Gallaudet University Archives.

From the beginning of Deaf education, residential Deaf schools have incorporated vocational training as part of their curriculum. Printing was a vital component of this education. Schools like the American School for the Deaf, at Hartford, Connecticut, and the New York Institution for the Deaf and Dumb in New York City, offered some students training and experience in printing, first in typesetting by hand and later using linotype machines. 

A black and white photograph of a fair skinned teenage boy operating a linotype machine. In the background, an older fair-skinned man in overalls is seated at another linotype machine.

A student on the linotype machine at the Missouri School for the Deaf in the 1950s. Courtesy of the Gallaudet University Archives.

Social attitudes and legal practices in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries guided enrollment and shaped curriculum at Deaf residential schools. Deaf students of color did not have the same access to education as white students, particularly in the South where black Deaf students were denied admission or educated in separate facilities. Funding disparities between these segregated schools may have restricted training opportunities for Deaf students of color due to the lack of financial resources for printing machinery.

Social attitudes regarding gender roles also shaped students’ access to training in printing. While Deaf boys and young men were encouraged to pursue trades like carpentry, shoemaking, and printing, Deaf girls were directed to more domestic pursuits, like sewing and baking.

An image of an article with the heading Facts Bearing on the School Training of Deaf Printing Apprentices.

Vocational training was a major component of the curriculum in Deaf schools. An article from The Ohio Chronicle reported in 1932 that students received 12 hours of training each week, 40 weeks out of the year. Upon leaving school, most students had completed between 4-8 years of training. Work in school print shops was considered beneficial in several ways, including that it provided additional reading and writing opportunities for students and it prepared them to be self-supporting after they graduated.

For a list of sources used, see Works Consulted.