History Of Education in Iowa
HISTORY OF EDUCATION
Clarence Ray Aurner
Published at Iowa City, Iowa in 1920
The State Historical Society of Iowa
pages 3 - 53
HISTORY OF THE COLLEGE FOR THE BLIND
FOUNDING A SCHOOL FOR THE BLIND
Iewa was the fifteenth State in the Union to provide an institution for the education of the blind. Prior to this event, however, prevision had been made for State aid whereby fifty dollars annually might be drawn from the State treasury in favor of any blind person between the ages of ten and twenty-five who would apply that sum toward an education. But not more than $100 could be granted to any one individual, nor could the entire sum appropriated amount to more than $250 annually — that is to say, not more than five persons could receive assistance in any one year and no one individual for more than two years. This law was made effective through the agency of the county commissioners, the Superintendent of Public Instruction, and the Auditor of State.
In 1853 an "Asylum for the Blind" under a board of seven overseers was established at the capital of the State. The Governor, the Secretary of State, and the Superintendent of Public Instruction were ex officio members of this board; the other four were to be appointed by the Governor. Three classes of blind persons were to be admitted to the institution: (1) persons between the ages of seven and twenty-two years whose parents were unable to educate them; (2) persona between twenty-two and thirty- re years of age who would be benefitted by receiving instruction in some trade; and (3) persons not resident of the State who must pay to the "President of the Asylum" thirty-five dollar: quarterly in advance for board end tuition. Residents of the State only were entitled to free instruction, and the approval of the overseers was necessary for the admission of persons over twenty-one years of age.
The first appropriation of $2000 was intended to provide for maintenance from February 2, 1853, until January, I855, and this included "rent, musical instruments, books, stationery, fuel, provisions, salaries, and furniture". The overseers were to receive no compensation."
In August, 1852, Samuel Bacon, a blind teacher of the blind, had opened a school in Keokuk; and this school, it appears, became the nucleus of the new State institution. It was removed to Iowa City, then the State capital, in February, 1853; and in April, I853, it was organized under the administration of the overseers. The selection of Keokuk as the first site explains the disproportionate number of pupils from Lee County at the opening of the school following its removal to Iowa City. Mr. Bacon was retained as the principal; his wife became the matron; and one additional teacher was emplayed for music. The first session appears to here been continuous for fourteen months. At the time of the opening of the second session in September, 1854, a total of twenty-three pupils had been admitted.
At the vary outset attention was called to the difficulty experienced in obtaining a suitable building to accommodate the number of pupils expected, and the erection of appropriate quarters was at once suggested. The building than occupied was the largest that could he secured in the city, but it did not furnish sufficient quarters to enable the managers to carry out the design of the legislature in educating all the blind in the State. Only temporary arrangements could be made, since it we anticipated that another location better suited to the needs of the population would be secured later. Satisfaction was expressed with the progress made in both academic and industrial departments; but the provision of the law which required the fact of a pupil’s poverty to be recorded before he could be admitted was deprecated and its early amendment was proposed in order that the "distinction between rich and poor" might be entirely removed. Iowa alone among western States, it seems, made this distinction. Furthermore, the name "Asylum for the Blind" seemed inappropriate and it was suggested that the institution be designated as the "Institution for the Instruction of the Blind".
In 1853 the first national convention of teachers of the blind assembled, and to this conference the principal of the Iowa school was sent by order of the overseers. Not more than fourteen institutions, it was said, were represented at this convention; but the group did not hesitate to appoint a committee to memorialize Congress for a land grant to aid in building up schools for the blind. Although Mr. Bacon obtained several donations of books and made purchases of apparatus as directed, he was not able on this journey to secure a sufficient supply for the classes already admitted.
The daily routine of the institution during this early period is worthy of notice. The children rose at half past five, and recited geography from six until seven; from seven to eight they breakfasted and had an intermission; arithmetic and algebra occupied the time from eight until nine, when a recess of ten minutes was allowed; an hour for vocal music and another ten minute intermission followed, and this in turn gave place to grammar and writing; and after another ten minute recess, instrumental music and reading raised print occupied the time until noon. At half past twelve the inmates of the school dined, and no further work was required until two o'clock; but from that hour until five the boys were engaged in making brooms and the girls in sewing, knitting, and bead work. The pupils were called to supper at half past five, after which they were free until seven o'clock, when they gave attention to history until eight. The younger children retired at nine, and the older ones at ten o'clock. Along with the instruction mentioned the news of the day was read to all. Some were taught the piano; and there was allso a small class in geometry.
The law governing this institution was amended in 1856 so that "all blind persons resident of this State, of suitable age and capacity" should be entitled to an education at the expense of the State. At the same time the tern: "overseers" was changed to "trustees"; the per capita quarterly allowance plan of maintenance was adopted; and a generous sum was appropriated for extraordinary expenses. It was by this statute also that authority was given to permit pupils to travel about the State under proper protection in order to exhibit to the people the work of the school and to extend information relative thereto. Just before this law was passed the General Assembly had requested Governor James W. Grimes to submit information as to the number of blind in the State. He replied that he was unable to comply with the request in a satisfactory manner since the census was wholly unreliable; but according to the estimates of Mr. Bacon, to whom the Governor referred, there were about two hundred blind persons in Iowa. It was during the same session that the Governor and Secretary of State were authorized by joint resolution to receive proposals and examine sites for the permanent location of the institution; and they were empowered to accept deeds for land that might be selected. Thus there appears to have been nothing in the way of an early decision in locating the institution.
When the principal submitted his report in 1856 the school at Iowa City was occupying its fourth building; accordingly his request for a permanent location seemed quite reasonable.
That extraordinary efforts were made by Mr. Bacon to secure the latest information concerning the methods of educating the blind is shown by the fact that he had visited many other State schools of this kind and had collected the apparatus needed as rapidly as funds would allow. It is apparent also that certain improvements in instruction were only waiting for the perfecting of apparatus. The academic work at this period included the following subjects: geography, reading raised print, writing, grammar, logic and rhetoric, arithmetic, algebra, plane and analytical geometry, and differentia calculus — a course which followed the general outline of the proposed public school curricula of the time. In addition to these subjects, music played an important part --- a feature that has persisted throughout the history of the school. The only change in the industrial instruction seems to have been the addition of mat weaving to the work for boys. This department was aiding in its own support since brooms, mats and beadwork could be sold for cash.
The brief report for the year 1857 was not optimistic. Indeed, the principal had become somewhat discouraged as is evidenced by the following words: "Whether it will be my lot to preside over this Institution much longer is a question of time. I have labored long and hard and am weary. It has been the height of my ambition to be at the head of a well- ordered Institulion, in a suitable building. But this I despair of ever seeing in Iowa, where there is so much squabbling about localities as to prevent proper legislation, and where from the recent settlement of the inhabitants, and their little knowledge of one another, it is difficult to obtain statistics os as to increase the school as fast as desirable." It is evident that his discouragement was due to the failure of the legislature to provide a definite location for the school rather than to a lack of adequate funds for ordinary expenses. The trustees, however, do not appear to have been alarmed, since they asserted that there was ample room to accommodate the thirty other blind persons in the State who were known to be desirous of attending the institution but hesitated because the work had not been explained to them. The members of the legislature were therefore urged to do personal work in their respective counties or districts.
Governor Grimes said in 1858 that the number of blind pupils was so small that it would be more economical to provide for their education in some other State, than to maintain the school for this class in Iowa. Nevertheless, some influence moved the General Assembly in March following to provide for a commission to select a permanent location for the school and to supervise the erection of buildings. James C. Traer of Benton County, John W. Jones of Hardin County, and Hosea W. Gray of Linn County constituted its membership. Among the limitations on the powers of the Commission was the requirement that a donation of not less than forty acres of land must be made by the community which desired the institution and that the cost of the equipment in buildings and furnishings should not exceed $20,000. On this basis they were authorised to contract. Furthermore, only $15,000 was appropriated, and none of this was to be available until citizens of the community, where it was proposed to establish the institution, should subscribe $5000 in addition to the donation of land.
On May 8, 1853, the Commission met at Vinton, where the requirements in land and money had been provided by the citizens. The exact site was soon selected and one of the commissioners, Mr. Traer, was authorised to make an investigation of some similar institution already equipped and in operation in order that rst-hand information as to such structures might be available. For this purpose he visited Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, and Wisconsin. Information secured on thei tour of investigation may have led to the subsequent action of the Commission which incurred severe criticism — at any rate the instructions and limitations of the statute governing the amount to be expended were disregarded. Indeed, the plans and estimates from the beginning called for the investment of over $50,000, whereas the law appropriated only $20,000. It should be said, however, that the commissioners assumed the responsibility knowingly — in order, as they said, to protect the State from losses which would result from what they believed to be mistaken economy. They were confident that good citizens everywhere would approve their action. Thus, with barely enough money to complete the foundation and the lower walls the Commission came before the General Assembly in 1860 asking for an additional appropriation of $40,000 — a large sum, it will he observed, for that time.
In thus exceeding their authority the Commission misjudged the temper of the General Assembly; for on the third day of the session in 1860 a resolution was passed by that body commanding the Commission to show by what authority they had exceeded the imposed limitations. Furthermore, a bill to repeal the act passed in 1858 to locate the school for the blind and to appropriate money for its construction was introduced before adjournment; while a law prohibiting the Commission from making any contract in excess of the terms of the law, under penalty of a fine up to $5000 or five years in the penitentiary for its violation, was adopted. Another statute authorized the Governor to appoint a single commissioner who, as soon as practicable, should take over all papers and documents of the three former commissioners and with the additional appropriation of $10,000 then made proceed to complete the walls to the third story and cover the building with a pine shingle roof. At the same time the legislature ordered a change in the interior arrangements and required that prior to the commencement of definite work on the buildings the plans must all be submitted to the Governor for approval. And finally, it was provided that the entire remaining cost must not exceed $20,000.
Criticism of the policy of the commissioners, however, was not limited to the General Assembly: it was asserted that those citizens who had contributed land and money had not received honest treatment inasmuch as the commissioners had sought to evade the law and to postpone the completion of the building. It was the opinion of some that private interests had dictated this policy. During the summer of 1859 much impatience was manifested over the situation, but delay was inevitable after the available funds had been expended.
In the meantime the actual work was continued at Iowa City where the officers regarded the prosperity of the institution with satisfaction. Indeed, it was said that in proportion to the population of the Commonwealth more pupils were enrolled in the school at this place and that they were taught at less expense than in any other similar institution — forty being the whole number in attendance. The State had provided sufficient financial support for the maintenance of the school at Iowa City until the time for the transfer came, when it was anticipated that an increase would he necessary. It is apparent that the trustees. although regretting the delay and the selection of the location at Vinton, had resigned themselves to a long wait, since it was their opinion that if the legislature should refuse to complete the building already begun the temporary quarters would serve for four or five years.
But the attitude of Mr. Bacon, the principal, was not no submissive. On the contrary, he protested decidedly against the States policy of "trafficking" in the misfortune of its dependants for the "paltry sum of five thousand dollars, subjecting the blind of the State to great inconvenience, and the Institution itself to eternal disadvantage". Other States, he declared, had seen fit to locate similar schools not only with reference to the opportunity for obtaining materials and for disposing of manufactured articles, but also with some consideration of what the environment offered the pupils for their advancement. Moreover, he advised that the State abandon the what had been invested at the site chosen and use the additional appropriation that would be necessary to complete the plant in erecting buildings at the capital or some other prominent and accessible place. And he believed that he should have been associated with the Commission in the planning of the building because of his acquaintance with many other schools of this kind in the country and his experience in teaching in such institutions. The principal also recommended as early as 1860 that a skillful oculist should be employed to visit the school once or twice a year. Such a provision, it was suggested, might encourage attendance.
During 1860-1861 work on the building at Vinton was continuted under the direction of the single commissioner, James B. Locke, but the school remained at Iowa city. The report for that biennium reveals a situation quite unchanged from that of the previous two years. It appears that the trustees and the principal were desirous of securing some more effective means of reaching the blind in different sections of the State; and it was suggested by the trustees that public committees should be requested to provide clothing for such as were prevented from attending for that reason. It was also urged that county supervisors should learn of all persons who ought to be at the institution and extend needed aid.
Reference has already been made to the discouragement of Mr. Bacon relative to the establishment of a permanent home for the school. The delay in providing a suitable building appears to have led to his retirement after ten years of service; he announced his resignation to take effect at the commencement of the session in 1862. The report for the biennium, 1860-1861, was, therefore, his final formal document. It is probable that his successor had even then been selected, for a published item announced the election of Oran Faville as principal and his wife as matron. lt was pronounced a splendid appointment, since Mr. Faville was regarded as a "gentleman of pure heart and cultivated intellect." Nevertheless, either the appointment was not accepted or unforseen circumstances intervened for Mr. Faville did not begin work the following July as expected.
PERMANENT LOCATION AT VINTON
In the spring of 1862 a final appropriation of $10,000 was granted by the General Assembly, and provision was made for the removal of the school to Vinton as soon as the commissioner should notify the principal that the building was ready. Rev. Orlando Clarke assumed the duties the of principal, and during August, 1862, preparations were made to transfer the school to the still unfinished building at Vinton. Indeed, the structure was not fully completed until November of that year, although the school opened in October with twenty-four pupils present. There had been forty in attendance prior to the removal, and before the close of 1863 more than sixty were enrolled — one half of whom were new to the institution. As the accommodations of the school were considered sufficient for only eighty pupils, it appears that the three commissioners so unceremoniously displaced were not far wrong in their estimates of the needs of the institution.
The buildings were situated on the open prairie surrounded by traces of recent construction activities, and the prospect at the opening of school was not altogether inviting. Indeed, those in charge found it necessary to direct their energies to the necessary improvements rather than to instruction along academic or industrial lines. Additional space, especially for the industrial department, was requested, it being estimated that at least $4000 would be required to meet this need. In this connection reference was made to an exhibition given by the pupils before the General Assembly on Saturday evening, January 23, 1864. The principal brought the delegation to Des Moines at the request of the trustees, and a program, largely musical, was presented. It appears that interested members of the legislature were given an opportunity at this time to question the pupils with regard to their work at the school.
The increased attendance and small teaching force made necessary the employment of at least three of the more mature students as instructors. The course of study included the following: reading raised print, orthography and definitions, English grammar, English literature, rhetoric, writing with grooved hoard and pencil, writing with Braille’s apparatus, arithmetic, algebra, geometry, astronomy, physiology, mental philosophy, mental and moral philosophy, natural theology, history, and thorough bass. Attention was called to the "facility with which the blind learn to write by means of a grooved board and pencil", whereby many were enabled to write letters. The introduction of the Braille system was credited to Elijah Sells, the president of the Board of Trustees. This system enabled pupils to make their own records, to refer to them and to read them when desired. Music was at all times was a conspicuous feature of the curriculum, as is evidenced by the band and chorus organized in the first years at the new location. The industrial department for boys was directed by John Cisna, a blind student. Although the facilities in this department were inadequate, preference was given to those for whom a trade seemed most vital, and in spite of inconveniences many had learned to make good brooms, brushes and door mats. At the same time a pupil supervised the work of the girls who were engaged in making fancy worsted and bead work, in knitting, and in sewing. A collection of this work was donated to the Northwestern Sanitary Fair, held at Chicago in October, 1863, evoking a comment from the Chicago Journal on the remarkable skill exhibited.
The board was increased to five members in 1864, but two of the members named by the law failed to qualify and the Governor appointed two others in their places. Upon the organization of the new board a change was made in the supervision of the school, Rev. Reed Wilkinson succeeded to the position of principal. Some reorganization both in discipline and instruction immediately followed, and during the next biennium the principal personally visited and canvassed not less than seventeen counties in order to discover the actual number of blind who were eligible to admission under the law. It was estimated that there were less then a hundred blind persons of this kind in the State since the institution was strictly for educational purposes and in no sense an asylum or hospital. It was conceded that their might be three hundred blind of all classes in the State, but in the absence of an accurate census there was much uncertainty. If there were one hundred persons who might be benefitted by attendance at the institution only about one half of them were under instruction in 1865.
In his biennial message of 1864 Governor Samuel J. Kirkwood recommended the appointment of a visiting committee for this institution in order that its legitimate wants might be ascertained and the State do for its blind whatever seemed necessary. Such a committee was appointed in 1866, and the investigations of the members was quite searching. For example, it was reported that the furnishings were wholly inadequate, and particular attention was called to the exposure of the children during the winter season. Modern systems of heating were not provided in these early institutions and the hallways were so cold that water coming in contact with the floors froze immediately. No stoves could be permitted in the dormitories because of the danger from fire; and the sleeping quarters were so cold that the committee declared it made "one shudder to think of three score persons, whose condition makes them tardy in retiring to or rising from their icy beds in midwinter in the third story of a high, isolated stone building." There were things to commend, however, in both academic and industrial departments. The committee called attention to the possibilities of industrial education as illustrated in the person of one John Thompson who at thirty-nine years of age, and after three years of blindness, had undertaken to learn a trade. After only six months he had acquired sufficient skill to make a fairly good broom and was thus enabled to become self-supporting."
In 1867 another change occurred in the management when Mr. James L. Geddes succeeded Mr. Wilkinson. At this time there were five teachers in addition to the principal: two in the department of general education, one in music, and two in the industrial department. The course of study was not changed from that reported in 1864, but the trustees called attention to the important place that music held in such institutions and requested authority from the General Assembly to fix the compensation of the head of that department. Prior to this time, it was asserted, the law establishing a maximum wage had compelled the employment of advanced pupils after S. H. Price, the accomplished teacher in charge, had left the State. He had returned, however, at the earnest request of the authorities but only on the condition that he should be suitably paid. At the same time the ability of pupils in certain advanced subjects, notably in mathematics, was reffered to with some considerable enthusiasm and several were employed as assistants in teaching classes.
The legislature following the report of the visiting committee and the recommendations of the trustees was important. First, the principal was made ex officio a member of the Board of Trustees, but without a vote in connection with questions relating to himself; second, the trustees were authorized to establish the compensation of all employees; and third, money was appropriated to remedy the defects noted by the visiting committee of the legislature in 1866 in addition to the $30,000 for a new wing as originally planned. The management appeared to have the full confidence of the General Assembly since all of the immediate demands were met.
In 1869 Mr. Geddes was called to the State Agricultural College. He was succeeded by Rev. S. A. Knapp who, the trustees said, had "an extensive experience in the management of similar educational institutions" which warranted a belief in the success of his administration. Upon him was placed the responsibility not only of the direction of instruction but also of the business management in all its details. It so happened that he become associated with the institution at the conclusion of a very successful administration of two years, and therefore he could say that the school was entitled "to the most favorable consideration of the public". Moreover, the fact that railway communication was soon to be established with the town of Vinton promised to increase patronage; and the outlook, therefore, was encouraging.
It was the opinion of Mr. Knapp that the State had not less then six hundred blind persons, about one-fifth of whom should be in the school. Lack of information on the part of those responsible for such pupils kept many of them from the institution. There were about eighty enrolled at this period and less than two hundred and been admitted since the organization of the school. More than the usual attention was given to the methods of instruction in the first report of Superintendent Knapp. He pointed out that the procedure did not differ greatly from that of ordinary boarding schools: pupils were taught to read from embossed books, to write with pencil in common legible letters, to understand something of geography by feeling outline maps, and to "cypher upon metal frames with movable type instead of slate and pensil." In conclusion the superintendent advised a thorough investigation of the industrial department by a competent committee to determine what changes were desirable, if the blind were to compete successfully with the producers of machine-made goods. And finally, an "industrial home" for the blind was suggested and the possibility of conducting it in connection with the institution at Vinton was proposed. Governor Samuel Merrill endorsed this suggestion in so far as to urge some provision for such department or industrial home. In 1870, accordingly, the legislature authorised the admission of certain adult blind persons who were dependent on their own labor. An appropriation of $2000 was granted for stock and machinery."
At the close of 1871 the situation was such that the trustees did not hesitate to ask for at least $100,000 for buildings and equipment. The buildings already available were overcrowded, necessitating double use of rooms in many instances. For example, the public parlor was taken for a nursery; recitation rooms served also for sewing rooms; and so many of the pupils were practicing violin lessons that they had to occupy the broom shop or rooms of employees. The plans of the trustees were approved by the visiting committee, but the estimate of the amount of money necessary to carry them out was reduced to $70,000. At the same time this committee suggested the propriety of limiting the course of instruction to six years for all above fourteen years of age and to eight years for those younger. By so doing it was believed that a definite scheme of grading might be adopted for all except the few cases which might require special treatment. Moreover, it was suggested that such regulations should be established by the legislature rather than by the superintendent or trustees.
During this period Superintendent Knapp had inaugurated a canvass of the State and had begun a permanent record concerning the blind in Iowa. Four agencies contributed to this record, namely, county superintendents, county auditors, census enumerators, and private agencies. By this means about five hundred and sixty blind were reported, of whom approximately two hundred were below the age of twenty-five, while two hundred and twenty-five of those above that age would be competent to maintain themselves in an industrial department or home established especially for them. From this survey it was apparent that the school ought to instruct many more than the one hundred actually in attendance in November, 1871. Indeed, it was well known that some blind children had been prevented from acquiring the education to which they were entitled because of the indifference of their parents or guardians.
Attention was called to the improvements in the "literary department", which in 1871 included three courses of instruction – preparatory, junior, and senior. It had been necessary to conduct the first of these in two divisions owing to the large number of recent admissions, few of whom had any previous education. The curriculum was organized as follows:
|First Year||Second Year||Third Year|
|Penmanship||Grammar and Parshing||Analysis and parsing|
|Geography||Written Arithmetic||Written Arithmetic|
|Arithmetic||Ancient History||Modern History|
|First Year||Second Year||Third Year|
|Algebra||Mental Philosophy||Moral Philosophy|
|Modern History||English Literature||Geology|
Upon admission pupils were graded and assigned to classes; and at the close of the year promotions were made upon passing a satisfactory examination. The greater part on instruction was oral, but at the close of each recitation ten minutes of silent study were required for a mental review of the whole lesson. By this plan the "difficulty of securing a good topical recitation" had been largely overcome. In order to convey to the blind any appreciation of the meaning of some of the branches listed above, complete apparatus was absolutely necessary, and for this reason a strong appeal was made for raised maps and for apparatus in the sciences. It was recognized, also, that much valuable time was consumed by the instructor in reading the advanced lesson to the class, but until text-books for the blind were published this method of teaching was inevitable unless a press for the printing of books for the blind should be provided for the local school. The system of "point writing" had been introduced with the expectation that it would supercede all other systems of printing for the blind.
As mentioned above the industrial department had need of new forms of production which would be profitable for hand labor. This matter, it was said, had received careful consideration but without a satisfactory solution. No question arose, however, over the remarkable success of the department of music wherein instruction was given in "voice, piano, organ, stringed and wind instruments and musical composition". At least seven persons were engaged in giving such instruction, while fifty pupils were studying the piano, sixteen the organ, and twenty-three the violin. There were three classes in vocal music, one in musical composition, a teachers’ class and an orchestra."
Governor Merill approved the recommendations of the superintendent relative to the apparatus which was considered essential, and at the same time he suggested that a more suitable name for the school be adopted. The term "asylum" had been employed in the original act of incorporation while later acts had used the term "institution" or other similar designations. Accordingly, the "Iowa College for the Blind" was made the legal name in 1872 in spite of some question as to the appropriateness of that term. Other legislation of the same year allowed $70,000 for an additional building, the final cost of which was not to exceed $100,000, and a sum of money was likewise appropriated for the printing press requested by the superintendent.
The final report of Superintendent Knapp was submitted at the close of the year 1873. This document, along with the reports of the trustees and the visiting committee, testified to the success of the school as evidenced not only in its labors for the one hundred and twelve pupils in attendance but also in the work of those who were "earning an honorable support". After having been under its tuition. Some were teaching, some had established trades, and some were in agencies. Special attention was called to the career of one young woman who, after spending less than one year at school, had engaged in the manufacture of bead work and in a single year had netted four hundred dollars. Two young men had recently become members of the staff in the Kansas Institution for the Blind.
Some important legislation was proposed at this time by Superintendent Knapp who had become convinced from long experience that it was quite useless to admit to the academic department blind persons above twenty-one years of age. He advised that a maximum age should be fixed by law; and recommended that persons over twenty-one years of age should be admitted to the industrial department but not for a longer period than two years. Apparently there was a tendency on the part of the blind to remain in the institution indefinitely, for the superintendent suggested that the courses of study should be fixed by statute inasmuch as he found some who did not understand why they could not remain for an indefinite period, although the established course had been completed. Other recommendations relative to legislation were somewhat radical in their nature, but they were not connected directly with the phases of instruction.
The history of this period may be concluded with the statement of the trustees and of the visiting committee from the Fifteenth General Assembly wherein it was asserted that the "discipline, scholarship and general educational advantages of the Institution are such as to entitle it to a high rank among the foremost schools for the blind in the land, and that the position and influence of the Iowa College are felt and recognized not only in Iowa, but in other States." And further, "the general management ... we consider admirable .... The progress and development of the pupils far exceeded our most sanguine expectations. And here we cannot forbear to add the testimony of our high estimation of the accomplished and experienced head of the institution, Prof. Knapp."
DEVELOPMENT OF THE COLLEGE
After six years of service Superintendent Knapp resigned and was succeeded by Orlando Clarke who twelve years before had held the same position. During this period the improvements in buildings and equipment provided for by the legislature in 1874 were completed so that it was believed that there were sufficient accommodation for all who might enroll. There were one hundred and twenty eight in attendance at the close of 1875 — a larger number than at any former time, although it did not include the eighteen admitted to the industrial department only.
The industrial department was not, as some believed, a fully equipped industrial home. Indeed, the equipment was scarcely sufficient for the training of those adults who were admitted for a year or two in order to learn some trade. The Code of 1873 had apparently provided for a feal industrial home for the blind; but no attempt had been made to establish such an institution. The legislative visiting committee in 1876 recommended that those sections be repealed or an appropriation made to carry them into effect, since blind persons frequently asked to be admitted to the home and were disappointed when they learned that there were no accommodations for them.
Early in 1876 Superintendent Clarke died, and it appears that some delay was experienced in securing a competent successor. Indeed, before this was accomplished it was necessary to make some radical changes in the management of the institution and in the organization of the instructional force. The difficulties are suggested by the statement of the trustees that "the spirit of insubordination has passed", although no further information as to the situation was submitted. Rev. Robert Carothers succeeded Mr. Clarke as superintendent of the institution and the course of instruction was outlined under a preparatory department — including first and second primary classes — an intermediate department, and the junior and senior departments of three years each. Practically the entire school of over one hundred pupils was instructed in instrumental and vocal music. For example, eighty were studying the piano, fourteen the pipe organ, and twenty-eight the violin, while an orchestra included more than twenty members. And always, it seems, some help in this work was received from advanced students, to the mutual advantage of the institution and the pupils themselves who thus received better training as music teachers — a work in which the blind are eminently successful.
The claim was frequently made in the biennial reports that the cost of educating the blind at the Iowa institution was lower than that at other similar schools, but it is evident that much depended upon the care with which the computation was made. For example, in 1877 it was said that the "fact that this institution is educating the blind of the State of Iowa at less expense than similar institutions of other States and at the same time maintaining as high a grade of scholarship as any of them, reflects great credit upon its Board of Trustees, and should inspire the confidence of the State Legislature and the people at large, and lead them to devise liberal things for its still farther advantaged". But when in 1878 the committee of the General Assembly came to examine the plant and to estimate the per capita expenditure as based on the investment a different aspect of the situation was presented. Indeed, when the final items were braught together the committee declared that the actual per capita cast for a year of nine months was not far from $500, whereas the estimates of officials had put it as low as $206 per capita.
The committee explained this variation in estimates by calling attention to the "enormous expenditure in building the last wing — an addition hardly needed at all, if the room in the older building had been properly utilized." Moreover, it was the opinion of the visiting legislators that in the case of this institution an expenditure far beyond its needs or even prospective wants had already been made. With the work of the institution no fault was found, although the propriety of presenting a course of instruction which included so many of the "higher branches" was questioned. In fact it was believed that the function of the State was fully accomplished when it had provided an education suited to the "duties and avocations common to the mass of humanity"; and it was urged that any further efforts should be directed toward training in industrial occupations which would enable the individual to earn a living. At this time boys were being taught mattress making as well as broom making — the chief trade taught in the earlier years — while fancy work seemed to form the main feature in the instruction for girls. Nor was sewing both by hand and by machine neglected. Indeed, it was considered a rather difficult accomplishment for the blind to become skillful in the management of a sewing machine. In every case the occupation was taught in a practical manner.
The legislation during these years related solely to the regular appropriations for support, which might very with the prevailing opinions or recommendations of committees since the views of the trustees were not accepted as final. In 1879 the trustees expressed satisfaction with the general condition of affairs, although they had been somewhat embarrassed by the reduction in the per capita support which had been made in 1878 following the revelation of the large unnecessary expenditures upon the institution. It seems, nevertheless, that by rigid economy a surplus had been accumulated for emergencies that might arise. The usual routine of instruction seems to have been pursued at this time, the departments of music and the industriies receiving special attention. Moreover, the value of the printing press had been demonstrated in the preparation of lessons leaves point system of writing and likewise in the publication of a small monthly paper in ordinary type. The paper served as a means of communications with the friends of the institution and kept the public informed relative to the work in progress.
Some attention was given at this time to the possibility of increasing the enrollment of blind children. The aim from the beginning had been to reach all the educatable blind of the Commonwealth, but this goal was yet far from accomplished. Indeed, no accurate reports as to the blind persons in the State were available, although it was made the duty of certain officers to furnish such information. It was, therefore suggested that in the census of 1880 a full and careful record of the blind should be made. Furthermore, the visiting committee asserted that there was a prejudice against sending children to the school because the name "asylum" had become associated with it. There was some confusion, too, because the law did not limit the age of admission to conform to that of the public schools — of which, it was claimed, the institution was really a part.
In spite of these suggestions it appears that the four years comprised in the period from 1880 to 1884 were marked by some decrease in attendance, which resulted in a lessened income under the per capita system of allowances. In time this decrease compelled some retrenchment and elicited the not unusual complaint of officials that there must be some relief — which seems to have been granted in 1882. At this time there was a review of the reasons for the acknowledged failure of the institution to reach all those for whom it was established. On this occasion, also, the Governor called attention to the statement of the National Commissioner of Education, who declared that the Iowa school for the blind was furnishing a higher grade of instruction than any other similar institution. It appears that the administration of the institution fully warranted this commendation.
In March, 1882, Mr. Carothers, the superintendent, died, and the assistant principal and head teacher, Thomas F. McCune, succeeded him. Soon afterward the supervision of the institution work and the business management were separated, so that the superintendent was relieved of financial cares. By this arrangement a steward become responsible directly to the Board of Trustees and not to the superintendent; and thus a dual government was established. While there were but ninety-four persons at the institution at the close of the year 1881-1882, the attendance had increased to one hundred and forty-one a year later, and during the biennium fifty had been admitted. Nevertheless, the methods of securing information concerning the blind were still considered unsatisfactory and other arrangements were frequently proposed. From the data available it was learned that over thirteen hundred blind were residents of the State and that at least two hundred and ten of these were under twenty years of age. Since nineteen of the fifty admitted from 1881 to 1883 were over twenty years of age the school should have had an attendance of over two hundred.
Of the one hundred and forty-one enrolled at this time one hundred and twenty-seven were classified in the literary department — eighty-eight being in the four lower classes. All were expected to carry some work in music and almost one hundred were reported as studying the piano, while fully as many were in vocal classes. Twenty-six were pursuing courses in violin music, while other groups formed the orchestra and the band, or were distributed among other divisions of the department. At the same time the industrial section was more than usually prosperous. It had become more than self-supporting because of the skill manifested in its management, although it was primarily a school of trades where the element of profit was only secondary.
After repeated requests the legislature in 1882 allowed a small fund of $1000 for the purpose of employing one or more oculists to visit the institution regularly and give such treatment as would in any way relieve the suffering or improve the sight of those admitted. Although at first this was considered an experiment the plan proved so successful that all those enrolled at the institution were examined by the oculists. Many successful operations were performed whereby sight was restored to some, but the work, it was said, would be much more effective if the treatment could be given earlier. The results secured by these first efforts justified a further appropriation, the trustees reported, and they requested that it be left to the discretion of those in charge to decide whether the money should be spent to employ oculists to visit the institution or to pay for treatment at other places if this should be considered advisable.
In conformity with this suggestion the General Assembly, in 1884, increased the appropriation to cover the expenses incurred in the treatment of such as might be benefitted, and permitted the trustees to expend the fund at their discretion, conditioned only upon their submitting to the legislature a detailed report of thier action. Furthermore, it is apparent that the energy which the superintendent had employed in seeking pupils was well expended, for seventy-three pupils were admitted during the biennium ending in 1885. No other period had equaled this — the nearest being sixty-five during the administration of Mr. Knapp. Although it was within the powers of the Board of Trustees to admit any blind person, it was the established policy to admit such only as were of school age and of satisfactory physical and mental condition. It was asserted that the college was established for the liberal education of the blind: it was, therefore, in no sense a "home or retreat, nor is it afflicted with the irksome features usually incident to charity .... The College aims to admit children, to engage them in literary, musical, and industrial duties, through a period long or short, as in the judgment of the Trustees may be expedient. In the report of the superintendent in 1885 a concrete statement of the work provided for the various classes was presented. The pupil who had completed the course prescribed for the primary class was expected "to read simple stories in raised print; to spell and define at least five hundred common words; thorough familiarity with twelve lines of multiplication; to add, subtract, multiply, and divide small numbers; to construct and dissect a wooden map of any country and name the separate divisions of each." At the end of the next two years the pupil was expected to have a thorough mastery of the point system in reading, to spell well, to have memorized "twenty-four lines of multiplication", and to have acquired some skill in the fundamental arithmetical operations. Furthermore, a fair knowledge of fractions was regarded as essential; while the geography of North America and Europe must be fully comprehended. Finally, for such as were entirely blind, the ability to read with satisfaction and enjoyment "difficult pieces in raised print" was considered an essential test. During the two years in the intermediate department, it was the aim of the instructors to give each pupil a knowledge of United States history and of descriptive and political geography, a general mastery of the fundamentals of arithmetic, an appreciation of the use of language, and the ability to express his thought both orally and by means of the point system. For the next six years of the twelve-year course three subjects of grammar or of high school grade were pursued each year — except during the first senior year, when four were required.
On the last Friday of the month the work was regularly reviewed in an examination and the work of each quarter was similarly tested; while at the close of the year a final examination was required, an average of sixty per cent in one hundred being the minimum requirement for promotion. And so by constant sifting and adjustment classes were being re-formed on the basis of accomplishment. According to the superintendent’s report general reading played no small part in the training. For instance, from six until seven for five evenings each week pupils were brought together in five divisions. To the first of these groups St. Nicholas and the Youth’s Companion were regularly read, not so much for entertainment, it was explained, as for the purpose of directing the thought into "healthful channels". History, fiction, poetry, philosophy, and other suitable materials were added in due time.
In addition to the library of the institution, which consisted at that time of over thirteen hundred volumes, use was made of the beneficence of the Federal government whereby books in raised print and point type to the value of several hundred dollars came into possession of the school. These volumes were later distributed to the worthy blind throughout the State. Another interesting feature of the school was the literary organization modeled upon the societies of the best colleges and conducted wholly by the students of the higher classes and those over fifteen years of age. This society had been organized in 1878 and ws believed to be the only one of its kind in such an institution.
The purposes of the instruction in music were given in the 1885 report in the following words: "Music is taught as a science and as an art. We do not aim to send out skilled players merely, but musicians in every sense of the term. We lay no stress on the aesthetic side of the subject, its moral influence, or its force in intellectual development; but from the beginning to the end of a student’s school life we impress him with the fact that the most practical, the most remunerative, and the most independent occupation for a blind person, is teaching music. All pupils possessing any talent whatever, are given instructions and practice for two or three years. Those making no reasonable progress in this time are not continued in the department. The more fortunate are continually reminded that it will be only by the hardest study and longest practice that they may even hope to equal the sighted musician. Harmony is a prominent study during the first years; it is one of the most prominent studies during the last years of the course. Piano practice is gradually increased from one, to two, four, and in the case of a few older pupils, six hours a day.... The records show, that of one hundred twenty-two pupils engaged in this work, none have ranked excellent; twenty-three, good; sixty-two, fair; twenty-one, poor; two, very poor; and that five have been excused from further study." Twenty-three pianos, in addition to cabinet and pipe organs, were in constant use; and eleven advanced students acted as tutors in this department.
Broom-making was the trade chiefly emphasized in the industrial department, although other handicrafts, such as carpet-weaving and mattress-making, were taught — chiefly for the sake of variety and manual training. The girls were taught housework, knitting, and varies forms of fancy work, and the smaller children were given bead work because it gave them training in dexterity and furnished them a pleasant occupation. The principal’s report, submitted in 1885, suggests that the authorities at this time emphasized the training of the children along general educational lines rather than industrial training for the adult blind.
The attendance continued to increase and by the close of 1887 it had reached one hundred eighty-seven — the highest in the history of the school. Under the "dual government" adopted in 1882 the principal was entrusted with the care and control of the pupils, the instructional activities, the apparatus, and the buildings; and he was given supervision over all employees whose duties were confined to the college buildings. The secretary or steward had charge of the improvements, grounds, and stock, the management of all outside employees, the purchase of supplies, and sale of materials. This plan had proved satisfactory, although it had been apposed by many familiar with the organization of such institutions.
The details of management involving the family regulations, the "dietary", and the outline of the subject-matter of instruction reveal the painstaking care of the principal and the efforts of those in charge to provide the features of a boarding school while maintaining, as nearly as might be, the courses pursued in the public schools. Indeed, it was asserted that "we reduce as much as possible the differences between this school and schools for the sighted." To be sure, not all who were admitted were totally blind. Of the one hundred and eighty-seven enrolled in 1886-1887, eighty-five had some degree of vision, although their sight was so defective that they could not receive training in the public schools. A total of eighty-four were admitted during this biennium.
With the exception of those assisting in the teaching every pupil was required to give at least one hour daily to manual employment. Thus the academic, the musical, and the industrial departments had each a share of the time of each pupil although the "literary school" was regarded as the important division for all, since it was felt that the individual with a trained mind would always be able to maintain himself. The industries were taught as definite trade courses and the shops were really class rooms. In fact, no one who had completed the industrial training was retained as a mechanic, and hence no great profit accrued from such work. In a report submitted to the General Assembly in 1887 it was said that the "drift of thought now among the blind and their friends" was toward the establishment of industrial homes. And it is significant that the legislature in 1888 authorized the Governor to appoint a commission of three, one of whom must be a woman, to investigate the "various institutions in which the blind are employed in the useful and industrial arts" and to examine the equipment and product with a view to the "proper and practicable employment" of the blind in this State. The statute required this commission to report its findings to the Governor prior to September, 1889, in order that it might come before the Twenty-third General Assembly; but the journals of the legislature record no action based on such a report. In 1890, however, Governor Larrabee recommended provision for a home for the adult blind. The report of the college authorities, submitted at the same time, shows little change in the status of the institution except that the number admitted and consequently the attendance had slightly decreased.
THE COLLEGE SINCE 1890
In 1890 the Iowa College for the Blind was one of thirty similar institutions in the United States. All were organized on the same lines; the plan of those in charge was to provide some technical training as a means of self support and at the same time furnish a good general education. All received some aid from the United States government which had appropriated $10,000 annually to be used in providing books and apparatus for the blind. These were prepared by the American printing house for the blind at Louisville, Kentucky. The proportionate share coming to Iowa in 1890 was valued at about $570.
That the rudimentary education thus far offered should be made as broad as possible was conceded, and all these schools seemed determined to secure the most efficient instruction, to acquire the most complete libraries, and to enlarge their courses of study. Moreover, there was a prevailing belief that the elementary instruction adapted to the youthful blind could not meet the requirements of those who were ambitious to pursue some advanced instruction, and that provision should be made for this advanced class. The three plans proposed were as follows: first, a plan to establish a national college supported by the income from a permanent fund to be appropriated by Congress, to which college pupils would be admitted on examination and educated at government expense; second, a plan to provide free instruction and libraries, but not to include living expenses; and third, the establishment of endowment funds for the support of blind students in the ordinary colleges.
The principal of the Iowa school advocated the third plan as the best, declaring that "advanced blind students do not need a peculiar institution not a peculiar instruction. After a certain stage of development, touch becomes subordinate to hearing. They have proven themselves time after time able to cope with sighted students on the same ground and under the same conditions." The wants of this class in Iowa could be met, it was believed, by distributing $300 to each of ten colleges in the State; and the economy of the plan seemed to commend it. The fourteen years of experience in the institution for the blind qualified the principal, Mr. McCune, to speak with some authority, and in 1891 be brought together some important observations relative to the five hundred and thirty blind pupils whose characteristics he had studied. He summed up the purpose of the school in the following words: "So far as possible the methods and customs peculiar to institutions for the blind, are laid aside here. The college seeks inspiration and guidance, not in any blind schools, but in the public schools of Iowa. It is not a college and can never be one, but simply a free boarding school for boys and girls deprived by blindness or defective sight from the privileges enjoyed by the seeing."
That this school should be grouped with the other educational institutions of the State and that the same control which the State exercised over the State University, the College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts, and the Normal School should be applied to it was the frankly expressed opinion of the trustees in 1893. There seems to have been some fear that the institution would be classed among the charitable and reformatory establishments; and this; it was urged, would be unjust to its graduates. Since the school was patronized by a limited class, comparatively little attention was paid to it. Indeed, it had been found necessary to advertise the institution as any other business. The principal declared that he had ceased to send blanks to officers who were required by law to inform him concerning the blind, inasmuch as they had regularly failed to provide the information. Another fact, not generally comprehended it appears, was the liberty of the pupil to leave at any time. That is to say, the mere fact of admission gave the institution no control over the individual except during the period spent voluntarily under its roof and instruction.
That a younger class of pupils was being received is evidenced by the statement of the trustees in 1893 that the average age had decreased nearly fifty per cent. Gratifying progress was reported, nevertheless, since seventy-seven had been admitted for the first time during the preceding biennium. The average attendance, however, had fallen off to some extent although two hundred and sixteen different pupils had been instructed during the two years from 1891 to 1893 — a number not previously exceeded. About this time preparations were made to exhibit work at the Columbian Exposition to which the school sent fifty bound volumes of examination papers in point writing, eighty geographical maps cut from heavy paper and mounted, three hundred pieces of kindergarten work, and exhibits of sewing, netting, weaving, and fancy work — making a total number of eight hundred pieces.
About the close of 1895 there was much discussion concerning the methods of instruction and the course of study. In the "new education" a prominent place was given to the discovery of relationships, and in arranging the work of the several grades this had guided the teachers. Fore instance, in the very beginning the child was taught the concept of number through the manipulation of materials; and from this he was lead to locate objects and finally to investigate for himself. And likewise the observation work in the second grade was based on the geography of Iowa through the association of individuals from different parts of the State; and the supplemental work of the teacher consisted in collecting actual objective materials found in various sections of the Commonwealth. This plan of instruction also provided for presenting the largest conceptions of geographical areas through the use of the map — an instrument well adapted to the instruction of the blind. Such procedure suggests the purpose of the literary course of study which had been modified in its upper grades to correspond with the changes in the public high school. Attention may be directed to the introduction of Latin in the twelfth year of the course "for the purpose of giving the student an acquaintance with roots, endings, etc.", the other subjects taught during this last year being political economy and general literature.
The literary department at this time was organized in six sections, each under the supervision of one teacher. Section one included the sciences; section two, history and literature; three, mathematics; four, the section in which departmental study began; five, the third and fourth grades; and six, the first and second grades. In these several grades one hundred and ninety-seven pupils were classified in 1894-1895; and two hundred and twenty-eight different pupils were in attendance during the biennium. A similar arrangement prevailed in the department of music where two divisions were receiving instruction on the piano; another was known as the "vocal section"; and the fourth was engaged in the study of small instruments. All pupils upon entering the third "literary grade" began the study of the piano, and thereafter the advancement depended wholly on "ability and application." Each teacher of the piano sections selected six to the most capable students as assistants. These pupil teachers were known as tutors and formed a normal class in which an excellent opportunity was presented for acquiring skill in teaching.
In 1893 Linnie Haguewood, a deaf, dumb, and blind girl was admitted to this institution from Delaware County; and a special attendant was provided for her from among the advanced pupils at the county’s expense. She was taught to some extent by her attendant, Janet Duff, while many of her associates were so interested in her welfare that she seems to have become almost a special care of the entire school. It had not been anticipated that she would profit as much from her attendance as did other pupils, but there was a possible chance for advancement through associations. Finally, a primary teacher, Miss Dora Donald, assumed charge and devoted her spare time to the training of Linnie Haguewood. Public interest was also aroused by Bernard Murphy through the editorial columns of the Vinton Eagle, and funds to educate the unfortunate girl were collected. Although such an arrangement was not sanctioned by law, the trustees made a contract with Mr. Murphy who assumed the responsibility of providing a special teacher for the unfortunate girl for one year, although the committee having charge of the fund endeavored to extend the period to not less than three years. Miss Donald was the teacher selected for the special work. The trustees declared that they would have been subject to censure if they had not yielded to this request. That the legislature approved their action is evidenced by appropriation of $500 in 1896 to aid in this special instruction. By the end of the year 1897 Linnie Haguewood had made such progress that the Twenty-seventh General Assembly, when asked to renew the appropriation, granted $1000 for the succeeding two years. And thus the Helen Keller of Iowa was directly aided by the State in acquiring some knowledge of the great world about her.
Of the thirty-seven institutions for the blind in the Untied States in 1897 only eight, including Iowa, had more than one hundred and fifty pupils. The average attendance of the remaining twenty-nine institutions was about one hundred and two; thus Iowa after forty-five years was above the average in the number of blind persons taking advantage of the educational opportunities offered by the State. More than one thousand had been enrolled in the school, and ten per cent of that number had completed the literary course. The number admitted had remained almost stationary for some time — varying from seventy to seventy-seven for the biennial periods. The enrollment of two hundred and forty-six in 1897, however, was in excess of any number previously reported. The attendance was irregular, varying from one hundred and forty-one in September to one hundred and eighty-nine in November during a single school year. Perhaps it should be said that of the two hundred and forty-six registered thirty-eight per cent were entirely blind; thirty-two per cent purblind, that is, born with imperfect sight; twenty per cent had partly lost the use of sight through disease or accident; and ten per cent had sufficient sight for use in school work. These figures illustrate the character of the population of the school as to the use of sight in obtaining an education. Seven per cent were under ten years of age; thirty-seven per cent were between ten and fifteen; thirty-eight per cent were under twenty but over fifteen; and eighteen per cent were over twenty. Twenty-five per cent came from prosperous homes; fifty per cent from poor, but independent parents; while twenty-five per cent were dependent upon the county from which they were sent.
In 1898 the College for the Blind came under the jurisdiction of the Board of Control. One result of this change was a marked decrease in the amount of information included in the public documents. Only pertinent facts without theory or speculation were submitted and hence the resume in 1900 may be said to mark the formal assumption of control by this new board. The institution was meeting the needs of those for whom it was established, and was patronized by persons "from every grade of society". Thus the State fulfilled its obligation to provide an education for its blind as well as for its seeing children. Every blind child in the Commonwealth had a right to instruction; and though only a small population of those enrolled completed the work, the number, it was claimed, was as great proportionately as in ordinary public schools. The course of instruction was based on that of the public elementary and high schools and the methods employed did not differ materially from those in general use. Not much more in the way of equipment was asked for, although certain improvements about the plant were mentioned as desirable. The report was concluded with the comment that "the school work was never better performed and the students never more energetic and progressive."
By a process of elimination the attendance was reduced from two hundred and twenty-eight in 1897 and one hundred and ninety in 1900 to one hundred and fifty in 1901. This was the result of a definite policy adopted by the Board of Control which decided that the law contemplated the admission only of those whose sight was so defective that they could not acquire any education in the common schools. This "manifestly just construction of the law" prevented many from reentering the institution. Moreover, when a pupil had been in the school for a long time and had apparently failed to make progress he was refused re-admission; and such as were feeble-minded were likewise excluded. Care was taken, however, not to shut out any one really entitled to the privileges of the school. During the school year of 1900-1901 by order of the new authority only seven months of school were held — lack of funds being the cause of the short session. The Board of Control placed the blame for this situation on the legislature, claiming that funds had not been provided and that the new administrators were unwilling to continue to violate the law governing expenditures.
In 1902 the General Assembly revised the law related to the finances of the College for the Blind and combined the various funds in a general appropriation. At the same time money was granted for a pipe organ which had long been needed in the music department. The legislature was asked for a hospital building also in accordance with recommendations of the surgeon who had been employed for several years in treating the eyes of the pupils, and in 1904 an appropriation of $8000 was made for this purpose. A request for a gymnasium brought no response at this time.
In 1906, after twenty-nine years of service, twenty-four of which were spent as superintendent, Mr. McCune retired at his own request. He was succeeded by J. E. Vance. The last report submitted by superintendent McCune called attention to the fact that the school exactly the same accommodations it had had thirty years before. Then the largest enrollment ever reached in any one term was one hundred and twenty, but at the close of this period at least one hundred and eighty students were expected every school term. Moreover, the awkward arrangement of the buildings which had been necessary on account of the large department of music prevented the economical use of the room actually available. For this reason the retiring superintendent recommended the erection of a music hall and gymnasium combined, thus restoring to consideration much discussed subject. In 1908 the Board of Control approved the suggestion, declaring that "a gymnasium is much needed at this institution. No class of people are in greater need of physical training than the blind". The new superintendent agreed with his predecessor and all authorities were unanimous in their conclusions. As a result, the legislature in 1909 made the necessary appropriation and the board was thus enabled to complete the desired improvement prior to 1911.
The long-desired status to compel the attendance of educable blind children was passed in 1909. By this law persons between the ages of twelve and nineteen were required to attend this institution during the scholastic year unless excused under the provision of the law. Moreover, any person who encouraged a pupil "to absent himself or herself from school" or who, having control of any such person, refused to comply with the law would be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor and might be punished accordingly. In order to make the statute effective the assessors were required to record annually the "names, age, sex and postoffice address" of all persons who came under the provisions of the act.
In 1909 a change in management occurred when Mr. Vance, the superintendent, was succeeded by George D. Eaton. Two years later the institution was transfered from the authority of the State Board of Control to the State Board of Education which at once appointed a "committee to make a systematic study of similar schools for the purpose of determining what was being done in this particular field by other institutions, and whether our Iowa institution was doing its work according to the best standards. The special committee of three members, in conjunction with the regular finance committee of three members, visiting five of the leading institution for the blind in this country and reported that the school at Vinton was apparently doing more for the money expended than any of the schools inspected. Nevertheless, it was conceded that Iowa was not in the front ranks in some respects, and steps were immediately taken to improve conditions through larger appropriations for support and for the improvement of buildings. It was suggested that the term "College" was probably a "misnomer" since the instruction extended no further than the public high school with special advantages in music. It was proposed that the name be changed to the "Iowa School for the Blind".
By removing this school from its former classification among reformatory and charitable institutions and associating it with other State educational agencies the General Assembly recognized the claim often made that it was but one factor in the public school system. And with this transfer a change in the appreciation of its functions seems to have followed. On the recommendations of the State Board of Education the legislature granted the necessary funds to modernize the plant and to put it in the "front rank" as desired.