News From 1870

The Vinton Eagle
March 30, 1870


     —In response to the courteous joint resolution of both Houses of the Legislature, inviting Superintendent Knapp of the Institution for the Blind, and his pupils, to visit the Capital during the present session, the orchestra, and a number of other pupils, with a part of the corps of instructors left this city for Des Moines, on Monday of last week. Prof. Knapp being unable to go, his accomplished lady took charge of the party, Prof. D. S. Wilkinson being the musical director. Arriving at Blairstown, the troops gave a concert in the M. E. Church at that place, which was highly spoken of by the Harold. Des Moines was reached Tuesday night, and a concert was given on Wednesday evening. We condense the following from the State Register of Thursday morning, 24th inst:

     "The pupils of the Vinton Blind Asylum gave an exhibition before the Assembly last evening. It was at Moore’s Hall, and thaat building was well filled. The exercises were conducted by Mrs. H. M. Knapp, the musical portion of the program being directed by Prof. D. S. Wilkinson.

     First in order was the beautiful overture to the Bohemian Girl. The exquisite music of Balfe was rendered with perfect accuracy, and a delicacy of expression that was simply wonderful. Led by a blind leader whose baton was his foot, and who played the clageoletta while he beat time with his slippers, the overture was rendered entire without flaw.

     Miss Jennie L. Wilson, one of the instructors, then illustrated the method of instructing the blind. She called to the front of the stage three pupils, two lads and a girl. The latter answered humerous questions in geography. The former dissected two arithmetical problems extended into compound fractions. Beside those two blind boys any person in the audience would had lost reputation as arithmeticians.

     Prof. Wilkinson then illustrated the Braille system of music. This is named after its inventor, Prof. Braille, of Paris, and consists of paper punctured by a stylus into dots, the combination of which indicate musical notes. There are no lines or spaces, the pitch being denoted by an octive mark. The teacher called for the direction of a musical sentence by the audience. No one volunteered, and he gave the dictation. This, one of the pupils, Mr. Moore, transcribed with the stylus, and the lad who had formerly discoursed so sweetly on the piano, learned the score. One hand was laid on the punctured sheet, the other struck the piano keys. He went over the separate notes twice, thus memorized them and then dropping the disengaged hand to the keys, played the sentence with firm, free touch.

     After this the "Gloria" chorus from De Monti’s Mass in B flat, was sung by the united voices of all the pupils present.—Prof. Wilkinson sat at the piano, and the tapping of his slippers was as effective signal as the wand of the most practiced impresario. Miss Kittie Eagan sang the finer soprano solos with feeling, phrasing the music with good judgment, the chorus singing the sublime mass with the precision of a cathedral choir.

     Casper Fruch then humorously recited a fragment from the "Smack in School,"—and the program reverted into music.—The brothers A. and R. Bristow, gave an instrumental duet from "Masamello" with the flute and piano. Miss Wilson then examined two pupils in chemistry and analytical geometry, one of the students, Mr. Hickok, demonstrating an intricate problem with which old father Euclid has puzzled the brains of many a sophomore with sightful eyes.

     The orchestra played the Helter Skelter Galop, with an unction that would be a fortune to any ordinary band. Miss J. Daavis sang "We met by Chance," Prof. Wilkinson accompanying it with the flute, and this closed the first part of the program.

     Part second opened with the overture to Mammon by the full orchestra. They rendered this as well as they did the opening introductory, the violin passages being particularly fine. Two blind men, Mr. G. W. Patterson and Mr. Nicholas Boyce, then recited a dialogue, "Institution for the Blind," acting their parts well. After recounting many of the blessings of the Institution, one of the speakers stated that the greatest part of it all was that it was free to every blind person, and added, "God bless the State of Iowa." At once the pupils rose, and standing, sang a thanksgiving song to the nobility of the State to the spiriting rhythm of "The Battle Cry of Freedom." The scene carried the audience by storm.

     Miss J. Davis and Miss Kettie Eagan then sang Glover’s domestic duet, "Two Merry Girls." Prof. Wilkinson gave the "Carnival of Venice" as a flute solo with original variations and orchestral accompaniments. Flotow’s Chorus, "Come where Flowers," sung with splendid effect, closed the exercises.

     During the eventing a broom was made by on of the pupils, and a bead basket by another. The exercises were received with lively satisfaction. Many parts of the program were heartily applauded.

     The teachers and pupils, much pleased with the trip, returned by the Friday afternoon train.



The Vinton Eagle
Wednesday, June 22, 1870


Annual Examination—Concert—Graduating Class—Re-union of Officers and Students, etc., etc.

     According to announcement in the papers of this city some two weeks since, an examination of the various classes of the Institution for the Education of the Blind was held last week, beginning on Monday. The program of the examination was as follows.

     On Monday, from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m.., examination in the literary and industrial departments and from 4:00 to 5:00, orchestra and choir.

     On Tuesday, from 9:00 to 12:00 a.m., examination in literary department.

     The examining committees were in literary department, H. M. Hoon, Rev. J. W. Crawford, Jas. B. Donnan; female industrial department, Mrs. J. Shane, Mrs. J. S. Tilford, Mrs. C. H. Conklin, male industrial department. Geo. Horridge, Rev. S. Williams, E. H. Stedman. Of the examination and accompanying exercises, as we were unable to be present, we refer to the reports of the examining committees, submitted herewith.

     Tuesday evening a concert was given under the direction of Professor D. S. Wilkinson, who has been for two years past the very efficient musical instructor of the Institution. The entertainment opened with the well-known Overture from "Norma," which was very well rendered by the orchestra, which we think has improved considerably since the concert of last year, especially in so modulating their instrumentation as to give expression. Mr. Harvey Wright executed the Fourth Air from a theme by Donizetti, in a very smooth style. We have no great fancy for the air, but Mr. Wright did as well as any one could. Mr. B. W. McClelland accompanied on the piano.

     The choir excited the applause of the audience by their rendering of a chorus from Mendelssohn. There are some fine voices in the choir, and the chorus training has been very thorough.

     Misses Kitty Eagan and Ella Bay played very neatly the piano duet, "Do Not Mingle," from "La Somnambula."

     The next piece was to have been a flute and piano duet, by Masters A. and R. Bristow, but owing to an accident to one of the brothers, a piano solo was substituted.

     A duet by Misses Davis and Eagan, "Holy Mother, guide his footsteps," from "Maritana," was the gem of the performance. Both young ladies have very well cultivated voices, and know how to use them with effect. Mrs. D. S. Wilkenson played the accompaniment.

     The first part closed with the chorus "Come where Flowers"—very fairly sung.

     During a short intermission, Rev. S. A. Knapp, the Principal, addressed the graduating class, Messrs. Tannehill and Hickock, and Misses Mattice and Minkler, in a brief speech, full of wise and timely suggestion, encouragement, and advice, at the close of which he presented each with a handsomely gotten up diploma, tied with the regulation blue ribbon.

     The second part opened with an overture from Wilherting's opera of "Mammon," which was decidedly the best instrumental piece of the evening, "Constance Reverie" was well executed by Mr. B. W. McClelland, on the piano— one of the best of Ascher's compositions.

     The "Gloria" chorus, from De Monti's Mass in B flat, by the choir, was very good, and performed in excellent time.

     The "Helter-Skelter Galop," by the orchestra, was a very pretty galop, and was appreciated by the audience, we thought, better than some of the more difficult music.

     The celebrated cavatina, "Robert, lui que jaime," from "Robert Le Diable" was sung by Miss Davis, in fine style, but we do not like the melody, and we think something less somber might have been selected.

     "Home, Sweet Home," was a flute solo played by Professor Wilkinson, with orchestral accompaniment. We have already said that the Professor’s skill entitles him to high rank as a flutist, and he certainly preserved his fine reputation.

     The concert concluded with the fine chorus, "Morning is Breaking," from the "Daughter of the Regiment," good music, sung in good time, reasonably short, and just as bright and lively as the finale should be.

     Wednesday morning at 10:00 was the Reunion, at which were present very many old pupils, and other blind from abroad. Two of the former principals, Samuel Bacon, Esq., and Rev. Orlando Clark, were present. A very pleasant and sociable time was enjoyed.

     In the afternoon a meeting was called in the lecture room, of which Mr. Bronson was chairman, and Rev. Mr. Clark delivered an oration, of which we can give but a brief abstract. His theme was —Superiority of Mind Promoted by Christianity. 

     Humanity is the masterpiece of God works—fearfully and wonderfully made having a frame so delicate and complex in its structure, and possessed of a mind endowed with immortal capacities. This union of a thinking principle with a corporeal frame, is one of the mast astonishing manifestations of the power and wisdom of God. Mind gives to man a chief pre-eminence, and one of the noblest objects of his ambition, is the education of his faculties. But mind, joined with Christian faith and virtue, gives the higher perfection of human intellect and character. Mental superiority loses none of its worth by being joined to virtue; but the intellectual and moral faculties augment each other with mutual and increasing success.

     Christian faith and hope promote superiority of mind by affording the highest known motives to mental cultivation.—Faith in that important and ennobling doctrine, that the rational part of intelligent beings has a perpetual existence—that death is not the mind's "eternal sleep"—but that it may be simply the usher gate of the mind into a more exalted existence, with endless duration, and infinite progression, with enlarged capacities.—such as faith has a direct tendency to invigorate the intellectual faculties—to call forth the mind’s noblest energies—and stimulate it to continued action. But palsying indeed to mind is the rejection of this great truth of the mind’s immortal life.

     There is a high excellence in Christianity—in its pure and lofty motives—in its elevating thoughts and hopes—in its ennobling requisitions—which strengthen and give energy to mind. It requires and promotes independence of thought, true moral courage, and integrity of character.

     Young ladies and gentlemen—the past and present Alumni and students of the Iowa Institution for the Education of the Blind, preserve then, I beseech you, your minds from the withering influence of infidelity Let not skepticism contract the powers of your minds—but observe a high and delicate sense of moral duty. Let your faith and actions be based upon the "oracles of the Living God." Make them your "counsel and the guide of your lives." Live for truth. Be faithful in preparing your minds for its reception. Take the Bible as "the lamp to your feet and the light to your path" -guided by this unfailing light, go forward in the ways your own judgment direct as right, with a firm step and an honest heart, aud you will not have lived in vain."

     The close of Mr. Clark's address we give in full.

     In conformity to an appointment made six years ago, many of you have come up here to enjoy this happy "reunion."

     After years ot separation we come up to this seat of learning-the "Alma Mater" of many of you and to the family homestead, to greet each other with the grasp of friendship. I came with mingled joy and sadness. Joy to see so many—sad to miss so many—not all are here. Some have gone to that bourne from which no traveler returns. Some I trust have gone to the Golden Shore—Ring the bell softly, there's crape on the door.

     Some long to revisit this Mecca of their youth, but are prevented by the distance and the want of means. I rejoice to see so many enjoy so happy a reunion, but I am sad that every pupil could not come and take part in these festivities.

     You have come to revive old and cherished associations—to renew former friendships—to make your memories fresh of the "Auld Lang Syne" —you have come up here to do honor to this commonwealth for its magnificent appropriations to this institution of learning. I trust you come with grateful hearts to those officers and teachers who have faithfully labored to originate, establish and promote the interests of your institution; and to lead you individually in the paths of knowledge and virtue.

     It is fitting that the first and the last act of your reunion should be to assemble yourselves for the worship of that God whose Providence has cast your lot in these pleasant places and who thus openeth the eyes of the blind—openeth the eyes of your minds to receive the light of knowledge and truth, and scatters the darkness of ignorance and error therefrom.

     It is proper that this should be a "thanks’ giving" to Almighty God. And while your kind feelings go out to one another, and to your past and present officers and teachers, do not forget the greater love and gratitude due "the Lord who hath dealt so bountifuly with you all."

     As we stand here today with friends of past, and present days from whom we must now part, let the tide of emotion pure and warm, incite us to lives of virtue, of activity, of usefulness.

     Whether we shall meet again on earth, I know not—but we shall all, ere long, pass the portals of that gate which opens into eternity, and finally, meet in the great assembly before the throne of God.

     To prepare us for the meeting, we want to maintain and cultivate virtuous character. Remember, character is that part of our being which abides forever. It is the most real and lasting possession. Houses and lands, and gold and silver, and physical attainments are left, but character goes with us and abides. Reputation may be marred by falsehood and detraction, but they can never touch the character. The winds of malevolence may blow clouds the face of reputation, but beyond and above those clouds the bright star of character remains unclouded.

     Useful here and happy hereafter. Let us then enrich, ennoble, elevate our natures by the cultivation of virtous charaacter. Above all things else, love God, love virtue, love truth, and you will be.

We have trod once more
The paths of other days,
Counted our blessings o’er,
And mingled prayer and praise.


Together we have met in gladness,
Here again have lived the past,
But we feel in thoughtful sadness
That this meeting may be our last.


Warmer now is ever feeling
Towards the friends who share our lot,
But stern time is onward stealing
Soon to loose the charished knot.


Guard then the life that virtue liveth,
Deepest in your hearts enshrined,
Seek "true light" the savior giveth,
The "true light" unto the blind.


Dread not, though dark clouds may lower
O’re our pathway here awhile,
Look beyond the present hour,
Live for God’s Eternal Smile.


Onward’ till your darkness endeth,
In the couse of Truth and Right,
Upward’ till your sight eneth
Unto Everlasting Light."


     With speeches and remarks from others, on the subject of another reunion, which was finally appointed for June, 1875, so closed the reunion of 1870, a source of pleasure to all participating.

Report of examining committee, Literary Department.

S. A. Knapp, Superintendent Iowa Institution for the Educaiton of the Blind—Sir. The committee appointed to examine the classes in the Literary Department of the Iowa Institution for the Blind, have the honor to submit the following report.

     The committee was present at the examination of classes in arithmetic, geography, grammar, geology, chemistry, logic, geometry, and astronomy, conducted by the following teachers—Mrs. M. A. Knapp, Miss Jenny L. Wilson, Miss Lizzie Kiddoo, Mr. Geo. W. Tannehill, Mr. Frank Hickock. All the the classes evinced thorough discipline, and many of the exercises were of marked excellence, evidently the result of patient and judicious instruction—an instruction that preceeds from only mature and cultivated minds, inspired by the love of teaching, and is impressed on pupils clear and vigorous intellect.

     The responses to the various questions were marked by great readiness, showing familiarity with the topic, and the ability to readily express thought, due, doubtless, in a measure to the exclusively oral mode of instruction.

     The undivided attention and decorum of the pupils in class is worthy of note.

     Many surprises met us in the course of the examination. In geography, the familiarity of the pupils with form, locality and distance, in geometry, the perfect apprehension and construction of geometrical figures, in chemistry, the description of colors, and analysis of organic bodies, and in astronomy, the clear conception of the size and relative position of worlds, were sources of surprise and pleasure.

     How persons without sight could obtain such complete mastery of these subjects, was a question of great interest.

     It is possible that in some classes the amount of work done was not as great as in seeing schools, but what was done, was well done, and showed that the teachers had been faithful, and the pupils zealous in the work.

     In conclusion, allow us to add that it is our firm conviction that the tone, scholarship, and whole management of the Institution is of high order, and an honor to our noble State, and we commend this Institution to the public as a great blessing to the blind and worthy the benefactions of a Christian people.

H. M. Hoon

Vinton, June 15, 1870.


Report of Committee on Male Industrial Department.

To the Superintendent of the Institution for the Blind

Sir:—In accordance with our duty as a committee to examine the Male Industrial Department over which you preside, we report—that we were present on Tuesday afternoon, June 14th, and examined the workings of the department.

     While present, a broom was made by one of the pupils, and the method of instructing a beginner explained. The shop and store room were very tidy, and the department was in every respect creditable. It is just to add that Mr. John Cisna, Superintendent of the shop, is, in our judgment, just the man for the place, and the department, under his management, is all that could be desired.

Geo. Horridge
S. Williams
E. H. Stedman

Vinton, June 15, 1870.


Report of Committee on Female Industrial Department.

To S. A. Knapp, Superintendent of the Iowa Institution of the Education of the Blind

Sir:—The committee to whom was referred the duty of examining the work and system of instruction in the Female Industrial Department of the Institution for the Blind, under the personal supervision and instruction of Miss Lorana Mattice, would respectfully report—that they have carefully discharged that pleasing duty, have examined the work in that Department, and have seen and had illustrated Miss Mattice’s system of instruction, and we feel warranted in saying that no system for the instruction of the blind in crochet and bead work could be adopted which would answer the purposes so fully and completely.

     The specimens of bead and crochet work presented for our inspection were perfect in all their parts—the designs were elegant, and in many cases unique and classical. Miss Mattice deserves, and should receive the highest praise for her ingenuity, industry, her skill and success in imparting a knowledge of her art under so many and so great disadvantages.

     The progress of her pupils, one and all, seem most satisfactory—where all excel it is difficult as well as invidious to discriminate. It is only necessary to say that no citizen of Iowa has any cause to be ashamed of the achievements of the Female Industrial Department of the Iowa Institution for the Education of the Blind.

Very Respectfully

Mrs. John Shane
Mrs. J. S. Tilford