Ninth Biennial Report












Hon. JAMES McQUIN, President.
Rev. S. A. KNAPP, Secretary.
Hon. SAMUEL H. WATSON, Treasurer.
Hon. Wm. G. DONNAN.

Rev. S. A. KNAPP



Literary Department:



Bead-work, Etc.


Assistant Pupils.
FRANCIS M. HICKOK, Mathematics.




To the Honorable, the General Assembly of the State of Iowa:

     The Board of Trustees, in pursuance of the requirements of the statute, would respectfully submit the following report;

     Since the last session of the General Assembly, some changes have been bade in the organization of the board, including a change in the important position of superintendent. This change occurred at the commencement of the present term. The present incumbent of that office, Prof. S. A. Knapp, brings to the discharge of its duties an extensive experience in the management of similar educational institutions, and a reputation for ability and devotion to his profession which, with the evidence already given of his adaptedness to the place, leaves no doubt in the minds of the other members of this board, that his administration of the affairs of the institution will prove a most decided and gratifying success.

     It has been found necessary, or, at least, every way desirable, to intrust the financial as well as educational and general control of the institution in the hands of the superintendent, thus demanding a combination of qualitites in that office not readily attainable. We have tried the experiment of employing a steward separate from the superintendent, but we have not found this course at all satisfactory. If the number of pupils were twice what it now is, that course would then, perhaps, become a necessity; and in that event, by fixing such a salary as would command the requisite experience and ability, the finances would be well managed. But the amount we are permitted to pay to a steward, will only command moderate or inferior capacity, and we find by experience that it is more economical, and generally more satisfactory, that the superintendent should discharge the duties of both positions, thus casting upon him the entire responsibility of the success of the institution. We need not add that this combination of duties renders the position a laborious one, and requires a comprehensive capacity as well as untiring industry. The position is by no means a sinecure.

     Another change occurred on the resignation of Hon. James Chapin. This gentleman had been a member of this board from the time the institution was removed to this place, and during the entire time had filled the office of treasurer. His position, as local member of the board, has occasioned an unusual draft upon his time, and it is due to him to say that he has ever labored untiringly and devotedly for the best interests of the institution and its inmates, and has endeared himself to all connected with it, whether as its manager or the recipients of its benefactions. We feel that his resignation was a serious loss.

In pursuance of the powers conferred by the statute, the board appointed Samuel H. Watson, Esq., of Vinton, to fill the vacancy thus occasioned by the resignation of Mr. Chapin. Mr. Watson was also elected treasurer, and, after giving the requisite bonds, entered upon the discharge of the duties of that office, which he still fills.

Rev. G. G. Truesdell, who was elected by the last General Assembly a member of this board, being about to remove from the State, also resigned his position; and thereupon the board appointed Hon. Wm. G. Donnan, of Independence, to fill the vacancy.


     The sum of five thousand dollars, hitherto appropriated by the State to pay salaries of officers, teachers and employees of this institution, also to meet current expenditures for library, apparatus, musical instruments, furnishing, repairs and incidentals, is found entirely insufficient. For obvious reasons it requires a teaching force to instruct the blind much larger than that for a seeing school.

     Such a large number of pupils receive instruction in music, that this department alone, including tuning and repairs, can not be sustained at much less than two thousand dollars per annum; while the demand upon the above appropriation to meet expenses, which could not be foreseen, and for which, of course, no provision was made, amounts in the aggregate to a large item.

     After the most careful analysis of the expenses of this institution, for the two years included in this report, we are convinced that it will require eight thousand dollars annually, to meet the expenses arising from the various sources enumerated above. We, therefore, recommend that in addition to the five thousand dollars, the sum of two thousand dollars be appropriated annually for the department of music and one thousand for furnishing, repairs and contingencies.

     The treasurer’s report shows that the institution is indebted to the amount of two thousand four hundred and two dollars and ninety one cents for current expenses, which amount has been accumulating for several years. This deficit is due to facts above stated, that the annual appropriations were not sufficient to meet the necessary current expenses. It is vitally important to the interests of the institution that some provisions be made by your honorable body, to meet this deficiency at an early day.


     The contracts for the erection of the south wing was awarded to Messrs Finklin and Lovelace of Iowa City, for the sum of twenty-nine thousand one hundred and sixty dollars.

     The foundation of the building was laid in the fall of 1868, and a portion of the materials for the main structure was collected. The present season the superstructure has been erected. It is a substantial building of cut stone 32 x 60 feet with a rear projection 19 x 48 feet, the whole three stories above the basement.

     It is constructed of the best materials, thoroughly painted and covered with slate roof. The work has been prosecuted during a season unusually inclement, with commendable vigor, and has been completed in a manner highly creditable to the contractors and eminently satisfactory to the trustees.

     The amount appropriated by the Twelfth General Assembly for work shop, rear veranda, library and apparatus, painting and repairs, furnishing, improving grounds and musical instruments, have been expended, to the best of our judgement, in accordance with the design of the appropriations, and to the best interests of the institution.

     For the several items and balances we refer you to the treasurer’s exhibit accompanying this report.


     Two years since the General Assembly appropriated the sum of $5,000, to furnish the main asylum with a new heating apparatus, the old having been found totally inadequate. At a subsequent meeting of the board of trustees, Messrs Finkbine and Chapin were appointed a committee to investigate the best methods of warming buildings off this character. After a thorough investigation the committee made the following report:


Vinton, Jan. 8, 1868.

To the Trustees of the Asylum for the Blind.

     Gentlemen—The undersigned, appointed by resolution of your body, to examine and report upon the best method of heating the asylum buildings, would report, that we have, in the execution of the trust confided to us, visited a number of public buildings in this State, together with public and private buildings in Illinois, which are heated by furnaces and steam by both direct and indirect radiation. As the result of our investigation we would recommend that the system of heating by steam, with indirect radiation, combined with a fan driven by an engine, be adopted. The leakage of pipes either from corrosion or bursting, or any other cause, is not attended with danger. It does not require the heat to be shut off and the use of rooms to be dispensed with until repairs can be made.

     It is less expensive than any other method and affords an equal amount of heat. We have examined the various plans presented by different parties, and would recommend that, when adopted, the board require the contracting parties to guarantee that the apparatus shall afford a uniform heat of not less than 65° Fahrenheit, to each and all the rooms heated, during the coldest weather.

     In regard to the cost we have been unable to ascertain the exact amount, but the lowest figure we could obtain from responsible parties, agreeing to guarantee a uniform temperature, was $9,000, which includes engine, fan, pipes, and registers, of sufficient capacity for heating the main asylum building.

     For the wing it will require a larger engine, boiler and fan than for the main building alone, which additional cost, together with the necessary pipes and registers, will be about $5,000. The above does not include the alterations and repairs to the main building to adapt it to this system of heating.

     For construction of air chambers, repairs to floor, plastering and painting, we approximate the additional sum of $1,000.

     In order to secure the greatest amount of safety, the furnaces, engine and boiler should be in a separate building, situated in the rear of the main asylum building. The engine-house should be of brick with stone foundation, and covered with metal or slate roof. It should have a smoke-stack of brick, extending above the asylum building, in order to insure safety and a good draught. This building should either be two stories in height or sufficiently large on the ground to furnish a wash and drying-room, where the steam and power could be used for laundry purposes. The cost of such a building, with the smoke-stack, will be $4,000. Making a total cost for the necessary building and heating apparatus, of $19,000.

All of which is respectfully submitted.



    The board of trustees adopted this report, and voted to use only so much of the appropriation of five thousand dollars as was necessary for repairs, until the whole subject could be referred to the General Assembly for consideration.

     We respectfully urge that an additional appropriation of fourteen thousand five hundred dollars be made to enable us to carry out the design contemplated in the above report. A portion of the above estimate is for heating the wing, for which no appropriation has been made. The wing has been constructed with registers opening into each room, on the hypothesis that the General Assembly would deem it advisable to make the additional appropriation requested.

     We again urge the imperative necessity of removing the furnaces now in use, and substituting some more improved heating apparatus, for the following reasons:

1. They are very unsafe. The institution has caught fire from them several times the past year.
2. They heat only a small portion of the building, and even that insufficiently except in mild weather.
3. They constantly emit smoke, and frequently in large quantities which irritates the already inflamed eyes of the pupils.
4. They consume an extraordinary amount of fuel for the amount of heat produced.


     It will require about one thousand dollars, in addition to the above, to remove and reconstruct out-buildings.


     The institution has long felt the want of a drain to conduct the waste water from the kitchen, laundry, etc. Other pressing wants of the institution have hitherto restrained us from presenting the subject for your consideration; but we do not feel warranted in further delay, for, unless suitable drainage is provided soon, the surface soil will become so impregnated with impurities as to materially affect the well-water.

     The services of a competent engineer were secured to survey the grounds and report a plan of drain with estimates. He reported in favor of an arch stone drain, with concrete bottom, at a total estimated cost of four thousand and thirty-five dollars.

     The cost of the drain is augmented by the fact of the large amount of excavation necessary to sink it below the basement floor.


     The institution is entirely destitute of apparatus and conveniences for bathing; a matter of the utmost importance to persons with diseased eyes. We recommend that the sum of one thousand dollars be appropriated for a cistern, pumps and apparatus for two bathing rooms.

     We also recommend that the sum of two thousand five hundred and fifty dollars be appropriated for furnishing the wing and the sum of fifteen hundred dollars to purchase two pianos and a fire proof safe for institution records, these being the estimates made by a competent committee appointed for that purpose.

     We estimate the sum of twelve hundred dollars necessary to replace fences and improve grounds.


     The sum of fifteen hundred dollars, appropriated for the purpose of slating the roof of the main asylum building, was found insufficient, and we ask that the further sum of two thousand five hundred and ninety-three dollars and twenty-two cents be appropriated. This amount includes an estimate for replacing the tin gutters and for painting and shading the belfry and cornice, whcih have not been re-painted since the construction of the building. For all of the above appropriations we have had itemized estimates made.

     In the discharge of the trusts confided to us, we have thus endeavored to represent the condition of the Institution for the Blind at the present time, its wants and its necessities, all of which is respectfully submitted.


Members of the Board of Trustees.








His Excellency, Samuel Merrill, Governor of Iowa:

     Sir:—I have honor to present the Ninth Biennial Report of the Iowa Institution for the Education of the Blind.

     It affords me pleasure to be able to add this chapter to the history of an institution that holds such a conspicuous position among the noble benefactions of the people of this great State; an institution that will be one of the most enduring monuments of the enlightened policy and philanthropy of this generation.

     It is a source of congratulation that the years embraced in this report have been marked by such success as to entitle the Iowa Institution for the Blind to the most favorable consideration of the public and to demonstrate, beyond question, that the funds appropriated to it were worthily bestowed and have been judiciously expended. It is a matter of devout thanksgiving to an Allwise Being, that this period has been one of healthfulness to the inmates of the institution, and has been free from calamity of every kind.


     The institution is situated upon an elevation of land on the western border of the city of Vinton, commanding a fine view of the city and the country which stretches far away toward the sky, an ever varying field of verdure, dotted with farm-houses and groves, and interlined with silvery streams.

     Here a portion of the rolling prairie, about a mile in width, extends through the bluffs that line the southwestern bank of the Cedar, and the noble river sweeps around in a grand curve of miles, as if eager to afford its clear waters an out-look upon the fair fields through which they flow. Perhaps few more picturesque locations could be found in this most beautiful State.

     Vinton has attained a celebrity for healthfulness and for the moral tone and character of its inhabitants scarcely inferior to that for the beauty of its scenery; thus vindicating its selection as the location of a benevolent institution.

     The early completion of the Burlington, Cedar Rapids & Minnesota Railroad to this place, now rendered certain, will remove a serious embarrassment under which the institution has so long labored, viz: that of being remote from railroad communication.


     The main building is a substantial structure of cut stone, 108 feet long and 63 feet wide and three stories high above the basement. The basement is used for culinary and laundry purposes; the first floor is devoted chiefly to public and officers’ rooms; the second floor to recreation and teachers’ rooms; the third floor to dormitories. The south wing, just completed, is 60 feet long and 32 feet wide, with a rear projection 48 x 19 feet; is three stories high. In architecture and material it is in structure similar to the main building. It is devoted to sitting-rooms and dormitories for the male pupils.

     The plan of the wing could scarcely have been improved, and the structure meets a want long felt in the economy of the institution. The broom-shop, 21 x 48, two stories, is situated near the south-west corner of the wing.

     The grounds containing forty acres, divided into ten acre lots. That on which the buildings are located, is ornamented to some extent with shrubbery; the other lots are devoted to meadows and pasture.


     In the year 1853, this institution was established at Iowa City, largely through the unwearied efforts of Mr. Samuel Bacon. Mr. Bacon’s long experience as an instructor of the blind, enabled him to inaugurate measures that have contributed largely to the prosperity of the school, and have, in no small degree, commended it to the fostering care of the State. In the month of August, 1862, the institution was removed form Iowa City to Vinton, Benton county, and has continued until the present time in uninterrupted prosperity under the able management of its board of trustees and a wise and liberal policy of legislation by the General Assembly.

     The following gentlemen have consecutively held the position of superintendent: Samuel Bacon, Esq., Rev. O. Clark, Rev. Reed Wilkinson, and Gen. James L. Geddes. The present incumbent entered upon his duties, July 1st, 1869.

     The number of blind who have enjoyed the advantages of this institution since its establishment, is one hundred and eighty-six.

     The causes of blindness of the pupils since the establishment of the institution are the following;


Inflamation       60
Bad Treatment       3
Small Pox       9
Scrofula       9
Neuralgia       3
Fever       9
Conjunctiveness       1
Unknown       3
Ophthalmia       1
Accidents       40
Congenital       24
Opacity       4
Measles       7
Cataract       6
Cancer       1
Amaurosis       5
Water on the brain       1


     A complete report of the number of blind in the State of Iowa would doubtless show that there are about six hundred. Of this number, at least one hundred and twenty-five should be pupils of this institution: and, in my judgment, all that prevents is the lack of information, by the parties interested, in regard to the character of the institution.


     This embraces a course of instruction in the branches usually taught in common schools and seminaries.

     The pupils are taught to read in embossed books, to write with a pencil in common and legible letters, to understand topographical geography by feeling outline maps, and to cypher upon metal frames with movable type instead of slate and pencil. The Braille system is also taught. The main instruction is oral. The apparatus in some instances is not sufficient to enable the teacher to convey the necessary information. The want is mostly felt in geography.

     The principal instructors in this department are Mrs. M. E. Knapp, Miss Jennie L. Wilson, Miss Lizzie Kiddoo, and Mr. George W. Tannihill. All teachers of energy, suavity, culture and large experience. Under their competent instruction the pupils have made great progress, and every day evince a greater love of study. The character and tone of the department is all that could be desired.


     Aims to give a thorough practical and theoretical knowledge of that important branch of education. The value of music to the blind can not be measured by dollars and cents. Confined mostly to one place by the loss of sight, precluded from society, and at the same time deprived of the privilege of reading popular literature or current news, without education how could they spend their hours of solitary leisure but in moody silence? Music meets this want more perfectly than any other branch of education.

     This department is under the direction of Prof. D. S. Wilkinson, a gentlemen of thorough musical education and considerable experience in teaching. As a performer upon the flute he has few equals in this land, but he gives instruction with almost equal skill upon the various instruments taught in the institution.


     The male industrial department is under the direction of Mr. John Cisna—a blind man of excellent judgment and character. The fact that he has retained this position from the founding of the institution is a sufficient testimonial of his worthiness and competency.

     The female industrial department is now in charge of Miss Lorana Mattice, a lady educated in this school, and appointed to that position on the resignation of Miss M. A. Rittgers.

     No more judicious selection could have been made. She is a blind lady of remarkable skill, can sew both by hand and on a sewing machine, knit, and makes nearly all kinds of fancy work; in addition, she possesses all the qualifications essential to a good teacher.


     It is the design of the institution, as far as practicable, to meet the conditions of a home in its domestic economy. Some of the pupils have no other home. This design modifies, to some extent, every department and gives to the school at times the character of a family. Everything is very satisfactory in this department under the direction of Mrs. S. C. Lawton, who discharges the difficult and onerous duties of matron in a manner very commendable and well calculated to secure and retain the respect of every inmate of the institution.


     Vigorous health should be cultivated as a part of education. Much dependence is placed upon regular and appropriate exercise in the open air, upon bathing and diet, to secure and maintain perfect health.

     Our efforts in this department have been quite successful, but much more might be accomplished if increased facilities for bathing could be provided.


     The following is the order of exercise for each day of the week:


Six o’clock — rise.
Six and a half o’clock — breakfast.
Seven and three quarters o’clock — prayers.
Eight to Nine o’clock — mental and written arithmetic.
Nine to Ten o’clock — grammar and geography.
Ten to Eleven o’clock — algebra, raised print, penmanship, and general history.
Eleven to Twelve o’clock — history, geography, and orchestra.
Twelve o’clock — dinner.
One to Two o’clock — geometry.
Two to Four o’clock — industrial departments.
Four to Five o’clock — choir.
Five and a half o’clock — supper.
Six and a half to Eight o’clock — history, reading current news, and spelling.
Nine o’clock — retire.

Literary exercises on Saturday forenoon, bathing and preparations for the Sabbath in the afternoon.

Sunday morning the pupils are expected to attend church in the city; in the afternoon services are held in the institution.



     The methods of instruction in the education of the blind are similar to those employee in schools where the pupils can see. An advance lesson is read to the class by the teacher, each day, and memorized. The general arrangements do not differ materially from such as are found in well-regulated boarding schools.

     From the experience of the most eminent teachers of the blind, the following deductions may be drawn in regard to their capability of education as composed with those that can see:

1. The blind have a stronger desire for knowledge.
2. They pay more strict attention to the subject in hand, and as a result, their memories are better disciplined.
3. Their method of studying produces the best mental culture.

     After hearing the lesson once read, they review it mentally, instead of repeatedly reading it over, as those that can see are inclined to do, thus their education is critical rather than superficial, while their constant dependence for knowledge of the world upon the relation of things, instead of vision, cultivates the logical to the highest point.

     Dr. Howe justly observes of the blind: “They are precocious thinkers. Some persons do not discover, until years after leaving school, that the lessons which they committed to memory, and the rules of grammar or logic which they recited glibly, really have a deep meaning; but blind scholars generally go down to the root of the matter, and understand the meaning of whatever they learn.”

     If the education of the blind was limited only by possible attainments, I apprehend there are but few branches that could not be taught with success. It is wonderful what persistent effort can accomplish.

     There are scholars in this institution well versed in mathematics, history, literature and philosophy. They apprehend forms, geometrical figures and degrees of latitude and longitude with remarkable precision. By means of the Braille system of writing, the blind can correspond with each other, keeping their own accounts, write and read music &c. Two pupils are making complete copies of “Richardson’s Method” in Braille, for future use.

     It is not in the acquiring of knowledge that the greatest obstacles are to be overcome by the blind. It is when they attempt to make that knowledge remunerative. Here they are brought in competition with persons that can see. If the foster care of the State could in some manner be extended beyond the time that the pupils are retained here, and assist them in securing remunerative situations in life, it would be a great blessing.


     Within a few years machinery has revolutionized the methods of manufacture, and has rendered unprofitable many branches of handcraft, or reduced the profit to a mere pittance.

     Dr. Howe, in his report of 1868, to the legislature of Massachusetts, says:


“it is becoming more and more difficult for blind workmen to support themselves by handicrafts, owing to the invention and improvements which supersede the use of the hand. Twenty years ago our workmen could earn a fair wage at brush-making, now they can hardly earn their salt.

“Five years ago they made and sold at good profit, thousands and thousands of door mats; to-day a machine has been contrived which does in a few hours what a blind man could do in a week.

“The sharpened competition for livelihood by simple handicraft, such as making mats, brooms and the like; the increase of foreigners, especially Germans, whose wives and children work in the evenings, and at odd hours, upon such trades, and the invention of machinery, superseding the hand, are still further narrowing the already small circle of occupations by which the blind could earn their bread.”


     In view of these facts I would respectfully suggest that there be a thorough investigation of the industrial department by a competent committee, appointed by the Governor or General Assembly, and such changes instituted as will meet the conditions of the case.

     I would call your attention to the importance of establishing at an early day an industrial home for the blind.

     Perhaps all those who have completed their course and need a home could, for the present, be accommodated in the institution, and under judicious restrictions, be employed in the work-shops. The following are some of the reasons for the above request:


1. They can do more work, realize larger profits, and enjoy themselves better in a permanent home together. They perform their work in a manner peculiar to themselves and, hence, can labor to much greater advantage under the direction of persons who understand them.

2. Some of the blind pupils are orphans, and have had no home, from childhood, but the institution, and hence have gained but little practical knowledge of man and things, belonging to the outside world, which is so necessary to success in life. They can work well but need supervision.

3. A few of the blind are too frail to earn more than a partial support; removed from judicious supervision they could earn nothing. To educate such and send them out for the counties to support is a refinement of cruelty.


     Several instances have recently come to my knowledge where a parent has refused to send a blind child to this school because the expenses would be too great, thus evincing total ignorance of the fact that board and instruction are free.

     If some plan were devised by which the names and post-office address of every blind person in the State of Iowa would be forwarded to this institution, it would be a great blessing. Circulars with full information could then be issued directly to the parties. Perhaps the county school superintendents could obtain this information better than any other person.

     Allow me to call your attention to that portion of the report of the trustees which refers to improvements and repairs. An adequate appropriation for these objects is of pressing necessity, and without it the institution will be seriously crippled in its work.


     The following tables exhibit the financial condition of these departments from November 1st, 1867, to September 1st, 1869, as it appears in the books of the Institution:


Received for brooms and brushes       $815.57
Expanded for materials    
Received for bead work and worsted work   $136.25
Expended for materials   $  1.30
Proceeds   $84.95



     By reference to the treasurer’s report it will be seen that the institution is indebted to the amount of $2,402.91; which indebtedness obliges the steward to purchase mostly on credit, and thus largely prevents taking advantage of the markets, to the serious detriment of the interests of the State. As to the cause of this indebtedness, it is due to the fact that there has been no contingent fund in the hands of the trustees. Thus every improvement, not foreseen at the time of the session of the General Assembly, is charged to current expense account. Let any one keep an exact account of repairs and improvements upon buildings, fences, grounds, wells, pumps, etc., etc., that are necessarily made upon a homestead in a single year, and he will have some conception of the amount required for such a property as this.

     The question arises, can the corps of instructors be materially diminished? In my judgement it cannot, and for the following reasons:


1. Much of the labor which the pupil accomplishes in other schools must be done by the teacher in a school for the blind. The teacher must read the lesson to the pupil, as well as explain it, and hear it recited. Letters for the younger pupils must be written to parents. Music, letters recited, current news and general literature must be read; work arranged, etc., etc.

2. Anything like a complete classification of pupils in their studies is impossible, from the fact that pupils are in attendance from various ages from eight to fifty-six years. Some when admitted have a fair English education, others none at all. Thus the institution ranges from the alphabet to the higher branches of a college course.


     The question may arise why the blind are not employed to do all this teaching. They do a portion of it, and possibly could do more, but there is a limit. About so many pairs of good eyes are as necessary in a school for the blind as in any other.

     The amount of current expenses, including salaries and clothing furnished pupils, from November 1st, 1867, to November 1st, 1869, are as follows:


Salaries for officers and teachers       $    7040.45
Salaries of employees       2841.00
Clothing furnished pupils       416.08
Boarding department and contingent accounts         18,930.37
*Total       $29,200.90
Amount expended for improvements from special appropriation account       $44,324.59
*NOTE--This includes only amounts audited and paid within that period


     The abstracts and vouchers accompanying this report will exhibit the various articles purchased, and the treasurer’s report, the expenditure and cash received.

     Allow me, in submitting this report, to return my thanks to the trustees for the uniform courtesy with which they treated me, and for their cordial co-operation in every effort to promote economy or thoroughness in the management of the affairs of the institution.

     The integrity and ability of the board are a guarantee to the State that the finances of the institution will be managed with the strictest economy, and in a way to promote the greatest good for the pupils.

     I feel deeply indebted to the officers and teachers for the entire harmony that has prevailed, and for the unanimity with which they have labored for the common good.

     In conclusion, I desire to commend the interests of this institution and its inmates to the fostering care of the State. Some pupils have special claims; they have been soldiers, or are the orphaned children of soldiers; but all have claims upon a common humanity as the children of misfortune.

Respectfully submitted.
S. A. KNAPP, Superintendent.
Vinton, Benton Co., Iowa.