Tenth Biennial Report













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

Rev. S. A. KNAPP, M. A.


Literary Department:

JACOB NIERMEYER, Orchestra & violin.


Bead-work, Etc:

Home Department:
S. A. KNAPP, Steward.
Mrs. M. A. KNAPP, Matron.
Mrs. M. E. BUTLER, Childrens’ matron
Miss RHONDA PHILLIPS, Housekeeper.






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

     In accordance with our duty as a Board of Trustees, we respectfully submit the following report;

     Since our last report the general health of the school has been excellent. With one exception there has been no serious illness. In April last Mrs. Josephine Cisna, the wife of John Cisna, Master of Mechanics, died, after a brief illness. Mrs. Cisna had been connected with the institution a number of years as teacher and pupil, and had endeared herself to every inmate by her kind heart, her general manners, and he superior culture. A large circle of friends sincerely mourned her loss, and united in expressions of sympathy for her worthy bereaved companion.


     The appropriations of the Thirteenth General Assembly for heating apparatus, slate roof, bathing rooms, drains, etc., have been expended in accordance with the design for which they were granted, and, in our judgment, to the best interests of the institution. These improvements have added materially to the health and comfort of the inmates, and the general efficiency of the school. The contract for the construction of concrete drains, engine-house, Dry-house, bathing and washing apparatus, and slate roof, was awarded to Messrs. Finkbine and Lovelace, for the sum of $12,950.00. The cold-air ducts, the flues and brick work for steam boilers, were constructed by day labor, under the supervision of Mr. Finkbine, at a cost of $7,064.60. The contract for steam heating apparatus was awarded Messrs. Walworth, Twohig & Furse, of Chicago, at the sum of $8,800, which was increase in the course of construction by extra labor and materials, to the total amount of $9,408.64. The amount expended for furnishing the wing, for improvement of the grounds, for musical instruments, repairs, etc., was $4,418.48; expended for R. R. freights, $386.65, making the total expenditure for all purposes $34,228.37, of which account, thus leaving the balance of expenditure paid by special appropriations $29,633.65, as per statement of the Treasurer appended to this report.


     When the Twelfth General Assembly mad an appropriation for the erection of a south wing to this institution, it was thought by many that sufficient room had been provided for years to come. Today the institution is filled to its almost capacity, while many more are pressing for admission. There are, at least, eighty blind in the State, of suitable age for admission and suffering for want of such advantages, who cannot now be admitted because there is not room. If the lack of room were in any particular direction, possibly it could be obviated by a rearrangement, but it is in almost every direction. A statement of the many devices employed to provide room for our present inmates may give a more definite view of the situation. About forty females are assigned to one sitting room, 18 x 26 feet (the dormitories were not heated). It is necessary also to use the same room for recitation in the forenoon and sewing-class in the afternoon.

     The gentlemen’s sitting room, about the same size, is occupied in the forenoon with recitation, and in the afternoon with music, being the only place for instruction upon the violin. The large number of persons practicing upon the violin (are sent for such practice) to the broom shop and the rooms of employees. Two additional rooms for piano are needed---one piano is now in the organ room and one in a recitation-room.

     The public parlor has been taken for a nursery. The dining hall is filled beyond comfort. There is no apartment for the female industries and no room for exercise in inclement weather.

     If such are the present necessities, what must be the condition in a few years if relief be not afforded? The increase of the number of blind from ordinary causes, and from immigration, is much more rapid in a new State than in the older States, and there is a necessity for more comprehensive plans in regard to Eleemosynary Institution.

     For the above reasons we consider it our duty to ask an appropriation sufficient to erect a wing upon the north end of the main edifice. The building should contain a dining-hall, a concrete and lecture-hall, sitting-rooms, nursery, and dormitories. As to the cost of such building we have submitted a statement to the judgment of parties conversant with the construction and management of buildings for the blind, and their conclusion, with which we coincide, is that it will require an appropriation of one hundred thousand to construct the building, heat and furnish it. We believe the interests of the State will be subserved by construction the building of the best materials and with accommodations best suited to the purposes for which it will be used; and we deem it a wise economy to grant an appropriation sufficient to carry out this plan.

     We respectfully call attention to the suggestion of the Superintendent in regard to printing-press, apparatus and other important interests of the school.

     The several interests of the institution have received from us, from time to time, such attention as they demanded, and we are gratified at the results achieved in the interests of a broader benevolence and a higher humanity.



Respectfully submitted,

Members of the Board of Trustees.





His Excellency, Samuel Merrill, Governor of Iowa:

     Sir: In presenting the Tenth Biennial Report of the Iowa Institution for the Education of the Blind, it affords me pleasure to be able to state that the school has enjoyed a period of general prosperity, the home comforts have been decidedly improved by the judicious expenditure of appropriations, the facilities of instruction have been increased, the good accomplished has been more definite, and the number of pupils in attendance has been increased ninety per cent. For the exemption from disease, from accident, and from calamity of every kind, which we have enjoyed during the period embraced in this report, we are devoutly thankful to the Giver or all Good. In the midst of general health and prosperity, we have to record the death of Mrs. Josephine Cisna, a lady greatly endeared to the school by her many excellent qualities. By long association, she had become identified with the history and interests of the Institution to no ordinary degree, which, in addition to her personal merits, caused her loss to be deeply and sincerely mourned.

     Of the number of blind in attendance, 101 have reported to date, the present term.

     Since the founding of this Institution in 1853, two hundred and fifty-eight persons have enjoyed its advantages.

     Could the history of each person attending this school be known throughout the State, as it is known here, I am confident that every citizen of Iowa would rejoice at the liberal and humane policy of the General Assembly, by which this noble benefaction was inaugurated and has been continued. The following table affords a summary of the numerical progress of the institution to date:


First Report 1853 Samuel Bacon 10 10
Second Report 1855 Samuel Bacon 11 21
Third Report 1857 Samuel Bacon 11 32
Fourth Report 1859 Samuel Bacon 20 52
Fifth Report 1861 Samuel Bacon 22 74
Sixth Report 1863 Orlando Clark 15 99
Seventh Report 1865 Reed Wilkinson 31 130
Eighth Report 1867 James L. Geddes 19 183
Ninth Report 1869 S. A. Knapp 34 248
Tenth Report 1871 S. A. Knapp 65  


     About one year since it was deemed advisable to commence an alphabetical register of the blind of Iowa, that we might become more conversant with the members, circumstances, and wants of the persons for the education of whom we are laboring. The State has been thoroughly canvassed, and information derived from four independent and authentic sources:---1st, Special reports made to the Superintendent of this institution by County Superintendents of Public Instruction. 2d, Copies of the late Census Report. 3d, Reports of County Auditors. 4th, Information derived from citizens throughout the State.

     Special credit is due Mr. C. O. Harrington, for securing some of the most important items in the following statistics, transcribed from our register of the blind.


County Whole
of blind
under 25
of age
Number of blind
over 25 years
of age who could
partially or wholly
maintained themselves
in an industrial school
or home
Number of
infirm blind
Number of
blind receiving
aid form
Number of
blind having
property valued
at $200.00
or more
Adair 1 1        
Allamakee 13 2 9 2 1 1
Appanoose 13 5 5 3   1
Audubon 4 2 1 1 1  
Benton 9 4 4 1 4  
Black Hawk 7 2 3 2 1  
Boone 5 1 2 2 1  
Bremer 3   2 1    
Buchanan 10 3 2 5   1
Buena Vista 1     1    
Butler 4 1 2 1 1  
Calhoun 2   2      
Carroll 1     1    
Cass 1   1      
Cedar 13 6 6 1   2
Cerro Gordo 2   2     2
Chickasaw 1 1     1  
Clarke 1   1     1
Clayton 11 4 5 2    
Clinton 5 4 1   1  
Crawford 1 1        
Dallas 3 3        
Davis 12 5 3 4 1 1
Decatur 6 2 3 1 5 2
Delaware 11 5 3 3    
Des Moines 22 5 11 6 3 5
Dickinson 1 1        
Dubuque 13 2 6 5 3 2
Emmet 2 2        
Fayette 6 2 2 2 1 1
Floyd 2   1 2    
Fremont 2 1 1      
Greene 1   1     1
Guthrie 1 1        
Hamilton 1   1      
Hardin 6 2 2 2 1  
Harrison 11 6 3 2   4
Henry 9 5 3 1   2
Howard 6 1 2 3   1
Iowa 7 2 4 1   2
Jackson 8 3 5   1 3
Jasper 16 6 4 6 1 3
Jefferson 7 2 2 2   2
Johnson 13 3 9 1 2 5
Jones 9 7 1 1 1 1
Keokuk 27 15 8 4    
Kussuth 2   1 1   2
Lee 27 7 15 5 2 1
Linn 21 11 5 5 3 3
Louisa 12 7 3 2 3 3
Lucas 1   1      
Madison 3     3    
Mahaska 9 2 4 3   1
Marion 20 4 11 5 1 2
Marshall 10 4 5 1 1  
Mills 2     2    
Mitchell 4 1 1 2   1
Monona 1     1    
Monroe 4   3 1    
Muscatine 12 3 7 2 3 2
Page 5 1 1 3   1
Palo Alto 2 1 1      
Polk 11 4 3 4   2
Pottawattamie 5 2 1 2 1  
Poweshiek 8 3 1 4    
Ringgold 5 2 1 2 1  
Scott 15 2 9 4   1
Story 6 2 2 2   1
Tama 4 1 1 2    
Taylor 3 2 1     1
Union 1         1
Van Buren 5 2 3     1
Wapello 10 4 6     1
Warren 5 2 2 1   1
Washington 7 1 4 2    
Wayne 7 2 2 3   3
Webster 5 2 2     1
Winebago 1     1    
Wineshiek 9 3 4 2   1
Worth 1     1    
Wright 4 1 2 1   1
  557 41 226 41 53 74


     The human eye inspires and intensifies human action as the sun quickens vegetable life. Envelop a soul in darkness, and the entire intellect becomes partially torpid. Unless the intellect can be roused by education, mental action will continue to decrease until the mind becomes indifferent to objects, physical action will become sluggish, and the whole system consequently filled with disease. During the past year my attention has been called to several blind children in this State, who have been retained at home and prevented from acquiring an education till it is too late. They are now permanently diseased and hopelessly imbecile. The dictates of humanity, and the elevation and protection of human society, alike demand the education of the blind. The obstacles to obtaining an education are neither few nor easily overcome.

     It is one of the designs of this Institution to convey to the blind as complete a knowledge of the branches taught as is acquired by those who see at the higher institutions of learning. It may not be out of place to enumerate some of the special difficulties.

     Knowledge usually conveyed by vision must be modified so as to pass through the sense of touch. Touch is such an inadequate substitute for sight that the teacher finds it necessary to employ every aid possible, or the conception will be imperfect; but these aids are not to be found. Only a minimum quantity of apparatus has yet been manufactured for the blind. There is no regular manufacturing establishment where apparatus can be ordered; hence a large amount of work in devising methods and means of instructing devolves upon the officers of the school. Each superintendent of schools for the blind must modify and adapt systems of education, originated the details, and create the facilities of instruction. The want of test-books in raised characters obliges the teacher to do double work, and retards the progress of the pupil.

     Every resource at our command has been used to meet and overcome these difficulties, and our efforts have been seconded by the Board of Trustees and a corps of teachers of unsurpassed energy, with what result the future must determine.

     In the case of a large number of pupils intrusted to our care, it is necessary to commence at first principles, not only in books, but everything else; and the molding process must go on till correct habits of life are formed, till the hand becomes skillful, and the mind disciplined and stored with knowledge. To accomplish this required time, patience, and great industry; but the results justify such expenditure of labor.

     Attention is called to the following report of the several departments in the school.


     Since our last report this department has improved rapidly, and now justly ranks, in complete classification, in thorough discipline and recitation, and in high scholarly tone, with the best schools in the land. There are three courses of instruction---preparatory, junior, and senior. In the preparatory the fundamental branches, reading, spelling, geography, penmanship, and arithmetic are taught, also, history of the United States; and careful attention is paid to the best methods of study, of training the memory, and of discipling the intellect, that the foundation of knowledge may be laid right. Miss Laura Minkler, a blind lady of rare capacity, is teacher in the first preparatory. The advanced preparatory pupils are taught by Miss Emma Boughton; a division of the department being necessary to its greatest efficiency, on account of the large number of pupils recently admitted, who have received but little prior education. In the Junior course the following branches are taught:


          FIRST YEAR                     SECOND YEAR                     THIRD YEAR
Spelling. Penmanship. Penmanship.
Penmanship. Grammar and Parsing Analysis & Parsing
Geography. Written Arithmetic. Written Arithmetic.
Grammar. Phsiology Natural Phlosophy.
Arithmetic. Ancient History. Modern History.
Ancient History.


     In the senior courses are the following branches:


          FIRST YEAR                     SECOND YEAR                     THIRD YEAR
Rhetoric. Algebra (completed) Geometry.
Logic. Geometry. Trigonometry.
Algebra. Mental Philosophy. Moral Philosophy.
Astronomy. Chemistry. Botany.
Modern History. English Literature. Geology.
American Literature.


     The instructors of the Senior and Junior area, C. O. Harrington, Miss Jennie L. Wilson, and George W. Tannihill. Each an experienced and thorough teacher. As pupils are admitted to the Institution, they are graded according to scholarship and assigned to suitable classes, and are advanced at the close of each year upon passing a satisfactory examination. The instruction is principally oral. The difficulty of securing a good topical recitation where the instruction is exclusively oral has been almost entirely overcome by requiring ten minutes of silent study at the close of each recitation, thus the subject, while fresh, it is mentally reviewed and fixed consecutively and permanently in the memory. There is great necessity for more apparatus in the Literary Department. The blind, deriving all knowledge of form from touch, must be taught, where ideas of form or position are to be conveyed, by models. Pupils who possess sight can be taught Geography, Natural History, Philosophy, Natural Philosophy, Chemistry, &c., with some success with apparatus by the employment of charts, maps, and engravings; but of most topics treated in these branches the blind can form no accurate conception by mere word explanation and the teacher, deprived of the aid of blackboards, pencils, brush, or anything that appeals to the eye, is powerless to interact unless assistance can be derived from the sense of touch.

     Complete apparatus, which is an advantage to those who can see, is an absolute necessity to the blind. To afford the Literary Department the necessary facilities for instructing the blind, at least five hundred dollars should be expended for raised maps, and one thousand dollars to procure apparatus for instruction in Physiology, Natural Philosophy, and Chemistry.

     We find by experience that too much of the valuable time of the teacher is occupied in reading the advanced lesson to the class, and thus the time necessary for explaining and impressing the subject is too limited. Until suitable text-books shall be published for the blind, I know of no way to obviate the above difficulty but to have a printing press in the institution, and print the most important portions of each lesson. Several institutions for the blind have adopted this plan. About one thousand dollars will be necessary for this purpose. The New York system of point writing, as arranged by Wm. B. Wait, has been introduced into this school with marked success. It is an invention that marks a period in the education of the blind and in my judgment is destined to supersede all other systems of printing for their use. In tangibility and in utility, it is at least seventy-five per cent superior to raised print.


     Under its present able corps of instructors, is giving great satisfaction. This department affords thorough instruction in the culture of the voice, piano, organ, stringed and wind instruments and musical composition; the latter embracing the study of harmony, counterpoint, canon and fugue writing. Mr. H. Irvin Proctor, a gentleman of thorough musical education, is Director. Jacob Niermeyer, a graduate of this department, is teacher of violin and orchestra. Miss Loraina Mattice, Miss Kittie Eagen, Miss Martha Smith, Miss Amanda Barnhart, and Mr. Harvey Wright, are assistants.

     There are eight pianos, two organs, (one pipe organ and one Mason & Hamlin), and a good supply of other instruments. The following is a summary of the work performed:


Whole number of pupils taking lessons on Piano.       50
Whole number of pupils taking lessons on organ.       16
Whole number of pupils taking lessons on violin.       23
Classes in vocal music.       3
Classes in musical composition.       1
Orchestra       1
Teachers’ class       1


     The male industrial department is under the excellent supervision of Mr. John Cisna. Brooms and mattresses are the chief articles of manufacture. The female industries, under the supervision of Miss Loraina Mattice, are sewing, knitting, worsted-work, bead work, and cane seating.

     The condition of the department is entirely satisfactory. Investigation has been made in many directions for branches of industry, other than those now pursued, that could be introduced with profit. I regret to say our efforts have not been crowned with the success we had confidently expected, through enough has been realized to confirm our faith in ultimate success.


     It is the design of the institution to become society, family, and home for pupils, as well as instruct them in such branches as are taught in schools.

     Some have no other home. To such we must become parents; home thoughts and affections must be impressed upon them. Many are entirely ignorant of the habits, customs, and language of cultivated society. But few of these, can they acquire by observation, and they must therefore be taught them. Skills of the hand and the industries, which ae usually acquired with but little effort by those who can see, must here be learned by skillful guiding through a slow and laborious process; at the same time the strict discipline and elevated character of an institution of learning must be sought and maintained. It is this great diversity of, and at times antagonistic culture which renders the labor of educating the blind so arduous. Our present organization and economy in every department almost perfectly meets these wants; but is no respect is the institution worthy of more commendation than in its family and household arrangements. Mrs. M. H. Knapp, is for the present acting as matron and has supervision of the entire domestic economy. Mrs. Mary E. Butler is doing an excellent work as children’s matron and teacher of sewing. Miss Rhoda Phillips has occupied the position of housekeeper for sometime, very creditably. We have been successful in securing persons of experience and special fitness for each department.


     Have been much improved by the introduction of steam and the construction of bathing-rooms. Great care is taken to secure regular and healthful habits, order and moderation in taking exercise, food and rest, that the system may become healthy and the whole being full of vigorous life. Study then becomes a pleasure and labor, no longer a task, becomes the natural overflow of abundant energies.


     In my judgment the great problem in regard to the future of the blind, is that of self-support. It has been demonstrated that they can be thoroughly educated, but how to make it available for a living is a question. Some can teach, others are good mechanics, but a large number must receive assistance in some form.

     Has not the time arrived when the State can make special provision for the blind, and supplement their labors so as to afford a livelihood? I know of no better way than the establishment of an industrial home, where the State can render such assistance as the case may demand and an enlightened policy dictate. During the past year care has been exercised to keep an accurate account of the labor of each person in the industrial department, so as to determine whether any branch of industry would afford a blind person a full support, and if not, what proportion of a support. The result indicated that a majority of those who depend upon manual labor for a support must be aided to some extent.

     The 13th General Assembly made an appropriation to establish a home for the industrious blind in connection with this institution. Of the $2,000 appropriated by chapter 79, $649.36 has been used for machinery and fixtures. Only a few could be received on account of the large number of blind pressing for admission to the school. Last term six were received during a portion of the year, the present term it will be impossible to accommodate more than three, as our rooms are completely filled with pupils belonging to the regular departments. What can be done? There is a class of persons, honest, intelligent and industrious, but needing capital, a home and friends, to purchase material and dispose of the work. Without these, intelligence and industry avail but little towards a support.

     I earnestly commend this subject to your favorable consideration. Without these, intelligence and industry avail but little towards a support.

     I earnestly commend this subject to your favorable consideration.

     I beg leave to refer to that portion of the report of the Board of Trustees, which urges the immediate action by the General Assembly to provide for the erection of an additional wing, and thus complete this building. Not only is every room in our present building occupied to its practicable extent, but seven additional rooms are required to meet the necessities of the school now in session., while many are seeking admission, and can not be received.


     The following tables exhibit the financial condition from Sept. 1st, 1869, to Sept. 1st, 1871.

Received from sales of brooms       $1271.67        
Brooms and material on hand         1408.13       $2679.80
Expended for material         2295.71
Balance in favor of Department       384.09
Received from sale of matresses       175.75
Paid for material   $103.57    
Paid the blind for manufacture   68.18   175.75
Received from sale of bead work   161.90    
Bead work and material on had   212.86   374.76
Expended for material   263.73    
Paid the blind for labor       37.15     300.88
Balance in favor of Department       $73.88


     The amount appropriated by the Thirteenth General Assembly for current expenses, contingencies &c., was sufficient. Quite an amount has been expended from this fund for needed repairs and improvements. This has prevented the purchase of necessary apparatus, which will doubtless be supplied as soon as the allowance will permit. Let it be remembered that the expenses of a school for the blind can be justly compared only with those of similar schools in other States, with which we believe the comparison is favorable. Of the aggregate expenditures $3,216.54 is for accounts prior to November 1, 1869, for which provision was made by special appropriation. The amount of current expenses, including salaries and clothing furnished pupils, audited from November 1, 1869, to November 1, 1871, is $49,007.47; in the treasury $624.12. Income form all sources, $49,631.59.

     Allow me, in submitting this report, to return my thanks to the trustees for their cordial co-operation and uniform courtesy, and to the several officers and teachers associated with me for their valuable labors and many personal kindnesses. The rapid progress of this school and its marked success, during the past two years, are due in a great degree to the able and careful supervision of the Board of Trustees and the earnest and conscientious labors of the teachers and assistants in every department.

     The entire Institution has been a unit, laboring for the common good.

     I desire to commend all the varied interests to which attention has been called to the fostering care of the State.

Respectfully submitted.

Vinton, Benton Co., Iowa, Nov. 1871.