Twelfth Biennial Report












Hon. EZEKIEL B. KEPHART, President.
Hon. SAMUEL H. WATSON, Treasurer.



S. O. SPENCER, Director.
THOMAS S. SLAUGHTER, Orchestra and Violin



O. CLARKE, Steward
Mrs. H. L. CLARKE, Matron





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

     We beg leave to submit the following report of the managers of the Iowa College for the Blind, for the term ending, November, 1875:

     Since the last session of the General Assembly, some changes have occurred in the Board, including a change in the position of superintendent. This change occurred on the first of July of the previous year, Prof. S. A. Knapp, late superintendent, having resigned.

     In the resignation Mr. Knapp, the institution lost the services of a man, possessing superior qualifications for the educational work. The present incumbent of the office, Prof. Orlando Clarke, brings to the discharge of its duties an extensive experience and competence, 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 adeptness to the place, leave no doubt, in the minds of the members of the Board, that his administration of the affairs of the institution, will prove a most decided and gratifying success.

     Another change occurred on the expiration of the term of office of Hon. Joseph Dysart and Hon. C. H. Conklin, who, for quite a number of years, had been members of the Board. These were active men, and their relations with the Board always pleasant. Hon. C. L. Flint and H. C. Piatt, who were elected by the Fifteenth General Assembly to fill the anticipated vacancies, took their places on the Board, at the time designated in the Code.

     The health of the school, during the period which this report covers has been quite good. This result, doubtless, is owing to the superior sanitary regulations, which have obtained in the Institution.

     The discipline, scholarship, and general educational advantages of the College, are highly gratifying and are such as to entitle it to be ranked among the first schools of the land, for the education of the blind. It is the desire of the Board to maintain its present high reputation, by a proper exercise of the powers vested in them.


     The first three sections of Chapter LXVI. of the Private, Local and Temporary laws of the 15th General Assembly of the State of Iowa are as follows:


      “AN ACT to complete the North Wing of the College for the Blind, to procure furniture for the same, and to build an Engine-House and to furnish Heating Apparatus for the College.”

     “Section 1. Be it enacted by the General Assembly of the State of Iowa, That there is hereby appropriated, out of any money in the treasury, the sum of thirty thousand dollars for the purpose of finishing the north wing of the College for the Blind, and for furnishing the same with water, heating apparatus and air-ducts.

     Sec. 2. There is further appropriated the sum of twelve thousand dollars for the purpose of building an engine-house, for the heating apparatus of said college, for removing and re-setting the engines, and for the continuance of the air-ducts for ventilating said building.

     Sec. 3. There is further appropriated the sum of three thousand dollars for the purpose of procuring furniture for said north wing, and to improve the grounds of said college.”

     Section 5 of the above act provided that the work might be done by the day, or by contract, as in the judgment of the board of trustees would best serve the interest of the State. At the April (1874) meeting of the trustees it was decided that the work was of such a character that it would be impracticable to do it by contract and protect the interests of the State; therefore the trustees determined to do the work by the day; and James B. Locke, a very energetic and experienced mechanic, was employed as superintendent of labor.

     The material for the improvements was purchased by a committee appointed by the Board of Trustees, and was secured upon terms t be most advantageous to the state.

     Quite a sum was saved by purchasing materials direct from the manufacture, especially in steam-heating materials. In all cases the best terms known to the trade were secured by the purchasing committee. The general character of the work was such as the true interests of the state seemed to demand, plain but durable, and the buildings for which the above appropriations were made have been pronounced competent mechanics among the most substantial and economical of the state.

     The north wing, engine-house, air-ducts and steam-heating apparatus were completed as far as contemplated by the expenditure of the several sums appropriated as shown in the detailed report.

     It is a matter of gratification to the Trustees that they have been able to complete successfully a work of such magnitude as the erection of the north-wing within the limits of the sum specified by them at the time they asked the first appropriation of the state for that purpose, and that the character of the work has so generally met the approbation of builders and architects.

     In regard to the appropriation for furniture and grounds, it was found necessary to expend more upon the grounds than was originally contemplated on the account of the removal of a building, and it has consequently left the matter of furniture without provision.



     The large number of blind in the state that could not be admitted to the College for the Blind for want of room has obliged the trustees to use all available resources to this time for building purposes, and defer asking for appropriations necessary to maintain library, apparatus, musical instruments, &c. It will require one thousand dollars to purchase the books and apparatus necessary to make the school effective in all departments. This will not be deemed a large sum when it is considered that books and apparatus for the blind are more than four times as expensive as for the seeing. It will require one thousand dollars for musical instruments. The large increase in attendance makes additional demands upon the musical department, while a number of the instruments are so old as to be nearly past service. It is not necessary to urge upon the attention of the legislature the importance of this department and its relations to the work of education in the Iowa College for the Blind.

     Painting---A large portion of the interior of the entire building should be painted, and it should be of the most durable character. If a wise economy be pursued, not less than two thousand dollars should be appropriated for this work.

     Concreting Basement.---The limited funds allowed for the construction of the central building did not permit a sub-basement. Time has demonstrated that it will be necessary to take up the floors and concrete the entire area to protect the interior walls from being undermining. Twenty-five hundred dollars will meet this expenditure.

     Furniture.---From the founding of the institution till the present time there has never been a full supply of furniture for working purposes, and with the large increase in the number of pupils the demand has become more imperative. At least three thousand dollars will be required to place the furniture in comfortable and presentable condition.

     Repairs, etc.---For general repairs and improvements the sum of one thousand dollars should be appropriated. A wood house should be erected. It need not cost to exceed five hundred dollars, and we recommend that amount. To improve the grounds there should be an annual expenditure of five hundred dollars. Making a total of Twenty-five hundred dollars for general repairs, wood-house, and grounds.

     Fence.---The fence in front of the institution is too old to do further service, and should be replaced by some durable structure. In the judgment of the Board of Trustees, it would be to the best interest of the state to build of iron and in a style that will harmonize with the general character of the buildings. The distance is about 850 feet, and for a substantial fence of the required character the cost could not be much less than five dollars per foot, making a total of four thousand two hundred and fifty dollars.


For Library and apparatus   $ 1,000.00
For Musical Instruments   1,000.00
For Furniture   3,000.00
For General repair, wood house, and grounds   2,500.00
For Painting   2,000.00
For Concreting basement   2,500.00
For Iron fence       4,250.00
Total     $16,250.00

     In conclusion, the Trustees refer to the subjoined reports for more detailed information as to the condition and management of the College. Believing that a proper economy has been observed in the management of its pecuniary affairs, they solicit from your honorable body that kind consideration and liberal appropriation, without which it will be impossible properly to accomplish the purpose of its establishment.


Respectfully submitted






To His Excellency, C. C. Carpenter, Governor of Iowa:

     I have the honor to submit the following report of the Iowa College for the Blind for the biennial term ending November 2nd, 1875:      In compliance with the law, tables are herewith furnished showing the number of pupils in attendance, with age, sex, residence, place of nativity, and also cause of blindness of each pupil; also, an account of studies pursued and trades taught.

     That a proper economy has been observed in the management of the financial affairs of the institution will be seen by an examination of the annexed schedule of current expenditures for each month, and accompanying vouchers. The accounts have been audited monthly by a committee of three of the trustees specially appointed for the purpose, and bills have been paid by the Treasurer only upon their order.

     It is now nearly a quarter of a century since, through the persevering and efficient labors of Samuel Bacon, the Legislature of Iowa was induced to make some provision for the establishment of this Institution. From that time, it has steadily advanced; but, in no period of its history, has it had a more marked progress and prosperity than during the past two years. The present prosperous condition of the college is due to the hearty cooperation of an excellent board of trustees, with the able and faithful management of Prof. S. A. Knapp assisted by his wife, and a corps of efficient and accomplished teachers. Prof. Knapp, in retiring to engage in more lucrative and less arduous pursuits, left the school well graded, and in good working condition and the gratitude of the blind is due to him for the wisdom and kindness with which he has administrated the affairs of the college for the past six years. It is alike creditable to him and to the pupils that order and obedience have generally been maintained by no other penalty than moral disapprobation, or a temporary deprivation of privileges.

     The following Table shows the biennial increase of numbers in the school from 1853 to November, 1875.


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 Clarke 15 99
Seventh Report 1865 Reed Wilkinson 31 130
Eithth Report 1867 James L. Geddes 19 183
Ninth Report 1869 S. A. Knapp 34 248
Tenth Report 1871 S. A. Knapp 65 238
Eleventh Report 1873 S. A. Knapp 31 269
Twelfth Report 1875 Orlando Clarke 46 315


     To the blind the want of culture, and occupation for mind and body, are possibly a worse calamity than blindness itself. And yet there are in Iowa scores of blind youth, capable of education, who are still enduring a long and cheerless night of physical and mental darkness, and who ought speedily to be gathered into this school. Sitting by the fireside of plentiful or scanty homes, or possibly within the the walls of our poor houses, may be found those whose physical natures are being dwarfed, their faculties wasting for want of action, and their minds striving for the light of truth and knowledge; whose faces might by a proper culture be transformed and made to beam with joyous animation and intelligence. A much larger number is now present than at any previous time. And the completion of the north wing has so increased the capacity of the building that when the rooms are properly furnished there will perhaps be accommodations sufficient for all the blind youth in Iowa capable of education, who will present themselves during the next two years. But the records of this Institution show that there are not less than 600 partially or totally blind in Iowa. And in case the state designed to establish and maintain an Industrial Home for adults, or an infirmary for treatment, separate buildings with special provisions and adaptations thereof, will be needed.

     I desire to call your Excellency’s attention to the fact that sections 1681 and 1862 of the Code give, and justify, the erroneous impression now abroad, that sufficient provisions have already been made for an Industrial Home. Whilst the truth is that the shop-room and appliances are really insufficient for purposes of instruction in handicraft to those temporarily here; allowing from one to two years as the time for completing a trade in the industrial department of the institution.

     At the last meeting of the Board of Trustees, on motion of Hon. J. L. Gay, it was recommended that provision be made for establishing an Infirmary in connection with this College for the special treatment of the eyes. Whilst the state is providing liberally for the education of the blind, may it not also be the province of the state to see that there be as few blind as possible? There seems to be some local cause in Iowa for inflammation of the membranes of the eyes. Possibly it is the prevalence of violent and almost constant prairie winds, bearing with them dust and sand.

     The cause of blindness of the inmates for the last two years are as follows:


Inflammation                 49 cases
Congenital        21 cases
Scrofula         18 cases
Various fevers         14 cases
Accidents         8 cases
Amaurosis         7 cases
Neuralgia         4 cases
Measles         4 cases
Small-pox         4 cases
Opacity         3 cases
Cataracts         3 cases
Other causes         18 cases



     As a class the blind have but a small amount of vital force in their bodily organization. Among them there is a large proportion of scrofulous and narrow chested persons. This small life-force id often partly a congenital inheritance; but with many it comes principally from bodily inactivity. To increase the quantity of vitality, and to correct their tendency to inactivity, is one of the most important and difficult parts of their educational training. To accomplish this purpose the pupils have been encouraged to take long and frequent walks in the open fields, and upon the highways; but with general directions to avoid streams of water and railways, except when under the special guidance of a seeing teacher. Last April, six young men, two of whom could see sufficiently to act as guides, having obtained permission to visit a farm-house two or three miles distant, turned purposely aside to a stream of water, and sad to say, two of them, William Leaman and Jesse Hampton, were accidentally drowned. Considering the greater liability of the blind to accidents, it is remarkable that this is the first and only serious one which has occurred in the history of this institution.

     Taking into the account---the want of vital forces,---the languid circulation, and the inactivity which characterizes the blind, the general health of the school has been as good as could reasonably be expected. At the beginning of the present term, the scarlet fever was introduced into the school by pupils returning from their homes after the summer vacation. There were seven cases in all, and these yielded to the prompt and efficient treatment given by Dr. C. C, Griffin. By removing these patients promptly to separate apartments, and thoroughly disinfecting the buildings, the disease though of a contagious character soon entirely disappeared.


     After a brief home-sickness the blind generally enjoy themselves better in the school than in any other place. The secret of their cheerfulness here is, that they are employed. The joyous song, the ringing laugh, and cheerful merriment heard in the halls, and upon the playgrounds in times for recreation, seem to visitors incompatible with blindness, and are therefore a constant source of wonder. It is the activity of the school training that awakens their mental and physical energies, opens new windows to the soul, and changes life from a stagnant pool, to a living stream, clear, pure, and joyous.


     The primary classes receive instruction in reading, spelling, geography and arithmetic, from Mrs. Jennie Tannihill and Miss Lorana Mattice, patient and successful teachers.

     The intermediate classes, under the efficient instruction of Lucina Hotchkiss, pursue an advance of the same fundamental branches as the primary, with the additional study of United States History. The newly arranged outline maps, devised by Mrs. M. H. Knapp, are very useful in this department in giving instruction in geography.

     In the Junior Division the following branches are taught:

Spelling.   Penmanship.   Penmanship.
Penmanship.   Grammar and parsing.   Analysis and parsing.
Geography.   Written arithmetic.   Written arithmetic.
Grammar.   Physiology.   Natural Philosophy.
Arithmetic.   Ancient history.   Modern history.
Ancient history.


     In the Senior Division the following branches:


Rhetoric.   Algebra (completed).   Geometry.
Logic.   Geometry.   Trigonometry.
Algebra.   Mental philosophy.   Moral philosophy.
Astronomy.   Chemistry.   Botany.
Modern history.   English literature.   Geology.
American literature.


     Mr. M. L. Ward, for three years a successful teacher in the Senior and Junior division, resigned last June to enter upon the study of law. Mr. John B. Parmelee, an experienced teacher, was called to fill the vacancy, and is now rendering very efficient service.

     Miss Mary McFarland and Mr. G. W. Tannihill, who for years have labored so faithfully in brining the Senior and Junior divisions up to their present high standard, are now using their best endeavor to carry them still higher.


     The vocal and piano and organ instructions are given by, or under, the direction of Mr. S. O. Spencer. Thorough instruction and the cultivation of a taste for a high class of music are the ends aimed at. Much credit is due Mr. Spencer for utilizing, during the past two months, the press in preparing lessons after the New York point system, prepared by Mr. Waite.

     Mr. T. S. Slaughter, a former graduate of this school, having recently been called to the charge of the orchestra, has at once awakened an enthusiasm among the young men and in brining it rapidly to a higher standard.

     Mr. Slaughter gives special instruction to a large number of pupils upon the violin, and has organized a second band among the new and smaller scholars.

     The following is a summary of the number of pupils and classes in the musical department:


Number of pupils taking lessons on piano       70
Number of pupils taking lessons on organ   13
Number of pupils taking lessons on violin   25
Number of pupils taking lessons in orchestra   18
Number of pupils second band   11
Number of classes in vocal music   2
Number of classes in harmony   1
Number of classes in New York Point system music notation   2
Number of classes receiving special vocal culture   2


     The advanced students in music act as assistant instructors upon the piano and organ; and are thus better qualified to teach when they leave the school.

     To the blind music is not simply a solace and continued source of happiness, but to many it is the most successful means by which to procure an independent living. Quite a large number who have gone out from this school are commanding a competent living as music teachers.


     The making of corn brooms is the principal trade taught, and has advantages over every other form of handicraft taught to the blind. It is a trade of which they are able generally to become masters in one year. When learned the capital required to start in business is but small; and can readily be turned, as the materials used are usually cheap, and easily procured; and the brooms (being necessary and destructible articles) when manufactured find at least a limited demand where manufactured. The immediate charge of the broom shop is committed to Mr. John Cisna, who is a veteran in this department.

     The manufacture of mattresses is carried on to a limited extent by Mr. George Kraus, without expense to the state, and with only a slight profit to himself as orders are only received for local supply in Vinton. This trade can only be made profitable in large towns or cities and then requires considerable capital.

     The industrial department for the females, is under the efficient direction of Miss Lorana Mattice. The fancy Dead work, and Worsted work, and Knitting, wrought by the young ladies are often so ingenious and beautiful as to excite astonishment and admiration. The capital furnished in this department has remained, and the profits from manufacturing have been given as a compensation to the instructor.

     Mr. Cisna, Mr. Kraus and Miss Mattice having in charge the different branches of handicraft , all received their education in this institution and are totally blind.



     The following exhibits the financial condition from November 1st, 1873, to November 2nd, 1875:


November 1st. 1873---    
To brooms and materials on hand $728.11  
to materials purchased to July 1st, 1875 321.46 $1,049.57
By receipt from sales from Nov. 1st, 1873, to July 1st, 1875  683.86  
By brooms furnished the College, and other expenses to July 1st, 1875  73.46  
Brooms and materials on hand July 1st, 1875 292.25 $1,049.57
November 2d, 1875---    
To brooms and materials on hand July 1st, 1875 292.25  
To materials purchased from July 1st, 1875 to Nov. 2d, 1875 137.20 429.45
November 2d, 1875---    
By receipts from sales of brooms from July 1st, 1875, to Nov. 2d, 1875 252.70  
By brooms furnished the College from July 1st, 1875, to Nov. 2d, 1875 21.00  
By brooms and materials on hand November 2d, 1875 155.70 429.45


     Workmen in the broom shop who by careful attention and diligence have learned to make salable brooms, have been allowed twenty-five to fifty cents per dozen out of the proceeds of the sales of brooms they have made. This has proved an efficient stimulus, also enabled the men to supply themselves with needed clothing.


     One of the most gratifying results of the education of the blind in this school, has been the fact that when educated properly they become very successful teachers of the blind.

     Four of the teachers in this school, each having the charge of a particular department, and conducting the same successfully, are graduates of this school who are entirely blind. These all have the ability to preserve order and by their watchfulness detect quickly the slightest irregularity of deportment. They are devoted to their work and understand the methods best suited to the necessities of the blind, having traveled the road themselves. Another gratifying result of education, is, to give the blind strength of body and mind, and hope, and courage, and self-respect; and a determined purpose to rely upon their own labor for the supply of their wants.

     It would not be a difficult task to mention scores of persons who have been redeemed from dependence or pauperism to independence and competence, by an education in this school. And its claims to public support can be based upon the considerations of public interest, and practical utility, as well as justice.

     The commonwealth of Iowa recognizing the advantages and necessity of education all her children; undertakes to do it at public expense, and establishes the public free schools. But finding a class of her children capable of education, who can not be taught properly or economically in the public schools, the state of Iowa has provided this institution as a free public school for all her blind children, that they may have an equal participation in the benefits of education, which is a matter of simple justice to them if my reasoning is correct.



     I subjoin a classified statement of expenditures from Nov. 4, 1873, to Nov. 2, 1875:


Salaries and wages            $ 20,074.80
Groceries and provisions   15,401.40
Fuel and lights   6,101.95
Furnishing   2,318.29
Dry goods and clothing   1,248.16
Repairs and improvements   2,821.08
Musical departments (except salaries)   720.39
Miscellaneous items, postage, stationary, freights, expressage, &c.     2,470.22
Total expenditures   $ 51,156.29


     An examination of the report of the Commissioner on Education for the year 1874, (pages 818 and 819) will show the comparative expense of the education of blind in the various institutions for that year. Taking the total expenditures of each and dividing by the number of pupils instructed will give the following:


Expense per pupil in Iowa       $ 206.00
Expense per pupil in Wisconsin       416.00
Expense per pupil in Indiana       350.00
Expense per pupil in Kansas       317.00
Expense per pupil in Illinois       208.00
Expense pe pupil in Missouri       213.00
Expense per pupil in Pennsylvania       407.00
Expense per pupil in New York State Institution       322.00
Expense per pupil in New York City       717.00
Expense per pupil in Boston       468.00


     The fact that this institution is educating the blind of the State at the least comparative expenses and yet doing it well, is a complement to the ability and integrity of the Trustees who have its management in charge. In reviewing the past two years the officers and teachers have the gratification of knowing that substantial progress has been made.

     For the general good results accomplished, devout gratitude is due to the Divine Being whose Providence has abundantly fulfilled those words of promise: “And I will bring the blind by a way that they know not; I will lead them in paths they have not known. I will make darkness light before them, and crooked things straight. These things will I do unto them and not forsake them.”

     The Principal and Matron desire gratefully to recognize the able and cordial co-operation of the Trustees in the present management of the school: And to tender to Prof. S. A. Knapp and wife heartfelt acknowledgments for signal assistance, and valuable information gained by personal counsel. In behalf of the inmates and of many who have gone out from the school, I desire to express to you their gratitude for the interest and liberality which has established and maintained this institution again commended to the watch-care and liberal patronage of the commonwealth of Iowa.

Respectfully submitted,
ORLANDO CLARKE Superintendent.
Iowa College for the Blind,


Vinton, Iowa, Nov. 15, 1875.