Historical Sketch of IAD

Dr. James H. Cloud gave an interesting outline of the history of the Illinois Association of the Deaf since its inception as follows:


The invitation to present before this convention an historical sketch of The Illinois Association of the Deaf was extended to me by your esteemed President and it has given me special pleasure to respond to the best of the resources at my command. As I have been actively interested in this Association for 37 years, and have attended every meeting within that time, it is possible to supplement the official record of the proceedings of the organization with personal observations of my own. There has been no previous attempt to present the history of this Association in a concise connected narrative available to members generally which fact makes it all the more desirable that it be done on this occasion. The men and women who had to do with the origin and conduct of our organization during the first decade or two of its existence are retiring from the scenes of their earthly activities, a number already have retired, and it is important that the history of the Association, especially its early history, be made a matter of permanent record.

Associations are all alike in one respect,-they have a beginning. Beyond that point there is a tendency to diverge, each assuming its own particular identity shaped and molded by its leadership and the issues with which they have had to contend.

What we now are proud to call The Illinois Association of the Deaf, duly incorporated under the laws of the State, and owning property valued at thousands of dollars, originated under another name 47 years ago. In order to trace the history of the Association from the beginning it will be necessary to go back to the year 1877. While that is some time back it does not necessarily make a long history, as there were long intervals between the earlier conventions during which no history was made. And it is not every convention that furnishes outstanding historical features aside from the routine business transacted.

The 148th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence falls within our convention week. Everyone knows, or is suppose to know, that our National existence dates from the year 1776. How many of us who have attended the State School for the Deaf in Jacksonville can say off hand when the School was founded? According to the record, which I have found to be more reliable than my memory on that point, the School opened for business 78 years ago, in the year 1846. The School did not begin to turn out graduates until some years later so there must have been between 15 and 20 classes graduated before the Alumni of the School conceived the plan for forming an organization of their own.

That the Deaf of Illinois should at some time or other organize was inevitable. The late Rev. Frank Read, a graduate of the class of ‘62 [1862], and afterwards for many years a teacher in the School, and editor and publisher of the “Deaf-Mute Advance”, now known as the Illinois Advance, was the prime mover of the first Reunion of graduates and former pupils which was held at the School in the first week of September, 1877. Mr. Read presided at this Reunion and an organization was formed which years later evolved into the Illinois Association of the Deaf. This initial gathering of graduates and former pupils of the Illinois School under the roof of their Alma Mater was a well attended and joyous home-coming and happy reunion effected by the most elementary rules of parliamentary procedure.

The second Reunion was held at the School five years later, in the second week of September, 1882. Aside from some differences in personnel of the attendance it was a repetition of the first Reunion,–a joyous home-coming, a renewal of old friendships and in the making of men, and the taking on of a somewhat more definite form of organization.

The third Reunion was held at the School in the late summer of 1887, five years later after the previous meeting. It was a well attended and representative gathering, essentially a home-coming affair with an added touch of formality in the transaction of business. My active connection with the Association began with this meeting, at which I was elected to succeed Mr. Read as president of the organization. A year previous I had graduated from College and accepted a position at the School,–my Alma Mater. The outstanding business features of the third Reunion was the impetus given the Wait memorial for the School and the fund for the Gallaudet statue at Washington. Illinois was one of the few states raising $1,000 or more for the Gallaudet statue,–thanks to the efficiency of the state treasurer fund, Mr. Dudley W. George, and to the encouragement the project received from the then superintendent of the School, the late Dr. Philip G. Gillett.

Quite a few of you here present may be able to look back with unmixed pleasure, as I am able to do, to the golden age at the School in the later eighties [1880’s] which was marked by the advent of the gymnasium, probably the first in the country connected with a School for the Deaf, the swimming pool, the Young America Literary Society, the lecture course, the mass exhibitions, and holiday entertainments. In 1890 I resigned from my position at the School as instructor in gymnastics and removed to Philadelphia to take up Church work at All Soul’s. A few months later I went to St. Louis to take charge of the Day School there. As it was not contrary to the rules for me to continue as president of the Association, although no longer a resident of Illinois, I decided to serve out my term.

During the interval between the third and fourth meetings of this Association a few outstanding events occurred which merit recognition in an historical sketch like this. The first was the unveiling on the grounds of the National College for the Deaf at Washington, June 26, 1889, of the statue of Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet, founder of the education of the Deaf in America, to which Illinois had contributed liberally. Many members of this Association attended the unveiling ceremonies which was one of the important events in the history of the Deaf of America. At this meeting of the National Association one of our own members, Mr. Dudley W. George, was elected president. The other event of extraordinary importance was the meeting, in Paris, France, July 10-18, 1889, of the first World’s Congress of the Deaf, convened on the centennial anniversary of the death of the Abbe De L’Epee, the founder of deaf mute instruction and the universal benefactor of the Deaf. The Illinois School sent two official representatives to this Congress, Rev. Dr. P. J. Hasenstab and myself. In my capacity as president of the Alumni Association I designated Mr. O. H. Regenshurg to represent this Association at the Congress. This he did in a highly acceptable manner and at his own expense. His report, made at the fourth Reunion of our Association, appears in the National Exponent for August 30th, 1894, and concludes with the following statement:–

“To summarize my observations: the Americans are, under every condition, the superior of the foreign deaf, — socially, intellectually, morally, and industrially. And that is due almost entirely to our combined method of teaching I am more than ever convinced.”

Accustomed as we now are to meeting in convention every three years or oftener the five year periods between reunions may seem to us overlong. But we were learning by experience how to meet new situations as they arose. While retaining the social features the meetings following the third reunion gave more and more attention to the serious matters affecting the general welfare of the Deaf.

It had originally been planned to hold the fourth Reunion at the end of the usual five year period,–in 1892,–but controversy arose within the Executive Board concerning, in its inception, certain features of the program. A threatened split in the Association was averted by a compromise agreement which postponed the Reunion for two years, –until 1894. In the meantime, the second World Congress met at Chicago, July 17-24, 1893, at the time of the Columbian Exposition. This Association was numerously represented at this Congress in which our members took prominent parts. The democrats also had swept the state for the first time since the Civil War, and Dr. Gillett had been superseded as superintendent of the State School by Mr. S. T. Walker. Thus the seven year period between 1887 and 1894 included events of unusual interest and importance to the Deaf of Illinois.

The fourth Reunion was held in the State Senate Chamber in the Capitol at Springfield, Aug. 23-26, 1894. It was the first time the Association had met at other than the State School at Jacksonville. In view of the controversy already referred to there was some apprehension lest the meeting prove a stormy one. The issue of the National Exponent containing the proceedings of the convention had the following to say editorially:

“ The fourth reunion of graduates and former pupils of the Illinois Institution for the Deaf was a success which ever way we look at it. Those who attended may be said to have been the cream of the alumni and they demonstrated their ability to run things in a manner befitting statesmen.”

The same issue of the National Exponent contains an extended review of the affair by Mr. D. W. George, under the caption of “A Real Reunion,” and among other things he says:

“Many a year will pass by before one of those present at the reunion will forget that superb reception which Gov. Altgeld and his estimable wife tendered the members of the Association in the governor’s mansion. The way they got hold of their hearts was simply amazing. Long live the memory of this
glorious reunion.”

At this reunion, the fourth, I proposed an amendment to the rules making all former pupils of the Illinois School whether graduates or not eligible to active membership in the Association. This led to considerable discussion. The opposition contended that the name of the Association, “Alumni,” meant it was for graduates only. But honorably discharged pupils had been enrolled from the beginning and it would be inconsistent to exclude non-graduates among whom were some of the best citizens of the state. In reply to a question by Rev. Mr. Read as to who would pass on the qualifications for membership of other than graduates and honorably discharged pupils I said that every deaf citizen out of jail was supposed to be of good character and worthy of membership. In accordance with my motion the Association voted to enlarge the scope of its membership. Thus while the Association was “Alumni” in name it never had been so in fact. Now it became more of a “State” Association in fact but not more so in name. At this Reunion I also brought forward for the first time in the history of the Association in my address as president, the subject of having a Home for the Aged and Infirm Deaf. In the course of my treatment of the subject I took occasion to say:

“The time will surely come when Illinois will need one. A Home costs money and it takes years to raise the necessary amount. Arrangements for collection money for the Home Fund should be perfected as early as possible.”

At that time I thought it might be feasible to have an inter-state Home, with the Home located in Illinois and the adjoining states co-operating. A committee composed of Mr. George, Mr. C. D. Seaton and myself as chairman, was appointed to look into the matter and report at the next convention. This the committee did, reporting that the Associations in adjoining states were not sufficiently interested in the project to offer substantial encouragement.

At this reunion I took occasion to criticize the use of a privately owned paper, “The Deaf-Mute Advance,” as the official organ of the School, protested the paying to deaf teachers and others at the State School lower salaries than paid hearing persons for the same class of work, protested the classification of the School with other than the purely educational institutions of the State, and called the attention of the Association to the need of a compulsory education law.

At the fourth Reunion, Mr. James E Gallaher was elected to succeed me as president of the Association. The vote on the next meeting place resulted in a tie between Jacksonville and Chicago. In October following the Springfield Reunion the Association presented to the State School in Jacksonville a
beautifully carved quarter sawed oak pulpit set consisting of a chair, flower pedestal, psalm-book pedestal, and a pulpit bearing the following inscription:

In memory of
Selah Wait
Teacher in this School from
1848 to 1882
Presented by the Alumni

In my capacity as chairman of the memorial committee I made the presentation address. The gift was accepted on behalf of the School by Supt. Walker. Later on with the left over funds a bronze vase was added to the collection.

The fifth Reunion was held at Handel Hall, Chicago, August 26-28, 1897. At this convention I read a paper advocating that the name of the Association be changed to “The Illinois Gallaudet Union.” Further on I said:

“The state now contains a number of deaf citizens and tax payers who were not educated at our Alma Mater and therefore under the rules are not entitled to membership in this Association. As regards character and ability they would prove most desirable acquisitions to our ranks. They are as much concerned about the welfare of their class as any member of this Association could possibly be. They are ever ready and willing to lend a helping hand. In the past they have rendered valuable assistance. Their help is certainly needed, and never more than at the present time. What better can we do than to amend our By-Laws so as to make all deaf residents of Illinois eligible to membership?”

The convention approved the change of name and the proposition to make all deaf residents of Illinois eligible to membership in the Association. Thus the organization became a State Association in fact but under another name. Mr. Frank R. Gray was elected president at this Reunion.

The sixth convention of the Illinois Gallaudet Union met in Handel Hall, Chicago, August 30 – September 1, 1900,–the same city and place twice in succession. It had originally been planned to meet in Decatur but local conditions made a change of location advisable as convention time came around. Only routine business marked this convention. The committee on the revision of the By-Laws proposed that the name of the organization be changed from the “Illinois Gallaudet Union” to “Illinois State Association of the Deaf”, which name it now bears. Our organization had become a state association in fact some time before it became a state association in name. In 1900 in became a state association in both fact and name. On my motion the Association voted to hold its next convention in East St. Louis, during the period of the Louisiana Purchase exposition in St. Louis, and near the time of the meeting of the National Association of the Deaf, and the third World’s Congress of the Deaf, in that city. Mr. Frank R. Gray was re-elected president at this

At the sixth convention an unsuccessful effort was made to change the name of the organization back to “Alumni Association.” The membership voted more than 3 to 1 to continue as a state association. Some time after this (the sixth) convention several graduates of the Illinois School, mostly on the pay-roll of the School, met at the School to take preliminary steps towards the re-organization of the Alumni Association. I happened to have a lecture date at the School at the time the conference was held and attended. I opposed the plan to re-establish an Alumni Association as an unnecessary duplication of the same general line of work, a waste of time and energy, and the weakening of resources so greatly needed in the making of united effort for the welfare of the Deaf. However, I was alone in my opposition to the project. A temporary
organization was effected and Mr. Asa Stutsman made the head of the re-established Alumni Association of the Illinois School for the Deaf. While maintaining that a State Association was sufficient and better able to look after the interests of the Deaf of the State, and that an Alumni Association was a needless duplication of State Association work, I nevertheless joined the Alumni Association as soon as it had been re-established since I was eligible to membership and desired to keep in touch with affairs inside as well as outside of the organization.

The seventh convention of the Illinois Association of the Deaf was held in East St. Louis, August 18-19, 1904. The first day’s session met in the City Hall and the concluding session was held at Priester’s Park, a pleasure resort between East St. Louis and Belleville. At my suggestion Mr. R. P. McGregor of Ohio had been invited to address the convention on “Homes for the Aged and Infirm Deaf,” Mr. McGregor being an enthusiastic worker for the Home in Ohio. His address was an interesting, comprehensive, and instructive presentation of the subject and aided in crystallizing sentiment favorable to the Home project in Illinois. On motion of Rev. P. J. Hasentab a committee was appointed to consider the feasibility of advancing the Home project and was later authorized to take the necessary definite steps towards a plan of attainment if favorably impressed, to bring about incorporation as may be needed to give the project a legal basis. On my motion membership in this committee was restricted to actual residents of Illinois. The committee appointed to take hold of the Home project was composed of the following persons: Mr. Oscar H. Regensburg, Chairman; Mrs. A. W. Dougherty, Miss A. M. Roper; Mr. A. J. Rodenberger; Mr. E. P. Cleary; Mrs. G. E. Hasentab; and Mr. C.C. Codman. After a careful survey of the state, and due consideration of the matter, the committee decided to have the Home feature included among the objects of the Association. The
Association was duly incorporated under the date of June 24, 1905, with the following officers,-elected at the East St. Louis convention: Oscar H. Regensburg, President; A. J. Rodenburger, 1st Vice President; Miss Annie M. Roper, 2nd Vice President; E. P. Cleary, Secretary; and Edward W. Heber, Treasurer. Later on the Board of Trustees of the Home Fund organized and Mr. Cleary was made treasurer of the Home Fund, an office he has since held and filled with conspicuous ability and self-sacrificing service.

When the Local Committee of East St. Louis convention closed its affairs it was found that there was a cash balance of $50 left on hand. This sum was donated to the Home Fund.

The Alumni Association held a reunion at the State School in 1905. At this reunion I proposed that the Alumni Association join with the State Association in furthering the Home project, and led off with a voluntary donation to the Home fund. The Alumni Association agreed to work for the Home fund.

The eighth convention of the Illinois Association of the Deaf was held in the Carnegie Library building in Jacksonville, June 13-15, 1908. President Regensburg being absent in California, Vice-president Rodenberger presided. The Alumni Association convened at the Illinois School on the same dates as the State Association. The business programs of the two organizations were so adjusted so as not to conflict, thereby allowing the members of one organization to take in the business proceedings of the other, since some belonged to both Associations. The social features were merged. The report of the treasurer of the Home fund showed that it had grown from nothing to $5,113.40 since the East St. Louis convention, most of the money having been received during the last two and a half years. This exceptional record added greatly to the enthusiasm for the Home project. Rev. Mr. Hasenstab was elected president of the State Association at this convention.

The ninth convention of the Illinois Association met at the State School at Jacksonville, June 16-19, 1911, jointly with the Alumni Association. At this convention President Hasenstab suggested the advisability of merging the State and Alumni Associations into one strong organization. Each Association appointed a committee to meet and confer with the view of arranging terms on which a merger might be accomplished. The chairman of the conference committee, Mr. Rodenberger, brought in a report which was favorable towards merging the two organizations under the name of “The State-Alumni Association of the Deaf” with membership open to all deaf residents of Illinois and all graduates, honorably discharged and former pupils of the Illinois School irrespective of where they may reside. A majority was favorably disposed towards a merger but it was decided to continue the conference committee and have it report at the next convention. When the committee reported at the next convention, in 1915, the proposition to merge the two Associations was dropped because the Alumni Association was not in favor of any such step. At this convention, steps were taken towards having an exhibit at the State Fair at Springfield and a committee
was appointed to see the matter through. Rev. Mr. Hasenstab was re-elected president at this convention.

The tenth convention of the State Association was another joint affair with the Alumni Association the two organizations meeting at the State School, June 11-14, 1915. Only routine business came up for consideration. Mr. E. P. Cleary was elected president.

The eleventh convention met in Chicago Aug. 30-Sept 2, 1918. The first session was held at the Methodist Church for the Deaf, the subsequent meetings were held at All Angel’s Parish House. The treasurer of the Home fund reported a gift of $1,000 in memory of Miss Mary Ginn and another of $500 in memory of Mr. Harry R. Hart. The Association decided to affiliate with the National Association of the Deaf,–being the second State Association on record as taking such a step. Mr. Rodenberger was elected president at this convention.

The twelfth convention met in the State Senate Chamber at Springfield August 11-14, 1921. The proceeding of this convention are all too recent for detail here. It was without doubt a fine convention. The Local Committee functioned efficiently and every thing passed off smoothly. The addresses were interesting, timely, and instructive to an unusual degree. Among them should be especially noted that of Hon. W. M. Rodenberger, brother of our president, Supt. H. T. White, of the State School, and Miss Grace Hasentab, social service field worker for the State School. The placing of a wreath on the tomb of Lincoln was a happy feature of the program. It will be recalled that it was Lincoln who as president, and during the trying days of the civil war, signed the charter establishing the National College for the Deaf at Washington,–now Gallaudet College,–still the only college for the Deaf in the World. Illinois is justly proud of Lincoln and the help he rendered the cause of deaf education was not the least of his many notable deeds. Mr. Rodenberger was re-elected president at the Springfield convention.

The crowning event of years of effort in behalf of the Home for the Aged and Infirm Deaf of the State was the dedication of the Home at 4539 Grand Boulevard, Chicago, June 17, 1923. It is a fine institution, an excellent investment, commodious, well located, an ornament to the city and a credit to the State ‹and to the State Association. It was a proud moment for President Rodenberger that the Home should be dedicated during his administration,–and it was, indeed, a most happy occasion for Chairman Mr. Hart and his associates of the Board of Managers of the Home to witness the consummation of their long cherished desire and to note the unqualified approval given their work.

The history of the thirteenth convention of our Association has not yet been made. May it overshadow all its predecessors in the importance and volume of business transacted, in the membership enrolled, and in the pleasures offered by your social program.

A review of history of this Association reveals it as having made continuous progress for the advancement of the Deaf of the State. It now is on a solid foundation. Its future is in your hands and in the hands of those who come after you. You of the younger generation must carry on for the common welfare. You have years ahead. Be strong. Be unafraid. Do right. Keep unity.