History Links

Gallaudet Letters
History Trunk icon

Thomas H. Gallaudet

What do you want to do with your life?

Thomas Gallaudet iconThat’s a difficult decision to make. Thomas H. Gallaudet struggled with this question until he met a little deaf girl in need of help. This section of the Deaf Is... web site will tell you about the challenges he faced and goals he achieved.

Biography of Thomas Gallaudet

Painting of Thomas GallaudetThomas Hopkins Gallaudet was born in Philadelphia on December. 10, 1787. His family moved to Hartford in 1800.

Thomas was a good student and impressed people with his intellect. When he was 15, he went to Yale. After he graduated, he tried different things but really didn't know what he wanted to do for a career. His health was not good and that limited what he could do for work. He tried being a lawyer, a clerk, a peddler (traveling salesman) and a minister. None of these were right for him.

What would he do?

Thomas Gallaudet PortraitOne day while he was home on a break, he met little Alice Cogswell, the deaf daughter of his neighbors, Dr. Mason Cogswell and his wife Mary.

Alice was bright, but there were no schools to educate deaf children. Dr. Cogswell asked if Thomas would be interested in helping to find a way to educate Alice and other deaf children in the Hartford area.

He was not sure of what the future would bring, but he accepted the challenge. Thomas NOW knew how he could use his skills.

Letters of Thomas Gallaudet

While traveling in Europe, Gallaudet and Alice corresponded with each other. He was truly on a mission to bring the best education to her and other deaf children in America.

Do you think this was an easy or difficult task?

What were the challenges Gallaudet faced?

How did Alice feel?

Read the letters and relive their story.