Home > Deaf History > Students learning sign language, 1893 (rare picture)

Students learning sign language, 1893 (rare picture)

February 7, 2008

Fookem and Bug found this rare picture. We are not sure where this picture was taken at. It might be somewhere in Canada at Nova Scotia. They would be 113 year old if they are still here today. Sign language is still beautiful and alive.

Gauvin & Gentzel


School for the Hearing Handicapped

Reference no.:
accession no. 1990-205

NSARM neg. no.:

Categories: Deaf History
  1. Misha
    February 7, 2008 at 2:07 pm

    *hands wave*

    Such beautiful picture showing the kids and a teacher using the most beautiful language called ASL!

    *hands wave again*

    Misha 😀

  2. ASL Risen
    February 7, 2008 at 2:16 pm

    My eyes WIDE OPEN and my jaw dropped!!! Wow BEAUTIFUL PICTURE!!! Thank you for bright my mood and ENERGY!!! Hugs, S

  3. Kelly87
    February 7, 2008 at 2:18 pm


  4. DeafASLman
    February 7, 2008 at 2:34 pm


    Thanks a lot for letting us see the beautiful picture! Thanks, God. ASL is much alive!


  5. deafchipmunk
    February 7, 2008 at 2:42 pm

    It brought me to tears. Deaf students and teacher were happy and so natural. I wish to see more of them around here today.


  6. Deaf Nova Scotian
    February 7, 2008 at 2:45 pm

    Actually, there were two photographs taken at the Halifax (Nova Scotia) School for the Deaf in 1893 for the Annual report. In this above photo the deaf pupils were learning one-hand ABC from the unidentified teacher. In the other photo, which you do not have, the same children were working on their speech and lipreading. In the 1880’s and 1890’s, there were at least two “manual” classes for children who had difficulty in mastering speech and lipreading and received their education in sign language. The other classes did not allow sign language IN the room. They learnt a lot through writing and reading. However, the students were allowed to use Maritime Sign Language (MSL)(not ASL)outside the classroom. There were some deaf teachers now teaching sewing, shoemaking, printing, and art.

    Maritime Sign Language (MSL) includes a mixture of British Sign language, home signs, possibly some ASL and possibly some signs from the Martha’s Vineyard. Some MSL signs are still evident here in our deaf community. MSL is a really beautiful and unique language.

    The Halifax School for the Deaf was in Halifax, the capital of Nova Scotia – from 1856 to 1961 – before the move to a bigger school in Amherst, Nova Scotia to accommodate children from four Atlantic Provinces. The tiniest province, Prince Edward Island, maintained their oral program. Now the school in Amherst closed down in 1995. Today, students attend day classes or regular school with or without support services in their home towns. That is a nutshell in Deaf education in the Maritimes.

  7. deafchipmunk
    February 7, 2008 at 2:59 pm

    I am not sure if it was in Nova Scotia because Nova Scotians at that time did not use American Sign Langauge. It was Maritime Sign Language. As of now, MSL is in danger of extinct. At that time, ASL was used by Deaf Canadians living from east of Ontario all the way to west of British Columbia. LSQ (Quebec Sign Language) was used in Quebec. MSL was used in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island. Newfoundland was not part of Canada until 1949 however Deaf Newfoundlanders used MSL anyway. (that is my understanding and please correct me if I am wrong).

    Now almost all of Deaf people use ASL in (English community) Canada and Deaf people in Quebec (French community)use LSQ.


  8. February 7, 2008 at 4:40 pm

    Old time photographers were true artists at extracting the full values from black to white in their portraits. We see less of this today. You must have received an original scan because reprinting and copying from publications would not have kept this beautiful tonal range. Kudos, keep digging them up!

    February 7, 2008 at 5:34 pm

    Finaly some one is teaching the right handshape for the letter “e” …. now a days people are siging it wrong !

  10. February 7, 2008 at 5:34 pm

    That really is a beautiful picture, and I love their expressions especially the boy’s.

  11. February 7, 2008 at 5:45 pm

    Hey Fookem and Bug,

    Let you know this photo taken by Nova Scotia which school at School for the Hearing Handicapped, Halifax and Its People / 1749-1999
    Students learning sign language, 1893 related to: http://www.gov.ns.ca
    In Canada.. That’s correct!

    I’m proud Canadian! 🙂

  12. Gulhan Kamile Kutlu
    February 7, 2008 at 6:15 pm

    Made me wonder how their lives were like then. Married, kids, families, death. Their parents knew ASL or not. How they dealt with…etc. Wish they would write their own books sharing their experiences!

  13. Deaf Nova Scotian
    February 7, 2008 at 7:06 pm


    What I have provided is accurate. The original name was the Institution for the Deaf and Dumb, which later on became the School for the Deaf. The info provided by the NS Public Archives (under the NS government) was inaccurate.

    I don’t want to go on and on so you best buy Clifton Carbin’s excellent book, Deaf Heritage in Canada. It provides very detailed info about each school across Canada. The school in Nova Scotia had several names. One of them had “Hearing Handicapped” at one point (when it was in Amherst).

  14. February 7, 2008 at 7:08 pm

    Very classical picture!

    It’ll be great if we include this picture on any cover letters relating to ASL and LSQ.

    I fingerspell E the wrong way still.

  15. February 7, 2008 at 7:09 pm

    One more thing, it’ll be great if I was this little guy in the picture, being the only male in the classroom.

  16. Jean Boutcher
    February 7, 2008 at 8:14 pm

    In responce to #8:

    That is because it took the lens of an old-fashioned
    camera in the mid 1800s to shoot. Which is why the
    posed stood stiff with crossed arms, unsmilingly. Nowadays, the posed look much less stilff and manage
    to smile because the lens of a modern camera takes a nanasecond to shoot.

  17. February 7, 2008 at 9:06 pm

    Oh, I’m so speechless. I stared at the picture and wow, it’s beautiful! I loved this picture and wonder if I can put it on my blog?

  18. February 7, 2008 at 10:16 pm

    Deaf Nova Scotia..
    Thanks for spilling little news about before title…

  19. February 8, 2008 at 12:38 am

    Dear Readers,

    Many thanks for your help. You poured a lot of informations in here. What a interesting history. Feel free to write some more about this picture if you happen to know them in the picture or whatever. It’s nice to see everyone writing in here to share with others. Thanks to each of you. Keep writing.


  20. seekgeo
    February 9, 2008 at 12:51 am

    Wow.. beautiful picture! I was speechless when I saw it! I love looking at old pictures. It is definitely make my night!!

    Thanks for sharing.


  21. Arianne
    February 9, 2008 at 11:32 am

    Interesting… Few months ago, I looked up for archives on oral education (pictures) and shared those with my students. The pictures of oral education shows students with serious look. I assumed that its the way it was back then. But in this picure, the students are smiling. This says a lot. Thank u so much for sharing!

  22. wildtaz
    February 11, 2008 at 8:54 pm

    very beautiful picture

  1. February 7, 2008 at 6:00 pm
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