Maryland School for the Blind
The Maryland School for the Blind (MSB) was established in 1853. Formal education for blind people in the U.S. and western Europe was still a relatively recent invention. In 1765, Henry Dannett established the first school with this mission in Liverpool, England. The first school in the United States to follow this model was the New England Asylum for the Blind, now known as the Perkins School For the Blind, established in March 1829.
In Maryland, the new school was established thanks to the efforts of David E. Loughery, a graduate of the Pennsylvania Institution for the Instruction of the Blind, and Washington County native Benjamin F. Newcomer, a wealthy industrialist and philanthropist. Together, they were able to generate enough interest in creating a school for the blind that the Maryland General Assembly incorporated the school in 1853. David Loughery was appointed the school’s first superintendent.
Frederick Douglas Morrison, a national leader in his profession, began his forty-year tenure as superintendent in 1864. He had a lasting impact on the school for several reasons. He was instrumental in the founding of the American Association of Instructors of the Blind; he moved the campus to North Avenue in 1868; and officially changed the name to The Maryland School for the Blind. He also founded The Maryland School for the Colored Blind and Deaf in 1872 and served as the superintendent of both schools. The practice of segregated education for black blind and deaf students continued up until 1956.
John Frances Bledsoe became superintendent in 1906 and two years later relocated the school in 1908 to the present campus in northeast Baltimore. During his thirty-seven years at the helm of the school, Dr. Bledsoe oversaw its expansion and professionalization. It was during this period when the school began its residential program with the construction of four cottages and Newcomer Hall. The latter was named for Benjamin F. Newcomer who was one of the founders of the school and who served on the board of directors for over forty years.