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Institut National de Jeunes Sourds de Paris

Laurent's home from 1897 (age 12) to 1816 (age 31) was on the vanguard of Deaf education in the world. Here we explore this incredible institution that is still teaching Deaf French citizens today!

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It's Story

How about we start with some French DeafHistory?

Institut National de Jeunes Sourds de Paris or National Institute for Deaf Children of Paris is the current name of the school for the Deaf founded by Charles-Michel de l'Épée, in stages, between 1750 and 1760 in Paris, France.


After the death of Père Vanin in 1759, the Abbé de l'Épée was introduced to two deaf girls who were in need of a new instructor. The school began in 1760 and shortly thereafter was opened to the public and became the world's first free school for the deaf. It was originally located in a house at 14 rue des Moulins, butte Saint-Roch, near the Louvre in Paris. On July 29, 1791, the French legislature approved government funding for the school and it was renamed: "Institution Nationale des Sourds-Muets à Paris. (From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)


The national institute for the Deaf is established on a historic site, situated in the Latin quarter. The remnants of a Gallo-Roman oven were uncovered in the 80’s during the construction of the vocational workshop building. In 1286, a hostel welcomes the pilgrims who are going to St Jacques de Compostelle. In 1572, Catherine de Médicis houses the Benedictines of Saint Magloire's abbey in its buildings. In 1618, the Oratorians organize a seminar which Jean de la Fontaine attends. In 1760, Abbot de l’Epée ( 1712-1789 ) opens a free school for deaf children in his house, on 14 Moulins street (now called Thérèse street). His teaching is based on his methodical sign method. In 1791, the French Revolution founds the Institution for the Deaf at birth and gives the Abbot’s foundation the national dimension which it deserved. His school is transferred to the convent of Célestins, near the Arsenal and supervised by abbot Sicard . In April, 1794, the institution is transferred to Saint Jacques street. It is the first public school in the world for deaf children. Abbot Sicard is the first director. It is conceived from the beginning as a charity institution, a school, a vocational training center, a place to live in and a research laboratory. Several XIXth century  personalities live there and carry out research. Doctor Itard who took in Victor de l' Aveyron,  the wild child, or Bébian, the first school principal, the author of a sign language dictionary and the inventor of  bilingual education.

Remarkable deaf pupils, who became teachers, have left their mark on INJS and in the world history of the Deaf : Laurent Clerc, a brilliant pupil of Abbot Sicard, leaves for the USA in 1816, with Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet. They found the first school for the Deaf in the New World, in Hartford (Connecticut). Ferdinand Berthier, a famous activist for the cause of the Deaf, a teacher in the institute, author of the Napoleon code concerning the Deaf, the founder in 1838 of the Central Society for help and assistance of the Deaf-mutes, and a passionate advocate of  sign language.

These deaf personalities illustrate the considerable outcomes of the work of Abbot de l’Epée : access for the Deaf to education, to citizenship, to clubs and intellectual or artistic societies, and development of  sign language. (Courtesy of INJS)

Laurent's Diet

His food was mainly vegetables and fruits from the garden. Students had soup at 3 meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner/supper). The soup was made from carrots, turnips, potatoes, cabbages and lot of onions, all of that garden grown and organic. They eat nearly no meat, or very few (55 gr per person 3 or 4 times a week) sometimes an egg or a cup of cottage cheese or a small piece of dried fish. No sugar or sweets, except for Sunday dinner  (a bit of jam or applesauce with a piece of simple cake). Milk was consumed once a week . There was no butter or cream. Fruits were available when trees of the back garden produced some (pears, apples, nuts and dried figs). There was more easily bread. Bread at every meal, but again had to be rationed. Abbé Sicard was always struggling for money to feed pupils and teachers. They would be consider healthy and fit at that time, as this diet of poor people was actually quite healthy. The ration of wine was very light (8 or 9° alcohol, diluted in water with a mixture 1 p of wine for 9 p of water). It was used to " mask" the odd taste of water, which was not very fresh at that time. Sometimes the students would be given a small portion of beer, for health reasons, prescribed by the doctor, supposed to heal anemia. (Courtesy of Anne Picaud)

CLINDOEIL22 Musée d'Histoire et de Culture des Sourds

Discussion about Laurent Clerc

Laurent's Clothes

The Museum of History and Culture of the Deaf of Louhans has a small collection of uniforms buttons from Deaf

schools. Among them there is a button from the school on rue Saint Jacques in Paris. (René Legal).

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