History

Photo of the main entrance of the old school building

The Wisconsin School for The Blind and Visually Impaired is located in Janesville Wisconsin and was founded in 1849.  The school is in fact the first public institution chartered by the state legislature.

The Alumni Association of the Wisconsin School for the Blind and Visually Impaired was formed in 1897 and has been previously known as the Alumni Association of the Wisconsin School for the Visually Handicapped and prior to that the Alumni Association of the Wisconsin School for the Blind.

Below are a few historical highlights as well as links to more information about the history of the school and the Free Press.

  • Typewriting was first taught in 1889 as a curriculum subject.
  • Penmanship was first offered to partials in 1918.  The theory was that partials were straining their vision in public school to get a couple useful skills, and if WSB could give them those skills instead, it would be “conserving” their limited vision.  It became a regular course in 1930.
  • In the early 1900s, instead of traveling to other schools for major athletic events, each school held their own event and results were telegraphed to the others and tabulated.
  • Summer school began in 1918, with a class of 14 men.
  • Smoking was disallowed anywhere on the school grounds in the early 1920s–not even by visitors or adult staff–because Superintendent Hooper felt that he couldn’t rightly tell parents they were taking as good care of the children as they would have received at home.  At home, the children would not have such easy access to smoking materials, nor so many smokers around them.
  • In the early days, non-denominational Sunday services were held at the School, instead of sending the children out.  Different speakers came each week, often from area churches.
  • In the 1920s, the Workshop for the Blind and the School were both under the supervision of the School’s superintendent.
  • The School’s music program was so advanced, that in 1926, WSVH was moved to Class A, despite its small size, in order to give other Class B and Class C schools a fair chance in the statewide music competitions.  Even in Class A, WSVH won many of the solo events.