THE WHIPPLE HOME School for Deaf-Mutes (later known as the Mystic Oral School) was begun in 1869 in a farmhouse in Quakertown (Ledyard, Connecticut) by Zerah C. Whipple, whose goal was to replicate the success of his grandfather Jonathan Whipple in teaching lip-reading and speech to his deaf son (Zerah's uncle) Enoch. Zerah did this with the help of a system of his own devising known as Whipple's Natural Alphabet, in which symbols represent various movements of the mouth as it produces specific sounds.

Within five years of its beginning, the school had relocated to a farm on a hilltop overlooking the Mystic river. Although Zerah died in 1879, at the age of thirty, the school continued to be administered by members of the family until 1921, first by Zerah's brother-in-law N. Frank Whipple, then by his aunt Margaret Whipple Hammond, and finally by her daughter, Dr. Clara Hammond McGuigan, who at the end of her tenure turned over ownership and supervision of the school to the State of Connecticut. The State of Connecticut closed the school in 1980; however, it continues to use the facility, known now as the Mystic Educational Center.

General Information
  • The Whipple Home School for the Deaf -- Margaret Whipple Hammond's brief history of the school, 1869-1893, written while she was serving as its superintendent. "The school is, as its name indicates, a Home School. All, including the scholars, are members of one large family"

  • The Whipple Method -- An essay describing Zerah Whipple and his methods of teaching, adapted from a talk given in 1891 by one of his former pupils, Miss Daisy Way of Kansas City, Missouri. "His whole mind was bent upon the duty of perfecting his alphabet for so long a period, and after its completion his demise followed so swiftly, that no time was left for the elaboration of the details of his teaching"

Zerah C. Whipple
  • Mystic Oral School Report, 1898 -- Semi-annual report, including a history of the school. "New Jersey offered to equip and liberally endow a school with Zerah at its head if he would remove his school there, but he could not be induced to desert his native state"

  • Mystic Oral School for the Deaf -- Clara Hammond McGuigan's history of the Mystic Oral School, written in 1922, just after she had signed the school over to the State of Connecticut and retired as its superintendent. "It is now a State School. It is the only Pure Oral School in the State. It represents the most advanced method known in the education of the deaf"

  • Silas Burrows House -- This building housed the Whipple Home School for Deaf-Mutes (aka Mystic Oral School) when it first moved from Quakertown to Mystic

Mystic Oral School, ca. 1912

Zerah C. Whipple's Annual Reports to the State of Connecticut

  • May 19th, 1873 -- "We labor under great disadvantages, having so little means with which to purchase needed books and school apparatus; but we are very much in earnest in our work, and what we cannot get we intend to succeed without"

  • May 26th, 1874 -- "This farm... is better adapted to the needs of an institution like ours than any place with which I am acquainted"

  • February 22nd, 1877 -- "Francis G. Thomas, who entered this school in March, 1876, unable to understand a word from the lips, can now read sentences even when spoken with almost ordinary rapidity"

  • June 26th, 1878 -- "Only two cases of sickness worthy of mention occured. One death has occurred"


  • "Jonathan Whipple" -- A biographical sketch written by Ida Whipple Benham, published in American Annals of the Deaf, 1892

  • The Autobiography of Jonathan Whipple -- Written during the last half decade of his life, either during 1870 or 1871, it concludes with an account of his success in teaching the deaf to speak

  • Jonathan Whipple, Jr. -- Zerah Whipple's father; his 1868 letter to his brother Enoch, written as he attempted to raise funds to begin the Whipple Home School

  • "Nathan Frank Whipple" -- Obituary published following his sudden death on Feb. 12, 1908, by the American Association to Promote the Teaching of Speech to the Deaf

  • "Clara M. (Hammond) McGuigan, M.D." -- Biographical sketch that appeared in B. T. Marshall's Modern History of New London County (New York: Lewis Historical Publishing Company, 1922). Includes genealogical information about Dr. McGuigan's Hammond antecedents


  • "An Oral History" -- Article from The New London Day by Eileen Jenkins, December 12, 2003. "Ledyard home, early school for deaf, has a rich past dating to the 1700s"



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