Fred’s Head from APH, a Blindness Blog

Fred’s Head, offered by the American Printing House for the Blind, contains tips, techniques, tutorials, in-depth articles, and resources for and by blind or visually impaired people. Our blog is named after the legendary Fred Gissoni, renowned for answering a seemingly infinite variety of questions on every aspect of blindness.

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Monday, October 22, 2012

The Tools of New York Point

This wood and nickel-plated brass desk slate was set up to write in the New York Point system.

Our APH museum has a lot of braille-writing tools. We have the first successful mechanical braille writer, invented in Illinois in 1892. We have handwriting guides and slates in many shapes and sizes. We even have tools for writing in other systems that competed with the Braille system in the 19th century. So when Lisa Parker of Wellston, OH went online in search of information about her great grandmother's strange old clipboard and that stack of dotted cards, it did not take her long to stumble across our website.

Her great grandmother, Maude Gilliland Burton, had had an interesting life. Blinded at birth by a doctor's mistake, she had attended the Ohio School for the Blind in Columbus from 1900-1907 but returned home to graduate. She married a local farmer, Walter Burton, raised a son on the family farm they bought from her parents, and from all accounts lived and worked a normal life. Her family remembered her abilities to cook and work around the farm as "almost magical." But her time in Columbus was a virtual unknown to the family. And how the metal frame with its odd little windows fit into that story was another mystery.

Parker had done her homework. She thought the dots on the stack of cards looked different from the braille we use today. We were able to confirm that the cards were written in New York Point, a dot system introduceded at the New York Institute for the Blind in 1868. Most schools for the blind in the U.S. used New York Point, and it was taught in Ohio until replaced by braille after 1910. Maude Burton's wooden and nickel-plated brass desk slate was set up to write in the New York system.
The Parker Family decided to donate the slate to the Printing House Museum in memory of Maude Gilliland Burton. One of the embossed cards contained a cryptic cookie recipe that you can find here

"Cookies Smedley"

Transcribed from a manuscript written in New York Point by Maude Gilliland Burton, ca. 1905. New York Point was a dot reading and writing system that competed with braille in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
1 qt. flour
2 c. sugar
1 lb. lard
1 ts. bp {baking powder}
2 ts. soda
2 c. buttermilk
Mix as any other cookies

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