Another Deaf Ancestor / Hero – Dr. John Hotchkiss

hi all

i put up a few postings re: George Veditz (see Oct archives-each word link to separate post) and wanted to signout praise for Dr. John Hotchkiss – another amazing Deaf educator, leader, and ancestor. Ill let him speak for himself with these excerpts as this is one of my all-time favorites of the NAD motion picture collection

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Below is my rough English translation for the above excerpt of Hotchkiss’ storytelling re: Clerc if u have any trouble following him at first.

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I hope it will not be a long, long time before you study Hotchkiss – while i adore Veditz, his Preservation of Sign Language speech, and all he did for the Deaf community, I also cherish Hotchkiss as the oldest recorded descendent of Laurent Clerc and our great-great-great …. grandfather 😉

u can see him signing his full Memories of Old Hartford in the old NAD motion picture project by going to Gallaudet’s Video Library – this should be a direct link thanks to Brian Riley for sending it my way –

Pls go to and order a copy of the complete version – makes a great Deafhood BIRTHDAY or holiday gift

In my previous post re: … And let there be light – i have another excerpt of Hotchkiss re: bi-bi method by Clerc at ASD inserted in my Vlog and a rough translation

——— Rough translation of the video excerpt at top—————

Another time Clerc called a boy who had passed by his house asking, “Please tell the (name sign of bent L handshape going downward from top of lips to bottom of chin indicating a beard) S-T-E-W-A-R-D (director of the school) to please have wood delivered to me.” “My pleasure,” the boy replied and went on his way. But this boy completely forgot about this message as his mind was set on playing. Thus, it completely slipped his mind to inform Steward of Clerc’s message of his need for wood and Clerc never received any.

A few days passed and again Clerc approached this boy, tapping him with his walking stick and holding him by the shoulders. “I told YOU to PLEASE tell Steward to bring me wood and you said, ‘Ah huh, Yes, Yes, Yes’ but instead you went off and completely forgot. Darn you for forgetting.” (signs something on mouth I cant catch???) and he went off in a huff. As days went by, Clerc would continue to bump into this boy and would always say “Darn, you’re the boy who forgot” (hand at mouth??) and stomp off.

The boy was embarrassed and became weary of Clerc’s insults so he decided to go to him and ask his forgiveness for having forgotten to deliver the message to which Clerc let out a joyful laugh and said “alright, you are forgiven, you are forgiven, be on your way.” And with that they parted.

Merrie Davidson & Patricia Clark have translated the full Memories of Old Hartford by Hotchkiss to English. It will be published in the forthcoming book by Dr. Ted Supalla and Patricia Clark along with translations of other signed speeches in the old NAD motion picture project collection. I believe Davidson and Clark’s Hotchkiss translation is superior to my rough draft of these excerpts but until it is published and permitted to be reproduced – mine will have to suffice.

Corrections to either translation i have posted are most WELCOME.

There are many more priceless moments in the full “Memories of Old Hartford” video – i hope you will watch it in full

Brian Riley sent me this neat quote from In a different voice: Sign language preservation and America’s deaf community
Bilingual Research Journal, Fall 2000 by Burch, Susan

Indeed, few people who viewed “Memories of Old Hartford,” in which Hotchkiss described the founding of the first school for the Deaf and the role of Deaf pioneer Laurent Clerc, left with dry eyes. Hotchkiss’ detailed description of his mentor had cultural and historical significance. Hotchkiss leaned toward his audience when he created a window into the personal past of a Deaf hero, parsing his sentences with his signature shrugs and nods. He frequently emphasized how well Clerc communicated, his striking figure-cane in hand, top hat and neat clothing-as well as Clerc’s unlimited devotion to educating students and teaching academic subjects as well as manners. This personal memory passed along Clerc’s tradition of articulate Sign Language, his attention to the next generation of Deaf people, and his gentle aristocratic approach to life. It also linked the generations by conveying in vivid detail one of the most revered figures in Deaf culture (Hotchkiss, 1997) (referencing SMI re-release of the old NAD motion pictures)


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