Helen Keller meets Charlie Chaplin, while visiting California during the filming of Deliverance. Keller, Anne Sullivan, and Polly Thomson are sitting on wicker chairs, possibly rocking chairs, while Charlie Chaplin stands behind them. He is pointing at something off camera. Anne Sullivan is finger spelling to Helen Keller. 1918
Helen Keller Photograph Collection Finding Aid
TITLE: Helen Keller Photograph Collection
CREATOR: Perkins School for the Blind
DATE RANGE: 1886-1968
CALL NUMBER: AG62
This collection includes photographs from the Helen Keller Photograph Collection (AG62) detailing the lives of Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan Macy, as well as Nella Braddy Henney, and Polly Thomson. It spans the time from Annie Sullivan’s arrival at the Keller household, through Helen Keller’s time at the hospital before her death, and documents Helen’s years as a student at Perkins School for the Blind, her friendships with celebrities, such as Charlie Chaplin, Alexander Graham Bell, and Eleanor Roosevelt, and her participation in world affairs. It also includes such events as the dedication of the Keller-Sullivan building at Perkins School for the Blind, Nella’s friendship with Anne and Helen, and Helen and Anne’s time on the lecture circuit, including their short time on the Vaudeville circuit. Other special memorabilia includes a copy of a brochure advertising the silent film, Deliverance. This collection also includes a series of photographs from the late 1980s/early1990s of a Memorial sculpted in memory of Anne Sullivan and Helen Keller, erected at the Tewksbury Almshouse, where Anne spent several years during childhood.
RELATED MATERIALS: Nella Braddy Henney collection (AG151)
PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION (measured in linear feet): -- linear foot
Anne Sullivan was born in April 1866, in Feeding Hills, Massachusetts, the oldest child of Irish immigrants, Thomas and Alice Sullivan. At the age of five, Anne contracted trachoma, which resulted in pain and severe loss of vision. After her mother’s death when Anne was eight years old, her father was unable to care for his children and abandoned them. Anne and her brother Jimmy were sent to the Tewksbury Almshouse, where Jimmy died after three months. While at the Almshouse, Anne underwent a series of eye operations, in the hope of treating her trachoma. Later in her life, an eye operation successfully restored enough of her vision to enable her to read print, but nonetheless her eyes would plague her for the rest of her life.
In 1880, Anne was able to finally attend school. At age fourteen, despite being uneducated and illiterate upon entering, she quickly rose to the top of her class at Perkins School for the Blind, graduating as valedictorian of her class in June 1886. A few short months later, she was sent by Michael Anagnos to Tuscumbia, Alabama to teach the young Helen Keller, whose parents had contacted Perkins in search of a teacher for their daughter.
Helen was born a healthy baby on June 27, 1880 in Tuscumbia, Alabama to retired army Captain Arthur Keller and his second wife, Kate. Helen had a younger brother, Phillips Brooks, and a sister, Mildred. When she was nineteen months old, she became very ill with a high fever. Doctors at the time diagnosed this as “brain fever” or “brain congestion”, but experts today believe that she most likely suffered from scarlet fever or meningitis.
Helen developed her own system of hand gestures to communicate with her family, and by the time she was seven she had nearly 60 such gestures. Nonetheless, she was frequently frustrated by the inability to express herself. When Anne Sullivan arrived to teach her in 1887, Helen quickly learned to use sign language, as well as to read braille and raised type, to write in block letters, and to speak and read lips.
After homeschooling had run its course, Anne decided that Helen would benefit from the resources of a school, and Helen went on to study at Perkins School for the Blind for four years, beginning in 1888. She then spent one year at the Cambridge School for Young Ladies to prepare for Radcliffe College. In 1904 she graduated cum laude from Radcliffe and became the first person with deafblindness to receive a Bachelor of Arts degree.
Helen Keller was a prolific writer, publishing 14 books and numerous articles. She traveled across the globe, tirelessly advocating for important social issues, such as women’s suffrage and rights for people who are blind or deafblind. She received numerous awards throughout her life for her humanitarian efforts. In 1964, Lyndon B. Johnson awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom, which is the highest American honor.
Helen had many friends who were celebrities, including Alexander Graham Bell, Eleanor Roosevelt, Charlie Chaplin, and Martha Graham, who all appear in this collection. Helen died in 1968, after a life full of finding her place “to feel at home in the great world.”
It is the responsibility of the user to obtain permission to publish from the owner of the copyright (the institution, the creator of the record, the author or his/her transferees, heirs, legates, or literary executors). The user agrees to indemnify and hold harmless Perkins School for the Blind, its officers, employees, and agents from and against all claims made by any person asserting that he or she is an owner of copyright.
Helen Keller Photo Collection. Perkins School for the Blind.
Keller, Helen, 1880-1968.
Henney, Nella Braddy, 1894-
Perkins Institution and Massachusetts School for the Blind.
Perkins School for the Blind.
Perkins School for the Blind. Dept. for Deaf-Blind Children.
Perkins School for the Blind--History.
Sullivan, Annie, 1866-1936.
Folder 1 : Anne Sullivan (later Anne Sullivan Macy), alone [1880s, 1930s], 16 photographs, many duplicates. As a young woman, including one of her right before she arrived in Tuscumbia, Alabama. Two photographs are of her older, likely taken only 2-3 years before her death in 1936.
Folder 2 : Helen Keller, as a child, with others [1890s] 7 photographs, some duplicates. One photograph is of Helen’s younger brother, Phillips Brooks, and younger sister, Mildred, with their nurse, 1893. The photographs is mislabeled as “Helen Keller as a child in Tuscumbia, ALA.” However, the photograph printed in an article (photocopy of the photograph within the article is included here), correctly indentifies the persons photographed. Also included are two photographs of Helen Keller with then-director of Perkins School for the Blind, Michael Anagnos, photographed in 1891. A copy of a photograph shows Helen Keller with Alexander Graham Bell, along with the caption, “Helen Keller with her ‘friend’ Alexander Graham Bell.” Also included is a studio photograph of Helen Keller and Mr. Gilman, the then-Director of the Cambridge School for Young Girls, a college preparatory school for Radcliffe College, the womens “annex” to Harvard University. Also included is a photograph with baby Mildred, a photocopy of the photograph with Michael Anagnos, and a photocopy of Helen Keller reading a raised print book.
Folder 3 : Helen Keller, as a child, with Anne Sullivan Macy [1880s-1890s] 13 photographs, a reproduction negative and photomechanical reproductions, many duplicates.
Folder 4 : Helen Keller, as a child, alone, or with her dog (Lioness) [1880s-1890s], 12 photographs, some duplicates. Includes one photograph of Helen taken while she attended Perkins School for the Blind.
Folder 5 : Helen Keller with Edith Thomas, Thomas Stringer and Elizabeth Robbins [ca. 1890, ca. 1950], 8 photographs, many duplicates. Includes 4 copies of a studio photograph of Helen Keller with Edith Thomas, Elizabeth Robbins, and Tommy Stringer, who Helen helped to raise money for to bring him to Perkins School for the Blind. Also 3 copies of a studio photograph of Helen Keller and Edith Thomas. One photograph from ca. 1950 of a banquet honoring Keller at Perkins. [See also the Students with Deafblindness Photo Collection for more photographs and research.]
Folder 6 : Helen Keller as an adolescent, alone [n.d, ca. 1899] 7 photographs
Folder 7 : Helen Keller, as a young adult [1900s-1910s], 9 items, includes photographs, postcards and publications. Includes one photographs of Helen Keller with Phiz, a Boston Terrier, who was a gift from her Radcliffe classmates, with the inscription, “To Dr. Bridgman From Helen Keller.” It’s in Helen’s handwriting, and is dated March 1905. Also included is a graduation photo of Helen from Radcliffe, dressed in her cap and gown.
Folder 8 : Helen Keller, as a young adult, with others [n.d, 1925, ca. 1930] 5 items, photographs and newspaper clippings. Includes the photograph of Helen Keller with Alexander Graham Bell, although with no additional caption. Also has a newspaper clipping with photograph of Helen visiting Luther Burbank, the famous Plant Wizard. A second newspaper clipping shows Helen meeting the Indian poet, sage, and educationalist, Sir Rabindranath Tagore. Also included is a photograph of Helen with her mother, Kate Keller, and teacher, Anne Sullivan Macy.
Folder 9 : Helen Keller, with Anne Sullivan Macy, Polly Thomson, and Charlie Chaplin [ca. 1919], 2 photographs and 1 negative. When the three women were in California to film Deliverance.
Folder 10 : Helen Keller, as a young adult, with Anne Sullivan Macy [n.d.], 2 photographs
Folder 11 : Helen Keller, as a middle-aged woman, alone [n.d., 1932], 3 photographs. 2 of the photographs are of Helen Keller at her desk typing on a briller and one on the beach at Polperro, Cornwall, United Kingdom.
Folder 12 : Helen Keller, visiting blinded veterans during and after World War 2 [1944, ca. 1944] 4 photographs. One photograph also has soldiers Corp. Peter K .Lucas and Ralph E. Dickerson.
Folder 13 : Helen Keller, middle-aged, with others. [1918, 1921,1931, n. d.], 8 photographs. Has a second photograph of Helen meeting with Sir Rabindranath Tagore, two photographs of their time in California, and two copies of the photograph of Helen Keller tries the new Visagraph at the 1931 World Conference of Work for the Blind, in New York. Several men look on as she tries the new device, including inventor, Mr. Robert Naumburg.
Folder 14 : Helen Keller, in her later life, alone or with her dog [n.d., 1957, 1950s] 7 photographs and postcards. Includes photograph later used as an image for the 1980 World Conference for the Blind. Also includes one photograph of Helen Keller with her Akita dog, Kamikaze.
Folder 15 : Helen Keller, in her later life, with others/Public Events [n. d., 1950s], 9 photographs. Banquet at Perkins featuring Dr. Waterhouse, the then-director, Helen Keller accepting the gift of a Perkins Brailler from Dr. Waterhouse, with young children, at the White House, with Perkins student Linda Reynolds, dancing with a serviceman, and Martha’s Vinyard with Elenor Roosevelt.
Folder 16 : Helen Keller, in old age [n. d. 1961], 4 color photographs. Features two photographs from Helen’s 1961 visit to Martha’s Vineyard, and two portraits reading a braille book.
Folder 17 : Anne Sulivan, with biographer Nella Braddy Henney, and others. [late-1920s-1930s], 7 photographs, some duplicates.
Folder 18 : Tewskbury Almshouse Keller-Sullivan Macy statue unveiling ceremony  13 color photographs. 2 of the photographs are of the Almshouse. Several photographs feature various speakers, and the unveling of the memorial, a statue replicating the famous scene by the water pump.
Folder 19 : Ivy Green, Perkins and Brewster, MA Home [n.d., 1936, 1987], 10 photographs, many duplicates. Two postscards of Ivy Green, Helen Keller’s birthplace, and many images of Brewster, MA home that belonged to Mrs. Sophia Hopkins, a house matron at the Perkin's, where Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan summered.
Folder 20 : Slide and Misc. [n.d., 1887, 1901] 4 black and white slides, and one image of newspaper headline “Obstacles to Helen Keller’s Marrying for Doubleday & Co. publication, slides include Helen Keller, Alexander Graham Bell, Anne Sullivan.
Folder 21 : Pamphlets/Publications [n. d., 1920, 1987] 5 items. Includes pamphlet from Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan Macy’s first lecture tour, on the subject, “The Heart and the Hand, or the right use of our senses.” Also one for the release of Deliverance, billing Helen as the 8th Wonder of the World. Third pamphlet is from Perkins School for the Blind, dated 1987, is to commemerate the 100th anniversary of Anne’s arrival in Tuscumbia, Alabama (two copies).
Folder 22: Formal portrait [n. d.], 1 color photograph. Later in life with blue dress, reading a large braille volume.
Folder 23: Keller/Thomson with geese [n. d.], 3 black and white photographs. Helen Keller and Polly Thomson at edge of water feeding large geese. Note on envelope reads: Japan? California?
Folder 24: With blinded WWII veteran, , 1 black and white photograph (reproduction, original in collection). Helen Keller and Polly Thomson at the bedside of a soldier blinded during the second World War. In addition to the officer in the bed, another stands directly to the side of Keller. The photograph has the following inscription: "To Nella, who has eyes to read our hearts and the meaning of the supreme experience we are living through. Helen Keller", and is also signed by Polly Thomson.
Folder 25: Braddy Henney photographs, [1938, n. d.], 12 photographs and 3 documents. Photographs from Forest Hills, and misc. images of Keller and Sullivan.
Folder 26: Boat trip , 10 photographs. Keller and Polly Thomson on boat trip with unidentified family.
Folder 27: Reproduction prints [n. d.],18 photographs, misc. prints spanning Keller lifetime.
Folder 28: Misc, [n. d.], 3 photographs. Keller and Sullivan in dollshop, Early Keller Sullivan, and Keller and Polly Thomson on telephone.
Folder 29: Louis Betts painting , 1 photograph and 1 letter. Photograph of painting made by Louis Betts of Keller-Sullivan portrait with Keller’s hand on Sullivan’s lips.
Folder 30: Tewksbury Almshouse statue dedication [1985, 1992], 25 color photographs, one letter. Statue of Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan by Mico Kaufman titled “Water” outside of the Tewksbury Almshouse. The statue is made of metal and depicts Keller and Sullivan seated and finger spelling, it commemorates that fateful day at the water pump, when Anne spelled 'w-a-t-e-r' into Helen's hand, and Helen finally understood.
McGinnity, B.L., Seymour-Ford, J. and Andries, K.J. (2004) Anne Sullivan. Perkins History Museum, Perkins School for the Blind, Watertown, MA. http://www.perkins.org/vision-loss/helen-keller/sullivan.html
McGinnity, B.L., Seymour-Ford, J. and Andries, K.J. (2004) Helen Keller. Perkins History Museum, Perkins School for the Blind, Watertown, MA. http://www.perkins.org/vision-loss/helen-keller/ and http://www.perkins.org/vision-loss/helen-keller/helenkellerfaq.html
See also catalog record for “Helen Keller Pictures” in Samuel P. Hayes Research Library Catalog http://dbhost01.inmagic.com/dbtw-wpd/perkins/index.htm
See also Keller-Related Information and Photo Collection in Perkins Archive Collection.