Abandoned school for the feeble minded


Joined June 2009

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I am my own worst critic… but this photo is one of my favorites. It needed to be HDR’d because of the window. Used photomatix 2.4 3 different images. I tried to keep the tones and strength to a minimum. Taken with Pentax K100D Super.

In 1845, Cumberland County Senator Stephen Ayres Garrison battled on the floor of the New Jersey Senate to recognize the needs and rights of mentally retarded children. Although his attempt to secure the establishment of a State institution to care for the feeble-minded failed, a provision was made by the legislature for the care of such children at Elwyn, Pennsylvania.

In 1897, S. Olin Garrison began a program that was the precursor to The Training School at Vineland. After observing the behavior of two feebleminded pupils, Garrison founded a school for these students in his Millville home (below). The school grew in popularity, and soon Garrison could no longer handle the amount of admission requests he was receiving. In 1888, when the Vineland Philanthropist B. D. Maxham offered Garrison 40 acres and the attached Scarborough Mansion, Garrison gladly accepted and relocated the school to the Vineland site.

March 1, 1888 marked the official opening of The Vineland Training School. The original name was ‘The New Jersey Home for the Education and Care of Feebleminded Children,’ and by the end of the first year was home to 55 boys and girls. The school was the first of its kind.

In 1892, the school introduced ‘The Cottage Plan,’ a method of organizing the community into small cottages as opposed to large institutional dormitories. This plan was created in the spirit of Garrison’s belief that The Training School’s methods should be geared towards teaching its residents practical living skills, instead of making its inhabitants helplessly dependent on the institution (see Mission to learn more).

Early Years (1900- 1945)

In 1900, Professor Edward R. Johnstone became head of The New Jersey Training School (its official name as of 1893) following the death of Reverend Garrison. In 1906, Johnstone created The Psychological Research Laboratory—the first facility in America specifically dedicated to the study of mental deficiency. Under the direction of Henry H. Goddard (right), the laboratory made many breakthrough advancements in the field of mental science.

During this period, The Training School became the world’s leading authority on the study of mental disease. Between 1905-1908, Goddard supervised the English translation of the Binet IQ test at the Research Laboratory, and commenced testing on Training School residents. The standardization of the test was then performed in 1911 on 2,000 Vineland Public School students. The successful use of the IQ test at the Research Laboratory initiated the mental testing movement in the United States and around the world.

In 1912, Goddard published a book called The Kallikak Family, A Study in the Hereditary of Feeble-mindedness, which discussed the findings of a hereditary study conducted at the institution. Although the book’s validity is questionable (see Goddard and Eugenics), the book was groundbreaking in that it linked mental disease and heredity. In 1913 the school initiated the Extension Department that spread the Training School’s research throughout the world. In this same year, 3 members of the Training School Staff, headed by Goddard, were sent to Ellis Island at the request of the U.S Government to perform mental tests on immigrants.

In 1918, Goddard resigned and S.D. Porteus was appointed his successor as Director of Research. Porteus began research on various topics, including cephalometrey (the study of head measurement and its relation to feeblemindedness) the Binet tests, and X rays. Edgar A. Doll succeeded Porteus in 1925. Under Doll, the Research Laboratory made more breakthroughs in the areas of birth injuries, EEG brain wave methods, and adaptive behavior. Doll’s concept of adaptive behavior was very significant, and has remained the basis of the definition of mental retardation to this day. Another of Doll’s significant contributions came in 1935, when Doll published the Vineland Social Maturity Scale, which was eventually adopted for military use in 1941. When Doll resigned in 1945, the School was well established on both a national and international level.

A Vast Scope

During it’s early years, The Training School was world-renowned for its mental studies. But not only did The Training School carry out vast research in the field of mental deficiency, including the areas of feeble-mindedness, epilepsy, paidology (the scientific study of children), heredity, biochemistry, neuropathology, clinical psychology, metabolism, blood chemistry, photomicroscopy, cephalometry (the study of head measurement), idiocy, criminology, speech pathology, birth injury, electroencephalography (EEG brain wave methods), and more, but the school also researched a wide variety of topics outside the range of mental studies.

In 1905, The Training School researched peach growing with the New Jersey State Experimental Station and grape growing with the US Department of Agriculture. In 1916, as a result of the tremendous impact the poultry industry had on Vineland, the school facilitated an International Egg Laying contest to determine the best lines of poultry breeding. A second grape growing test with the US Department of Agriculture began in 1917, which comprised of 10 acres and made use of 80 varieties of grapes. In addition, the school conducted an irrigation experiment in conjunction with the US Department of Agriculture in 1926.

The school also made significant contributions to the US Military. In 1917, the Committee of the American Psychological Association met at the Training School and devised Army Intelligence Tests that were used in World War I. At the outbreak of America’s involvement in World War II in 1941, the Vineland Social Maturity Scale (a scale that measures a individual’s ability to adapt to his or her surroundings) was adopted for military use. This scale set a worldwide precedent and is still in use today.

Additionally, The Training School’s research staff acted as an advisor to the Chilean government on special education in 1929, another landmark achievement for the Training School.

Later Years (1945-Present)

In 1945, Professor Johnstone died, thus ending his prolific 45-year term as superintendent of The Training School. Dr. Walter Jacobs assumed his position, and continued research in the areas of remedial reading, motor proficiency, and character development. In 1950, Pearl S. Buck, a nationally famous author whose feeble-minded child attended the Training School, published an article in Ladies Home Journal and Reader’s Digest, which recounted the tale of her feeble-minded daughter and her experience at Vineland. The article, entitled “The Child Who Never Grew,” went on to be published in 13 languages and gave the school considerable publicity.

In 1953, the school received a $20,000 research grant from the National Institute of Mental Health, and continued various research projects in the coming years. 1963 marked the 75th anniversary of the Training School. In 1965, the school’s name was changed to ‘American Institute for Mental Studies- The Training School Unit,’ also known as AIMS.

The Division of Emotional Disturbance was established within the Research Laboratory in 1970, in order to develop specialized treatment programs for the emotionally disturbed. Dr. Jacobs’ retired in 1974, Dr. William Smith took his place as the new superintendent.

To avoid closure of the facility, Elwyn Institutes of Media, Pennsylvania assumed management of the Training School in 1981. A multi-million dollar campus redevelopment plan ensued, which succeeded in restoring the school’s dilapidated campus. In 1988, the historic name ‘The Training School at Vineland’ was restored. In coming years, the school expanded operations to include many new community facilities. 1995, another significant change occurred, when Elwyn commenced efforts to move its residents off campus and into community-based group homes. The transition process was completed on August 23, 1996. As of 1998, The Training School has 43 group homes in South Jersey.

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