Per Resolves 1846, c 117, the governor of Massachusetts appointed three commissioners to inquire into the condition of idiots (contemporary term for the mentally retarded) in the Commonwealth and what could be done for them. The commission's report, written by Samuel G. Howe of the Perkins Institution and Massachusetts Asylum for the Blind, led to an experimental school being funded for three years by the state (Resolves 1848, c 65). The survey on which the report was ultimately based was addressed to municipal clerks -- Information in returns includes number of idiots in municipality, number of male idiots, and, for each person, name, age, guardianship status, self-support, property, other means of support, confinement, details of condition, condition of relatives, whether parents blood-related, whether ever considered lunatic, educability. Returns are often annotated by clerk with further detail.
See also: Field notes on the survey of idiots in Massachusetts, 1847 ((M-Ar)1827X) and: Table of the physical and mental condition of idiots in Massachusetts, 1847 ((M-Ar)1517X).
The Experimental School for Teaching and Training Idiotic Children conducted at the Perkins Institution and Massachusetts Asylum for the Blind from 1848 was incorporated by Massachusetts as the Massachusetts School for Idiotic and Feeble-Minded Youth in 1850. It was renamed Massachusetts School for the Feeble-Minded in 1883 and Walter E. Fernald State School in 1925.
Microfilm Master negative microfilm also available.
Walter E. Fernald State School P.O. Box 9081, Belmont, MA 02478.
Agency history record (CStRLIN)MASVAH0049-A describes the history and functions of the Walter E. Fernald State School, an agency successor to the Commissioners on Idiocy.