In an interview with Mr. Frank Z. Maguire, of Washington, who has been on the Vineyard the past week looking up deaf-mute statistics, that gentleman expresses himself as follows with reference to the matter in its local application, and on the general subject:
“I have been very much pleased with my visit to Martha’s Vineyard, and especially to Edgartown; it presents opportunities for study and observation seldom seen. For instance, you have on the island a few family names which form, I believe, near a majority of its inhabitants. Marriages occur here between these families, I think it probable, because of the comparative isolation to which they are subjected. The evil results of these marriages present themeselves in numerous ways. Take the matter of deaf mutes: you have on the island more deaf mutes in proportion to the population than any other part of the country. The proportion of deaf mutes in the population at large is about one in fifteen hundred, but here the proportion is one in one hundred and fifty. In looking over the census of 1850, which is preserved in the office of the county clerk, there I find not only the numbers of deaf mutes but numbers of insane, blind and idiotic. These afflictions, it is my belief, are the fruit of consanguineous marriages.”
“With regard to the deaf and dumb in whose interests I come I would say that I have been engaged in connection with a prominent scientist for a number of months in the preparation of statistics concerning the heredity of deafness. Our investigation furnishes food for serious thought. We find that 50 per cent of the deaf and dumb are congenitally deaf. We find that the deaf-mute population, which is 33,078, is increasing at large proportionally. The solution of this fact is in my mind due to the constant intermarriage of the deaf and dumb. We find that 50 per cent of the deaf and dumb marry, and that 86 per cent of those who marry, marry deaf-mutes. Why do they marry deaf-mutes? I think the principal reason is because of the use of the sign or gesture language. This language is as foreign as Chinese to the people at large. In other words, their language is not the language of the hearing world. This fact causes deaf-mutes to associate together, they consequently intermarry, and propagate their defect.”
“Do deaf-mutes always have deaf children in case of intermarriage?”
“Oh, no, but the tendency toward the production of deaf children is immensely increased. We have in the United States nearly 300 deaf and dumb children who are the offspring of deaf mute parents.”
“Is there any remedy for this difficulty?”
“Yes indeed there is. Teach deaf mutes to talk. The vast majority of the deaf mutes of the world are taught to talk, and I hope the day may not be far distant when all may enjoy the blessings of speech, and that the sign language may become a dead language so far as communication with deaf people is concerned.”