Tomorrow, on August 13th, the National Association of the Deaf (NAD) celebrates the 100th anniversary of the NAD film “The Preservation of the Sign Language,” and also wish George W. Veditz a happy 152nd birthday! Veditz contributed greatly to the world, particularly the preservation and promotion of sign language.
Born on August 13, 1861, George Veditz was the seventh President of the NAD, serving from 1904 to 1910. More importantly, he was one of the most ardent and visible advocates of American Sign Language. Veditz became deaf at the age of eight from scarlet fever, attended what is now known as the Maryland School of the Deaf in Frederick from 1875 to 1878, and then attended Gallaudet from 1880 to 1884. Upon graduation from Gallaudet, he taught at the Maryland School of the Deaf and then at the Colorado School for the Deaf. Always an educator, Veditz continued to teach throughout his life, and contributed much to the educational structure of the Colorado School for the Deaf.
At the beginning of the 20th century, the National Association of the Deaf (NAD) was concerned that “pure sign language” might disappear under the pressures of oralism. It was Veditz who realized in the early 1900s that the newly developed technology of motion pictures were an ideal way to convey the beauty of sign language to the world.
Thus, the NAD formed a Motion Picture Project; a total of $5,000 was raised for producing sign language films from 1910 through 1921 as “excellent examples” of sign language. See the George W. Veditz Collection http://libguides.gallaudet.edu/content.php?pid=120564&sid=1083626 .
In 1913, George W. Veditz made a fourteen-minute long film without subtitles – “The Preservation of the Sign Language” – demonstrating in sign language the importance of defending the right of deaf people to sign, http://videocatalog.gallaudet.edu/?video=2520 with the available transcript provided by Carol Padden.
In 1965, the NAD transferred these films to the Gallaudet University Archives to better preserve the footage and to make it more accessible to the public.
On December 28, 2010, the Library of Congress announced it had named the landmark film, “The Preservation of the Sign Language” for inclusion in the National Film Registry. Thanks to Veditz, sign languages all over the world continue to be documented via film.
As long as we have deaf people on earth, we will have signs.
And as long as we have our films, we can preserve signs
in their old purity.
It is my hope that we all will love and guard our beautiful
as the noblest gift God has given to deaf people.
– George W. Veditz, 1913
Thanks to his gift to us, the NAD continues to advocate for the preservation, protection, and promotion of American Sign Language for all deaf and hard of hearing individuals in the United States.
Happy birthday, George Veditz!