Syle, Henry Winter, 1846-1890
Papers of Henry W. Syle, 1832-1975
Repository: Gallaudet University Archives
Call No.: MSS 65
Title: Papers of Henry W. Syle, 1832-1975
Quantity: 19.0 Linear Feet (38 document boxes)
Note: This document last updated 2006 January 10.
Acquisition Information: The Rev. Henry W. Syle collection was given to the Gallaudet University Archives by Herbert Syle III in 1994.
Processed by: Colleen Crisp. 1996 August 20.
Conditions on Use and Access: This collection is open to the public with no restrictions. Photocopies may be made for scholarly research.
Related Material in the Archives
- Collection, 1761-1890. Gallaudet University Archives, Call Number: MSS 66
- Henry Winter Syle [picture]. Gallaudet University Archives, Call Number: Portraits
- Henry Winter Syle, 1882. Gallaudet University Archives, Call Number: SMSS
- Picture Clippings Scrapbook on the Deaf. Gallaudet University Archives, Call Number: Scrapbook Album 15
- Henry Winter Syle. Gallaudet University Archives, Call Number: Deaf Biographical
The first Deaf priest in the United States of America, Rev. Henry Winter Syle, was born in Shanghai, China on November 9, 1846. He was the son of the Dr. Rev. Edward W. Syle, who was a missionary while living in China. Rev. Henry Winter Syle moved to the United States at the age of four and he became deaf at the age of six after a severe attack of scarlet fever. He also became very sick often in his later life.
In 1853, Rev. Henry Winter Syle entered a school called Bartlett's School. The school then moved from New York to Hartford, Connecticut. He went to school with some of the well-known Deaf people in the education of the Deaf, like John B. Hotchkiss and George Wing at the American School for the Deaf. He entered Trinity College in 1863 but he left the school because he was very sick. He witnessed the Inauguration of the National College for the Deaf and Dumb in 1864. He wanted to go to the National College for the Deaf and Dumb but the president of the college, Dr. Edward Miner Gallaudet encouraged him not to enter the college but instead enter St. John's College in Cambridge, England.
Rev. Henry Winter Syle left St. John's College because of his illness. He then entered Yale College and took an examination of the 4 years' worth of education and passed with a Bachelor of Arts in 1869 and Master of Arts in 1872. He was the first Deaf man to get a degree from a hearing college.
He took a job teaching at the New York Institution for the Deaf in 1869. He met his future wife, Margaret Flannery, of Brooklyn, New York, a graduate of the Class of 1870 of the New York Institution for the Deaf. They married in 1872.
He was also a librarian of the New York Institution for the Deaf and compiled the original and valuable Register of Pupils, whose pupils were admitted to the Institution form 1854 1875. He opened a free night school for the Deaf in New York. After he quit teaching, he went on to work at the U. S. Mint in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
He became an active religious leader, as a lay reader. He was involved with Dr. Thomas Gallaudet's missions for the Deaf. He also started studying for Holy Orders while working at the U.S. Mint. He was ordained in 1876 by Bishop Stevens of Philadelphia as a deacon of the Protestant Episcopal Church.
Rev. Henry Winter Syle and his wife, Margaret, better known as Maggie, had 6 children. Two of their children died very young. All of his children were hearing.
On October 14, 1884, Rev. Henry Winter Syle was ordained to priesthood by Bishop William Bacon Stevens at St. Stephen's Church, becoming the first Deaf priest in the United States. He helped to improve the Church Mission to the Deaf in Pennsylvania, Delaware, and New Jersey. He also founded the All Soul's Church in Philadelphia. He was not only active in the Church but also in the Deaf community. He wrote many articles in the American Annals of the Deaf and the Deaf Mutes' Journal. He was involved in the Clerc Literary Association. He helped established the Aged and Infirm Deaf Mutes in Philadelphia.
Both the Church and the Deaf community lost a very important man on January 6, 1890 to pneumonia.
Scope and Content
The collection of Rev. Henry Winter Syle is a large collection from 1832 to 1975. The collection consists mostly church related papers between 1870's and 1890's. The collection consists of correspondence, booklets, photographs, sermons, church related papers, genealogy, conversation notes, and reports. Most of these papers are Deaf related.
The collection is broken up into sixteen series. They included general correspondence, subject files, business general files, outgoing letters, letter press books, letters to and from his wife, Margaret Syle, Rev. Henry Winter Syle's children, Rev. Henry Winter Syle's relatives, Syle family, Margaret Syle's general correspondence, Margaret Syle's relatives, church general files, churches, sermons, schools and organizations, and conversation notes. There are 39 boxes in this collection.
The bulk of the collection is series one: general correspondence from family, friends, businesses, churches, and organizations. These letters came from well-known Deaf people and people who worked with the Deaf community: John B. Hotchkiss, George Wing, Ranald Douglas, Edward Miner Gallaudet, Thomas Gallaudet, Edward Fay, and Rev. Francis Clerc.
A folder called, Genealogy, contains information about Syle's family and the history. There is a family tree with the whole family members, including George Washington, who was the first President of the United States. Also, included Henry Winter Davis (uncle of Rev. Henry Winter Syle), who was a senator from Baltimore, MD, on the family tree.
The church related papers contain letters, reports, and booklets. It also included All Soul's Church in Philadelphia, which Rev. Henry Winter Syle founded. He was active in many churches and gave sermons to the Deaf people. Most of these papers were about churches for the Deaf, like, St. Ann's Church and All Soul's Church. The organization series has papers related to Deaf organizations in America. The best known ones are the American Annals of the Deaf and Clerc Memorial Associations of different states. The conversation notes series contains many conversation notes that Rev. Henry Winter Syle kept after the conversation with someone. He kept the ones he used to communicate with his father.
Series Descriptions and Folder Lists
Series 1: General Correspondence
Boxes 1-8, 1853-1889
General correspondence included various people Rev. Henry Winter Syle wrote to and from related to various topics, such as church work, Deaf organizations and personal. These files are arranged in alphabetical order.
Series 2: Subject Files
Boxes 9-14, 1863-1975
The subject files included accounts, bills, booklets, advertisements, constitutions and bylaws, and newspaper clippings. Some of these belonged to Margaret Syle. These files are arranged in alphabetical order.
Series 3: Business General Files
Box 15, 1861-1896
The business files included letters and advertisements from various places. Some of these belonged to Margaret Syle. These files are arranged in alphabetical order.
Series 4: Outgoing Letters
Box 16, 1865-1895
The outgoing letters included letters that Rev. Henry Winter Syle wrote. It also included letters that were written by and to different people. These files are arranged in alphabetical order.
Series 5: Letter Press Books
Boxes 17-20, 1865-1889
The letter press books included letters that were written by Rev. Henry Winter Syle and kept in the books. These books are arranged by dates.
Series 6: Letters to/from his wife, Margaret
Boxes 21-22, 1871-1889
The correspondence files included letters between Margaret Syle and Rev. Henry Winter Syle. These files are arranged by dates.
Series 7: Henry Winter Syle's Children
Box 23, 1877-1927
The children's files included letters written to/from the children, personal papers, hair locks, and grades. These files are not arranged in any way.
Series 8: Henry Winter Syle's Relatives
Box 24-25, 1853-1889
The relatives' files included letters that were written to Rev. Henry Winter Syle. These files are arranged in alphabetical order.
Series 9: Syle Family
Box 26, 1815-1968
The Syle family files included letters to various family members. These files are not arranged in any way.
Series 10: Margaret Syle General Correspondence
Box 27-29, 1869-1912
The general correspondence included various people who wrote to Margaret Syle related to family, church, Deaf organizations, and Rev. Henry Winter Syle's death. These files are arranged in alphabetical order.
Series 11: Margaret Syle - Relatives
Box 30, 1872-1901
The relatives' files included letters from relatives, a few letters written by Margaret Syle, and conversation notes between her and Dr. Rev. Edward W. Syle. These files are arranged in alphabetical order.
Series 12: Church General Files
Box 31, 1876-1896
The general files included booklets, advertisements, notes, newsletters, and reports related to the church. These files are arranged in alphabetical order.
Series 13: Churches
Box 32, 1872-1889
The church files included various letters and papers from different people who were involved in the church. These files are arranged in alphabetical order.
Series 14: Sermons
Boxes 33-34, 1832-1885
The files included Rev. Henry Winter Syle's sermons. The files are arranged in alphabetical order.
Series 15: Schools and Organizations
Boxes 35-37, 1852-1889
The files included letters from various people related to schools and organizations. These files are arranged in alphabetical order.
Series 16: Conversation Notes
Boxes 38-39, 1868-1889
The files included notes of conversation between Henry Winter Syle and various people, including his father, Dr. Rev. Edward W. Syle. These files are not arranged in any way.