by Lauren White, Manuscripts Librarian, Ward M. Canaday Center
The Toledo Hearing and Speech Center (THSC) was born out of Bessie Dewey Anderson’s own experiences with hearing loss. In 1915, as she discovered she was losing her hearing, she traveled to Chicago for lip-reading classes, since no similar resources were offered locally. Inspired by what she learned, she founded the Toledo League for the Hard of Hearing in 1920. The organization’s goal was to assist the deaf and hearing-impaired in the Toledo community. The group’s first headquarters were small, in a building on Franklin Avenue. In 1927, with help from the Edmund Drummond Libbey Foundation, the League had its first permanent headquarters at 2313 Ashland Avenue. It offered lip-reading lessons and social events for the deaf and hearing-impaired.
The Great Depression was a challenging period for the League, thought it pressed on to continue serving the deaf community of Toledo. During the 1940s, the League expanded its services to include vocational training, recreational activities, and provision of hearing aids. After WWII, the League responded to the needs of veterans with hearing and brain injuries by further expanding their services to include speech therapy. In 1947, the organization changed its name to the Toledo Hearing League.
The mid-twentieth century marked a period of growth for the League. In the 1950s, the League began offering hearing aids to needy individuals and a hearing aid loan service – both services funded via charitable donations. The League changed its name for the final time in the early 1960s to the Toledo Hearing and Speech Center, and in 1970, they moved their headquarters to One Stranahan Square in downtown Toledo. Greater revenue allowed the Center to offer services for the elderly and purchase new equipment. In the 1980s, it began providing interpretation for the Channel 11 local news and offered a summer camp for children with hearing impairments. In 1989, the Center also opened a satellite location at Central Park West.
Expansion of the Center’s services and programs continued throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, but by 2013, its financial resources were once again pushed to their limit. Despite the increased demand for services, reduced government funding and rising costs meant the Center had to close its doors on February 7, 2014. The Toledo Hearing and Speech Center had aided Toledo’s deaf and hearing-impaired community for nearly a century. The Ward M. Canaday Center has preserved the records of this non-profit, and below are a few highlights from the THSC photograph collection.
See these resources for more on the history of the Toledo Hearing and Speech Center:
Toledo Hearing and Speech Center Records, 1920-2000. Archival collection available at the Ward M. Canaday Center.