Music at the Illinois Asylum for Feeble-Minded Children: 1865-1920

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Journal of Historical Research in Music Education

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The Illinois Asylum for Feeble-Minded Children (IAFMC) opened in Jacksonville in 1865 to provide a home and education for cognitively impaired children between six and eighteen years of age. Music was an important part of the curriculum at the IAFMC, used to accompany physical exercise, develop speech, provide recreation, improve socialization, and enhance worship. The program also included choral and instrumental ensembles for children who demonstrated adequate musical ability. These organizations entertained at the home, performed for visitors, and served as a means of developing public relations with the surrounding community. This study documents the use of music at the IAFMC between 1865 and 1920, including details regarding the purpose of music within the institution, music instructors, teaching methods, and public performances. Data included annual reports of the IAFMC, articles from the Charitable Observer—a newsletter published by the institution—and other primary and secondary sources.


This article was published in Journal of Historical Research in Music Education, Volume 32, No. 1, pp. 37-56, October 2010,