Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Into an Era of Hyperbole

As if a bold headline declaring the impossible weren’t enough, just about one year after the hopeful newspaper report of osteopathic doctor R. F. Robie’s willingness to take on Samuel Bean’s case, the Oakland Tribune was once again heaping hyperbole upon the young man.

This time, the occasion was Sam’s impending graduation from high school. Yes, after a six year course of study, and despite being both blind and deaf, Sam had actually mastered all that was required of a high school student in the State of California and was about to receive his diploma. However, unlike all the other students in California about to receive their diploma that year, on the evening of the exercises at the California School for the Deaf and Blind—May 2, 1919—Sam was twenty three.

It seems the whole city was cheering Sam on—at least, that’s the feeling one can get, reading the headlines leading into the May 11, 1919, Tribune article. Under not one, but three—yes, count them below: three—lines of headlines, Sam was now pronounced “Wonder Student.”

Certified to have “surmounted all obstacles in the pathway of education,” Sam was declared by the Tribune “now ready to fight life’s battles for himself.”

Since this article came almost exactly one year to the day after the announcement about the theorized possibility of restoring Sam’s hearing, the silence about any such success seems to shout almost as loudly. The graduation article emphasizes Sam’s blind and deaf condition as if nothing had changed in the ensuing year.

Noting that “after six years of tireless work mastering all of the required subjects with only his fingers to guide him,” Sam would be “the first student afflicted with both deafness and blindness to be graduated by the school,” the news report reveals there was no change in his condition.

There was still much to celebrate, though. After all, Sam’s “achievement in completing a regular high school [course of study] has been a source of marvel to educators in all parts of the country.”

According to reports received by the Tribune about Sam, “he has fought his battle with a courage and cheerfulness which has given inspiration to many of the more fortunate pupils at the state school.”

Though such hyperbole may seem excessive, no one can deny Sam Bean made a remarkable effort in the face of what, to many others, may have seemed like insurmountable obstacles.


  1. I cannot imagine how solitary his world was. It is a remarkable feat and quite an accomplishment to graduate:)

    1. When the newspaper reports talked about his teachers and close friends as being constant companions, that's pretty much how it was. They were his connection to the outside world, serving as interpreter as well as guide. Without that enormous boost, I imagine his world was indeed a solitary experience.

  2. Jacqi,

    I am one of your blog followers. My research is focus on Chesterfield County, South Carolina and Anson County, North Carolina. The share borders along the North & South Carolina State lines.

    I am writing you because I was given an award on my blog last week from P. S. Annie and I am passing the award along to you. Please see Carolina Family Roots for more information see

    Wishing you successful family searching and a great week!


    1. Charlie, thank you so much for thinking of me in passing this award along. I am very honored!

      I have enjoyed stopping by your blog, too, and seeing your stories and photographs--not only of ancestors but also of houses. Best wishes as you continue blogging!

  3. Oh, I missed this post (glad I have Feedly now, though), and did not read about this extremely loud silence. So the chance of restoring hearing or sight was now gone. That's too bad. It's a testament to the community that they took Sam to their hearts as the wonder he was.

    1. Mariann, yes, it appeared that the only result of that episode was the raising of false hopes. So sad. There was one more newspaper article that I had found a while back--very small and buried deep within the paper--but, as it turns out, I never bookmarked the reference and can't retrace my steps now. Suffice it to say the doctor apparently discovered that whatever cure was out there would not apply to our Sam. From everything I've read about him since then, there is no indication of any such success, so I can only surmise he was left in that same condition.

      Not that these "wonder cures" don't happen. Considering that time frame and all the scientific advances yet to occur in their lifetimes, there were more "miracle" possibilities ahead. Even for Sam's future wife--Maud Woodworth--hopeful reports turned into practical help (Maud regained some of her eyesight).


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...