Perkins Products History

Dr. Samuel Gridley Howe, the first director of Perkins, believed it wasn't enough for people who are blind to be read to by others. He devoted his life's work to making sure that blind and visually impaired people throughout the world could read and enjoy books.

Listen to the oral history of Perkins Products (formerly Howe Press)

As he embarked upon his challenge as director of the first school for the blind in the United States, Howe took a three-week tour to see how European countries taught people who were blind. He realized there was a critical shortage of embossed books, due to the high cost of producing them. Howe bought four of these specialized books for Perkins, but the large raised letters made the books as bulky as they were expensive. Howe began to dream of establishing a separate printing department on the Perkins campus, an enterprise that would be later become Howe Press.

By 1835, Howe opened the Perkins Printing Department, providing books to his students and others who were visually impaired. He created the Boston Line Type, his own more narrow, slender typeface. Although this system was easier for people with sight to read and was less costly and cumbersome to produce, users still had difficulty writing. The school continued to use this system for 50 years until the creation of the Perkins Brailler® at Perkins revolutionized communication for the blind.

In the 1930's the director at the time, Dr. Gabriel Farrell, asked David Abraham, a woodworking teacher at Perkins to create a machine that would make braille more accessible for the blind. Abraham, who had experience working with machines at his father's factory in England, worked for years before coming up with the prototype. First produced in 1951, the Perkins Brailler® is a durable, inexpensive alternative to conventional brailling machines. Today, the Perkins Brailler® is the standard model worldwide and Perkins Products/Howe Press has manufactured more than 300,000 machines.

In addition to the Watertown site, Perkins Products/Howe Press has brailler assembly plants in India. The Perkins Brailler® has been sold to people in more than 170 countries and is a vital tool in worldwide braille literacy.

In 2009, we introduced the new Next Generation® Perkins Brailler, a re-invention of the Classic Perkins Brailler with a smaller footprint, lighter weight, greater accessibility and a modern look.

We acquired an assistive technology sales and distribution company in 2008 which has greatly expanded our product offering into technology training, evaluation and product sales. You can visit Perkins Products website www.perkinsproducts.org to see our full range of products; or for hands-on experience with some of the latest assistive technology products, schedule a visit to the Assistive Technology Lab located on the second floor of the Grousbeck Center for Students and Technology (GCST), 55 Beechwood Ave., Watertown, MA., 02472. Please contact us in advance and set up an appointment with one of our representatives: Tel: 617-972-7308.

For more information about Perkins Products and the Perkins Brailler®, contact 617-972-7308 or email PerkinsProducts@Perkins.org.