The Galton Society for the Study of the Origin and Evolution of Man (1918–1935)

Posted in Articles, Health/Medicine/Genetics, History, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, United States on 2022-02-02 04:18Z by Steven

The Galton Society for the Study of the Origin and Evolution of Man (1918–1935)

The Embryo Project Encyclopedia

Aliya R. Hoff, Ph.D. Candidate in Anthropology
Arizona State University

Charles Benedict Davenport, Madison Grant, and Henry Fairfield Osborn founded the Galton Society for the Study of the Origin and Evolution of Man, or the Galton Society, in New York City, New York, in 1918. The Galton Society was a scientific society that promoted the study of humans in terms of race in service to the US eugenics movement. The Galton Society was named in honor of Francis Galton who first coined the term eugenics in 1883. Galton and other eugenics proponents claimed that the human species could improve through selective breeding that restricted who could have children. Some of the society members were scientists from a wide range of disciplines who supported the now disproven notion that fundamental biological differences exist between races that may justify the control of human reproduction. The Galton Society drew on the scientific credibility and influence of its members to advocate for eugenics programs, such as immigration restriction laws, in the US

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When Racism Was a Science

Posted in Articles, Health/Medicine/Genetics, History, Media Archive, United States on 2014-10-15 17:46Z by Steven

When Racism Was a Science

The New York Times

Joshua A. Krisch

‘Haunted Files: The Eugenics Record Office’ Recreates a Dark Time in a Laboratory’s Past

An old stucco house stands atop a grassy hill overlooking the Long Island Sound. Less than a mile down the road, the renowned Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory bustles with more than 600 researchers and technicians, regularly producing breakthroughs in genetics, cancer and neuroscience.

But that old house, now a private residence on the outskirts of town, once held a facility whose very name evokes dark memories: the Eugenics Record Office.

In its heyday, the office was the premier scientific enterprise at Cold Spring Harbor. There, bigoted scientists applied rudimentary genetics to singling out supposedly superior races and degrading minorities. By the mid-1920s, the office had become the center of the eugenics movement in America.

Today, all that remains of it are files and photographs — reams of discredited research that once shaped anti-immigration laws, spurred forced-sterilization campaigns and barred refugees from entering Ellis Island. Now, historians and artists at New York University are bringing the eugenics office back into the public eye.

Haunted Files: The Eugenics Record Office,” a new exhibit at the university’s Asian/Pacific/American Institute, transports visitors to 1924, the height of the eugenics movement in the United States. Inside a dimly lit room, the sounds of an old typewriter click and clack, a teakettle whistles and papers shuffle. The office’s original file cabinets loom over reproduced desks and period knickknacks. Creaky cabinets slide open, and visitors are encouraged to thumb through copies of pseudoscientific papers.

“There’s a haunted quality, that’s the nature of the files,” said John Kuo Wei Tchen, a historian at N.Y.U. and co-curator of the exhibit. (This reporter is a student at the Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute, a separate branch of the university.) “We hoped we could evoke a visceral feeling of what it was like to be in a detention center, where people were presumed to be ineligible unless proven otherwise.”

When the Eugenics Record Office opened its doors in 1910, the founding scientists were considered progressives, intent on applying classic genetics to breeding better citizens. Funding poured in from the Rockefeller family and the Carnegie Institution. Charles Davenport, a prolific Harvard biologist, and his colleague, Harry H. Laughlin, led the charge…

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This country is in for hybridization on the greatest scale that the world has ever seen…

Posted in Excerpts/Quotes on 2013-04-09 04:36Z by Steven

Not only physical but also mental and temperamental incompatibilities may be a consequence of hybridization. For example, one often sees in mulattoes an ambition and push combined with intellectual inadequacy which makes the unhappy hybrid dissatisfied with his lot and a nuisance to others.

To sum up, then, miscegenation commonly spells disharmony—disharmony of physical, mental and temperamental qualities and this means also disharmony with environment. A hybridized people are a badly put together people and a dissatisfied, restless, ineffective people. One wonders how much of the exceptionally high death rate in middle life in this country is due to such bodily maladjustments; and how much of our crime and insanity is due to mental and temperamental friction.

This country is in for hybridization on the greatest scale that the world has ever seen.

Charles B. Davenport, “The Effects of Race Intermingling,” Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, Volume 56, Number 4 (1917): 364-368.

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The Effects of Race Intermingling

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Media Archive, Papers/Presentations, Social Science, United States on 2011-08-17 04:12Z by Steven

The Effects of Race Intermingling

Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society
Volume 56, Number 4 (1917)
pages 364-368

Charles B. Davenport, Director
Department of Experimental Evolution
(Carnegie Institution of Washington)
Cold Spring Harbor, Long Island, New York

Read on April 13, 1917

The problem of the effects of race intermingling may well interest us of America, when a single state, like New York, of 9,000,000 inhabitants contains 840,000 Russians and Finns, 720,000 Italians, 1,ooo,ooo Germans, 880,000 Irish, 470,000 Austro-Hungarians, 310,000 of Great Britain, 125,000 Canadians (largely French), and 9o,ooo Scandinavians. All figures include those born abroad or born of two foreign-born parents. Nearly two thirds of the population of New York State is foreign-born or of foreign or mixed parentage. Even in a state like Connecticut it is doubtful if 2 per cent of the population are of pure Anglo-Saxon stock for six generations of ancestors in all lines. Clearly a mixture of European races is going on in America on a colossal scale.

Before proceeding further let us inquire into the meaning of “race.” The modern geneticists’ definition differs from that of the systematist or old fashioned breeder. A race is a more or less pure bred “group” of individuals that differs from other groups by at least one character, or, strictly, a genetically connected group whose germ plasm is characterized by a difference, in one or more genes, from other groups. Thus a blue-eyed Scotchman belongs to a different race from some of the dark Scotch. Strictly, as the term is employed by geneticists they may be said to belong to different elementary species.

Defining race in this sense of elementary species we have to consider our problem: What are the results of race intermingling, or miscegenation? To this question no general answer can be given. A specific answer can, however, be given to questions involving specific characters. For example, if the question be framed: what are the results of hybridization between a blue-eyed race (say Swede) and a brown-eyed race (say South Italian)? The answer is that, since brown eye is dominant over blue eye, all the children will have brown eyes; and if two such children inter-marry brown and blue eyes will appear among their children in the ratio of 3 to 1. Again, if one parent be white and the other a full-blooded negro then the skin color of the children will be about half as dark as that of the darker parent; and the progeny of two such mulattoes will be white, 1/4, 1/2, 3/4 and full black in the ratio of 1:4:6:4:1…

…Not only physical but also mental and temperamental incompatibilities may be a consequence of hybridization. For example, one often sees in mulattoes an ambition and push combined with intellectual inadequacy which makes the unhappy hybrid dissatisfied with his lot and a nuisance to others.

To sum up, then, miscegenation commonly spells disharmony—disharmony of physical, mental and temperamental qualities and this means also disharmony with environment. A hybridized people are a badly put together people and a dissatisfied, restless, ineffective people. One wonders how much of the exceptionally high death rate in middle life in this country is due to such bodily maladjustments; and how much of our crime and insanity is due to mental and temperamental friction.

This country is in for hybridization on the greatest scale that the world has ever seen…

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Toward a Racial Abyss: Eugenics, Wickliffe Draper, and the Origins of the Pioneer Fund

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, Social Work, United States on 2011-05-14 04:45Z by Steven

Toward a Racial Abyss: Eugenics, Wickliffe Draper, and the Origins of the Pioneer Fund

Journal of History of the Behavioral Sciences
Volume 38, Issue 3, (Summer 2002)
pages 259–283
DOI: 10:1002/jhbs.10063

Michael G. Kenny, Professor of Sociology and Anthropology
Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, British Columbia

The Pioneer Fund was created in 1937 “to conduct or aid in conducting study and research into problems of heredity and eugenics.. and problems of race betterment with special reference to the people of the United States.” The Fund was endowed by Colonel Wickliffe Preston Draper, a New England textile heir, and perpetuates his legacy through an active program of grants, some of the more controversial in aid of research on racial group differences. Those presently associated with the Fund maintain that it has made a substantial contribution to the behavioral and social sciences, but insider accounts of Pioneer’s history oversimplify its past and smooth over its more tendentious elements. This article examines the social context and intellectual background to Pioneer’s origins, with a focus on Col. Draper himself, his concerns about racial degeneration, and his relation to the eugenics movement. In conclusion, it evaluates the official history of the fund.

This article traces the historical roots of The Pioneer Fund, a still extant American charitable endowment founded in 1937 by textile heir Col. Wickliffe Preston Draper (1890–1972). The Fund, through its granting program, claims to have had a significant positive influence on the development of the behavioral sciences; but it has also attracted public attention because of its support for research on racial group differences. Pioneer’s beginnings reach back into the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, when eugenics emerged as a powerful and cosmopolitan social reform impulse; an exploration of the Fund’s origins sheds light both on that time and on the permutations of the eugenics movement that led to its present notoriety.

However, knowledge of Pioneer’s beginnings and social context remains fragmentary and dispersed, and here I use the papers of the American Eugenics Society (in the keeping of the American Philosophical Society, Philadelphia), and the Harry Laughlin papers (Library of Truman State University, Kirksville, Missouri) to gain entrée into the circumstances surrounding the prehistory and early days of the Fund, particularly the attitudes and role of its founder, Wickliffe Draper.

Those circumstances have been smoothed over by figures central to the Fund’s current operation and, in conclusion, I will evaluate this revisionist history in light of the archival and supplemental material to be reviewed below…

Davenport and Grant, among others, held that certain racial combinations—say Negro/White—are inherently “disharmonious” because the evolutionary histories of their aboriginal populations had gone down widely divergent paths. As Davenport put it, “miscegenation commonly spells disharmony—disharmony of physical, mental and temperamental qualities and this means also disharmony with environment. A hybridized people are a badly put together people and a dissatisfied, restless, ineffective people” (1917, p. 366). Madison Grant feared that, if the American “Melting Pot is allowed to boil without control,” it will sweep the “nation toward a racial abyss” because miscegenation always leads to a evolutionary reversion toward the lower type in the mix. “The cross between a white man and a negro is a negro… the cross between any of the three European races and a Jew is a Jew” (1916, p. 228; for more on racial “disharmony” see Barkan, 1992, p. 165; Baur, Fischer, & Lenz, 1931, p. 692; Glass, 1986, p. 132; Provine, 1973; Stepan, 1985; Tucker, 1994, pp. 64–67).

The investigation of race mixing from a Mendelian point of vieww as pioneered by German anthropologist Eugen Fischer, who—armed with Davenport’s early studies of human heredity—undertook an innovative field study of “die Rehobother Bastards,” a Boer/Hottentot mixed-race population in the then German colony of South-West Africa (Fischer, 1913; see Massin, 1996). Fischer’s general aim was to decouple the effects of heredity and environment through detailed biometric and genealogical studies of a discrete and nowrelatively endogamous population of mixed race origins (Massin, 1996, pp. 122–123). The “Bastards” had the advantage of being an isolated group with well known family ties, unlike the situation in the United States, in which persons of mixed-race ancestry had been “subsumed in a lower, completely undefinable mixed-race proletariat” (1913, p. 21). As late as 1939, Fischer’s monograph was still regarded as the “classic study of race mixture” (Hooton, 1939, p. 156)…

…By definition a “white” person could have no known trace of nonwhite blood (including Asian), whereas a nonwhite person was anyone who did—except when it came to those who were one-sixteenth native Indian or less, and were therefore defined as equivalent to whites in legal terms. This logic was based on a perception of just who most of the contemporary “Indians” of Virginia actually were. Plecker believed that, because of long standing miscegenation between the two communities, most of those who identified themselves as “Indian” were in effect negroes attempting to pass as white (Plecker, 1924).

Though not arising out of any particular love for Indians, the one-sixteenth rule had an interesting motivation: so as to not exclude from the white race the many proud descendants of Pocahontas and John Rolfe. Disputes about racial identity, legitimacy, and validity of marriage generated by such legislation have provided considerable subsequent diversion for legal historians (Avins 1966; Pascoe 1996; Saks 1988; Wallenstein 1998).

Plecker had already corresponded with Charles Davenport about the quality of white/Indian/black mixed-race populations, and was included among those whom Wickliffe Draper should meet. Plecker and Cox accordingly traveled north in June to visit with Draper in New York; they also stopped by to see Madison Grant, and were feted by the Laughlins at Cold Spring Harbor. Cox gave a talk at the Museum of Natural History on the topic of repatriation, and there was further discussion of a possible Virginia-based endowment to advance the cause of eugenics (Plecker to Laughlin, 8 June 1936; see Smith, 1993, pp. 80–81).

What Draper envisioned was nothing less than the establishment of an Institute of National Eugenics (or perhaps “Institute of Applied Eugenics”) at the University of Virginia, aimed at “conservation of the best racial stocks in the country” and “preventing increase of certain of the lower stocks and unassimilable races.” Laughlin observed that the University “has a tradition of American aristocracy which the nation treasures very highly.” It therefore seemed a promising venue, as did the South in general—“because of its historical background and traditional racial attitude”—ready to assume leadership in defense of the American racial stock (Laughlin to Draper, draft letter; 18 March 1936). In his survey of the American racial makeup, Madison Grant found that “with Virginia one reaches the region where the old native American holds his ground” (Grant, 1934, p. 226)…

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Recasting the Tribe of Ishmael: The Role of Indianapolis’s Nineteenth-Century Poor in Twentieth-Century Eugenics

Posted in Articles, History, Media Archive, Religion, Social Work, United States on 2011-04-23 03:53Z by Steven

Recasting the Tribe of Ishmael: The Role of Indianapolis’s Nineteenth-Century Poor in Twentieth-Century Eugenics

Indiana Magazine of History
Volume 104, Issue 1 (March 2008)
pages 36-64
ISSN: 0019-66737

Elsa F. Kramer

The Tribe of Ishmael is a biblically derived moniker for hundreds of impoverished late-19th-century immigrants in Indianapolis whose applications for unrestricted public relief during an era of organized charity reform brought them special attention from clergy, politicians, and social scientists. Rev. Oscar C. McCulloch, of Plymouth Congregational Church in Indianapolis, named the Tribe and made its members the focus of his campaign to reform charity and eradicate pauperism. McCulloch and other observers conflated the Tribe as a loosely organized, mixed-race band of vagrants whose lifestyles and intermarriages perpetuated crime, wanderlust, and dependence on charity. Records show, however, that many of the families migrated to the Midwest from eastern and southern states in search of freedom and opportunity, living in the city and holding jobs at least part of the year. A family pedigree study of the Tribe that McCulloch began in the 1880s eventually became valuable to civic leaders seeking public support for selective reproduction laws. Arthur H. Estabrook, a caseworker for the Eugenics Record Office 1910–1929 and a biologist with particular interest in mixed-race genetics, edited the Tribe of Ishmael materials after World War I for use in support of anti-miscegenation, compulsory sterilization, and other negative-eugenics-based legislation intended to prevent reproduction by individuals deemed degenerate, unfit, or feebleminded. This paper compares the rhetoric of Estabrook’s edited and expanded version of the notes with McCulloch’s original materials in order to demonstrate the ways both narratives were crafted to further social policy agendas.

And the angel of the Lord said unto her, Behold, thou art with child, and shalt bear a son, and shalt call his name Ishmael, because the Lord hath heard thy affliction. And he will be a wild man; his hand will be against every man, and every man’s hand against him; and he shall dwell in the presence of all his brethren.
Genesis 16:11–12

Rainy weather and muddy streets kept many of his flock home on Sunday morning, January 20, 1878, when Rev. Oscar C. McCulloch of Indianapolis’s Plymouth Congregational Church delivered a sermon on the problem of the city’s poor. Charity was not an unusual topic within his congregation, which practiced the Social Gospel of applied Christianity—“the alleviation, by physical and spiritual means,” as McCulloch’s daughter, Ruth, would later explain it, “of poverty, ignorance, misery, vice and crime.” This particular lecture, however, reflected a change in his approach to welfare, away from almsgiving and toward the exclusion of applicants deemed unworthy of relief.

It was coincidence that had brought about this key shift in the well-known minister’s attitude: According to McCulloch, his pastoral visits to the poor had acquainted him with the members of one family whose dire poverty so disturbed him that he sought to secure them emergency aid at the Center Township Trustee’s office. There he learned, instead, of the family’s—and their friends’ and relatives’—long history of relief applications. At about the same time, he read a book about “the Jukes,” a New York clan that reminded him of the family he visited in Indianapolis. The book’s author, Richard L. Dugdale, a researcher interested in the causes of poverty and crime, had become curious about the frequency of family ties among inmates he encountered while inspecting county jails for the New York Prison Association. Although Dugdale’s study of criminality among the Jukes (the fictitious surname by which he identified the clan) conceded that environmental factors were as influential as hereditary causes in “giving cumulative force to a career of debauch,” McCulloch concluded that charitable aid targeted only at alleviating deficits such as hunger and homelessness encouraged the proliferation of degenerate families such as the Indianapolis clan, whom he labeled the Ishmaelites. He began to argue for compulsory social controls designed to prevent the “idle, wandering life” and “the propagation of similarly disposed children,” and helped craft legislation to create the State Board of Charities and the Center Township Board of Children’s Guardians. The collaboration he created between public and private charities infused the former—which gave relief without regard to an applicant’s character—with the latter’s strategy of giving based on moral merit. He reorganized the Indianapolis Benevolent Society as the Charity Organization Society (COS) and combined its efforts with those of Center Township relief caseworkers in order to identify citizens perceived to be making poverty their profession. Notes from interviews conducted and other public records gathered by these visitors of the poor were ultimately collected in McCulloch’s family study, which was intended to provide evidence of “a constellation of degenerate behaviors—including alcoholism, pauperism, social dependency, shiftlessness, nomadism, and ‘lack of moral control’ ” caused by inherited genetic defects and exacerbated by current charitable practice. The solution, McCulloch believed, was to “close up official out-door relief… check private and indiscriminate benevolence, or charity, falsely so-called… [and] get hold of the children.”

McCulloch’s renowned career as a progressivist minister and charity reformer was cut short by his premature death, at age forty-eight, in 1891. Although he had succeeded, by at least some estimates, in reducing the number of Indianapolis citizens receiving public and private relief, he did not live to see the unanticipated impact of his Ishmael study on eugenics, the emerging science of race improvement through selective breeding. His work, intended to reduce dependence on public welfare, continued for many years to be cited, with other family studies, as evidence of a need for legislative measures to compel mandatory sterilization of “mental defectives” and criminals. For McCulloch and others of his day, pauperism had in itself implied an inherited moral problem. The scientists who revised his Ishmael family documents in subsequent decades would emphasize his casual observations of individual feeblemindedness to support a more comprehensive agenda for social reform, one that included the institutionalization of adult vagrants, the prevention of any possibility of their future reproduction, and the segregation of their existing children—all to protect the integrity of well-born society’s germ-plasm. McCulloch had sought to analyze and solve a social problem through historical narrative; his family studies were later presented as scientific data in support of a larger plan for genetically based social control. The transformation of the largely unscientific Ishmael study and its disparaging rhetoric into a tool in support of a Mendelian agenda for racial hygiene can be seen through a comparison of two sets of Ishmael notes. An examination of the first set, based on records gathered by McCulloch and his colleagues in the late nineteenth century, alongside the second, revised set prepared by biologist Arthur H. Estabrook at the Eugenics Research Office (ERO) of the Carnegie Institution at Cold Spring Harbor, New York, after World War I, reflects the changing social context in which the notes were first written and later edited and reveals the value of the concept of inbred deficiencies to civic leaders seeking public support for racial purity laws…

…Arthur Estabrook’s interest in McCulloch’s “three generations” of intermarried poor families originated during his term as an investigator for the Indiana State Committee on Mental Defectives (1916–18) and continued during his subsequent work on hereditable human traits at the Carnegie Institution’s Eugenics Record Office (ERO), an organization founded in 1910 as a clearinghouse for data on human traits and heredity. Estabrook was especially interested in the traits of mixed-race groups and in the sterilization of “mental defectives.” He presented reexaminations of the Jukes and the Ishmaels at the Second International Congress of Eugenics, held in 1921 at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. His work for the ERO also included The Nam Family: A Study in Cacogenics (1912, with Charles B. Davenport) and Mongrel Virginians: The Win Tribe (1926, with Ivan E. McDougle), studies that involved bi-racial and tri-racial individuals respectively. He represented the ERO in Virginia from 1924 to 1926 during an analysis of the issues in the Carrie Buck sterilization lawsuit, and served as the president of the Eugenics Research Association 1925–1926.

Estabrook’s activities following his move to the ERO reflected the widening scientific acceptance of eugenics research and a consequent turn toward more aggressive advocacy, on the part of some scientists and social reformers, for strong measures such as sterilization. Such reformers typically presented compulsory sterilization and other eugenic programs as humanitarian in approach and economic in efficiency. Their studies correlated the increase in immigration to the United States (as well as the persistence of allegedly inferior, native-born descendants of families such as the Ishmaels) with statistics on crime and poverty. In their 1912 report on a rural Massachusetts family they called the Hill Folk, ERO biologists Florence H. Danielson and Charles B. Davenport asked: “Should the industrious, intelligent citizen continue in each generation to triple or quadruple his taxes for maintaining these defectives… or can steps be taken to… prevent the propagation of inevitable dependents?” Other scientists openly expressed concern about cacogenics, the deterioration of a specific genetic stock. British biologist and educator William E. Kellicott spoke on the scientific, ethical, and economic impacts of racial purity and implored his audience “to think of the future of our communities and nations and of our race, rather than contentedly to… parade with self-satisfied air through our glass houses of Anglo-Saxon supremacy.” Dr. H. E. Jordon was even more to the point: “Unless some eliminating mechanism be installed the Anglo-Saxon race surely is doomed to the fate of the Greeks and Romans.”…


Indiana’s 1842 prohibition against miscegenation was still in force in the late 1800s to prevent the “amalgamation of whites and blacks.” A person with one black great-grandparent was considered to be “colored” or “negro.” Marriage between a white person and a person of more than one-eighth “negro blood” remained illegal in Indiana and many other states but some of the married couples recorded in the Ishmael study had apparently skirted those laws. Center Township notetakers often included descriptions of individuals’ complexions in the charity records. The inclusion of these observations of hereditary makeup alongside information such as criminal background or marital history implied that race was somehow genetically linked to pauperism, a significant inference in a city where the “colored” population was growing rapidly. Some individuals are described as mulatto or octoroon while others have “a trace of Negro blood”; some are “very dark” or “swarthy.” One married couple, he with “a trace” and she a mulatto, had a “funny little yellow boy.” One woman who was “very white and possessed very regular features” had a sister whose “very fair white skin” struck the note taker as a strange thing to find in such a poor woman. Another woman, who lived with a mulatto man, “would have been a white woman had she used soap.” A married couple lived on “a dirt street, with houses approaching the shack type, negroes and whites living together.” One man was “a mulatto… born a slave in Virginia, but in some manner secured his freedom… His third and last wife was a very black woman. She had a little property and this was [his] motive for marrying her.” Another man “was a mulatto but seems to have owned a little property.” And another “was of much better mentality than his wife though not of average ability even for a mulatto.”

Although ad hominem comments on race were deleted in the ERO Notes, there is no question that Estabrook resumed study of the Ishmaels in 1915 because of their perceived value to eugenic arguments on racial integrity. The materials he crafted in support of his theories on feeblemindedness for his 1921 presentation to the Second International Congress of Eugenics were archived at the Eugenics Record Office not under “Criminality” or “Mendicancy” (begging or vagrancy) but with files on “Race,” listed between “Negro” and “American Indian–Negro.” Where the Indiana Notes had attempted to document a causal relationship between pauperism and inbred degeneracy at the end of the nineteenth century, the ERO Notes emphasized the social and economic costs to twentieth-century society of unregulated procreation by the “extremely prolific” lower classes. “The underlying condition of the whole Tribe is seen to be feeble-mindedness,” Estabrook asserted, which in poor conditions causes “the anti-social reaction of pauperism, crime, and prostitution.”…

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Notes on physical anthropology of Australian aborigines and black-white hybrids

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, Media Archive, Oceania on 2011-01-24 01:28Z by Steven

Notes on physical anthropology of Australian aborigines and black-white hybrids

American Journal of Physical Anthropology
Volume 8, Issue 1 (January/March 1925)
pages 73–94
DOI: 10.1002/ajpa.1330080105

Charles B. Davenport, Director
Department of Experimental Evolution
(Carnegie Institution of Washington)
Cold Spring Harbor, Long Island, New York


In September 1914, after the meetings of the British Association in Australia, I was given transportation by the Government of New South Wales, enabling me to go to the government reservation for aborigines at Brewarrina on the Burke division of the State railroad. This reservation is on the Barwon fork of the Darling River, about 60 miles south of the Queensland boundary.  The purpose of the visit was to observe near by a number of  individuals of the fast disappearing race.

While at Brewarrina, during about six days, I enjoyed the hospitality of Mr. and Mrs. Arnold’s tact and good judgment that I was enabled to see as many of the inhabitants of the Station as time permitted and to make some simple measurements upon them…

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A Race about Race: Race, Inter-Race and Post-Race in the Study of Human Genetics

Posted in Articles, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy on 2011-01-20 04:49Z by Steven

A Race about Race: Race, Inter-Race and Post-Race in the Study of Human Genetics

Afterimage: The Journal of Media Arts and Cultural Criticism
Volume 30, Number 2 (September/October 2002)

Paul Vanouse, Associate Professor of Visual Studies
The State University of New York, Buffalo

In 1929, Charles B. Davenport, Director of the Biological Laboratory at Cold Spring Harbor in New York, co-published Race Crossing in Jamaica, a 512-page study on the “problem of race crossing, with special reference to its significance for the future of any country containing a mixed population.”  The island of Jamaica was chosen for its isolated pockets of “pure-blooded negro, mulatto and White” of similar economic class. The method of evaluation entailed primarily anthropomorphic and psychological examinations of hundreds of subjects from these three groupings. Anthropomorphic examinations included 60 measurements of body regions, including face breadth, cranial capacity and relative height in varied positions. Psychological tests included the Knox moron test and the criticism-of-absurd-sentences test. The book concluded that Blacks and Whites differ in both physical and mental capacities and that among the Browns, while some are equal to or superior to their progenitor races, “there appear[s] to be an excessive per cent over random variation who seem unable to utilize their native endowment.” In a concurrent solo publication of the same title, Davenport states this conclusion more forcefully. A population of hybrids “will be a population carrying an excessively large number of intellectually incompetent persons.” In this publication he also suggests one method to make cross-breeding permissible: “If only society had the force to eliminate the lower half of a hybrid population then the remaining upper half of the hybrid population might be a clear advantage to the population as a whole, at least so far as physical and sensory accomplishments go.”

Davenport is probably the most influential and prolific eugenic scientist in the United States, but his texts were hardly the forerunners of racist science. An often discussed, early predecessor is Paolo Mantegazza, whose iconic Morphological Tree of the Human Races (1890) is a branching timeline of human development reaching its pinnacle with the Aryan race. In 1883, Francis Galton, a cousin of Charles Darwin, actually coined the term “Eugenics” (good in birth) as a science dedicated to improving human stock by getting rid of so-called undesirables and increasing the number of desirables. In its contemporary usage, Eugenics is defined as “a science that deals with the improvement (as by control of human mating) of hereditary qualities of a race or breed,” a distinctly more encompassing concept than Galton’s. Yet, it is ultimately the socially conservative approaches of its main promoters (separation, segregation and sterilization) that we associate with the term. “Negative Eugenics,” as it has been terme d, is concerned with limiting who can breed and with whom. For example, as Davenport laments, because of racial intermixing: “The standard races of mankind are rapidly disintegrating.”  Improvement and conservation were key contradictory goals in many of the early eugenic writings on race. (It should be noted, however, that Eugenics was in no way limited to racial concerns, and, indeed, many of the most heinous sterilization campaigns in the U.S. involved persons convicted of crimes or deemed “feebleminded.”)

Davenport’s Jamaica study sought to definitively disprove the theory of “hybrid vigor,” which was espoused by laissez-faire social Darwinists who felt that, in keeping with the theory of evolution, the fitness of the human race would be ensured because weaker, recessive genetic material would naturally be weeded out. Hybrid coupling, in Davenport’s opinion, is only viable if undesirable offspring can be eliminated, whereas conservative inbreeding produces more reliable results and preserves the integrity of the existing racial groups. As theorist Paul Gilroy has noted, the concept of race was invented during colonization to justify sub-human treatment of enslaved and colonized peoples and to reify concepts of nation and national identity. The stigmatization of racial intermixing was promoted to keep these boundaries stable. It is no surprise then that conservative, negative Eugenics was welcomed and fostered across the most fervent nationalist enterprises, especially those of the U.S., Germany and England…

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Skin Color of Mulattoes

Posted in Articles, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Media Archive, United States on 2011-01-14 22:14Z by Steven

Skin Color of Mulattoes

Journal of Heridity
Volume 5, Number 12 (December 1914)
pages 556-558

Charles B. Davenport, Director
Department of Experimental Evolution
(Carnegie Institution of Washington)
Cold Spring Harbor, Long Island, New York

Apparently Four Factors Involved—Segregation in Second Generation—Skin Pigment Developed After Birth—No Correlation Between Color of Skin and Curliness of Hair in Offspring of Mulatto Marriages.

The method of heredity in negro-white crosses has long been cited as a demonstration of the failure of modern principles of heredity in their application to some specific cases. Skin color is said to show a typical blending, as in the mulatto, and it is generally assumed that all of the offspring of two mulattoes resemble their parents in skin color; and if a mulatto be crossed with a white that all of the offspring will be of a shade still lighter than the mulatto parent, namely, of a quadroon color. The current theory also has a great social importance because according to it, “once a negro, always a negro;” since the negro characteristics can not be wholly eliminated even by successive matings with white. However, as a concession, certain States even in our South permit the offspring of a person containing one-eighth negro blood and a pure white to pass as a white citizen and to marry, legally, a white person. That is, after matings of a mulatto and her offspring for two further generations with white persons the final generation may pass for white…

The family of a white man of colored ancestry, and a mulatto woman. All seven sons and daughters are shown in the photograph. The infant is the lightest, with 8% black in the skin; this will doubtless darken with age. The son at the extreme right of the picture has 22% black in his skin; the boy at the extreme left has 26% black. (Fig. 17.)


Part of the “W” family, including a medium colored mother and six of her seven children by a white man; also a little first cousin of the other children, who is directly in front of the mother. Note the great variation in the facial coloration of full brothers and sisters. The skin color of the youngest child is the same as that of a typical white infant, namely, 5% black, whereas the oldest boy of the group has a skin color of 32%black, considerably darker than his mother. (Fig. 18.)

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The Skin Color of Children from White By Near-White Marriages

Posted in Articles, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Media Archive on 2011-01-13 05:17Z by Steven

The Skin Color of Children from White By Near-White Marriages

The Journal of Heredity
Volume 38, Number 8 (August 1947)
pages 233-234

Curt Stern (1902-1981), Professor of Zoology and Genetics [Read a biographical memoir by James V. Neel here.]
University of California, Berkeley

It is well known that the inheritance of color differences in negro-white crosses is based on multiple genes, as first postulated by Gertrude C. and Charles B. Davenport in 1910. Most textbooks present the specific hypothesis first proposed by Davenport  that two pairs of genes are involved which act cumulatively and with intermediate effects in heterozygotes, so that negro pigmentation may be symbolized by AABB, white by aabb and various shades of diverse hybrid pigmentation by AABb, and AaBB (dark mulatto) AAbb, aaBB, and AaBb (mulatto), and aaBb and Aabb (light mulatto). In a general way this hypothesis fits the data on negro-white hybrids collected by Davenport. Undoubtedly, however, it is at best only a first approximation. Pigmentation is greatly variable in either whites or negroes. While it is known that much of this variability is inherited, little information is available as to the specific genetic conditions underlying the degrees and types of pigmentation found in either group. Correspondingly limited is our knowledge of the interaction of the “minor” genes for pigment variability with each other and with the “major” ones in negro-white crosses.

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