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Carnegie Institution of Washington - Eugenics Record Office Collection

 Collection
Identifier: ERO

Scope and Content



The ERO closed in December 1939 and the collection of forms containing hereditary and genealogical information records was put into storage. In 1948 the records from the ERO were donated to the University of Minnesota for use by the Dight Institute of Human Genetics. Records indicate a total of 23,030 pounds of material were shipped: approximately 43, 5000 family trait folders, over 10,000 pounds of 3x5 and 4x6 index cards, and 8714 pounds of empty file cabinets. This ERO Collection is what remained at the Cold Spring Harbor Lab. The Collection is organized into five series: H. H. Laughlin (1912-1935) Horse Studies (1934-39) ERO Publications (1910-2003) ERO Family studies ( 1908-1940) ERO Administrative (1902-1969)
Research Value and Significance of Collection The Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Archives is one of the most significant collection of materials pertinent to the American Eugenics movement in the United States. The ERO played a dubious, but significant, role in the social history of the United States. Consistent with the social concerns of the period, the ERO studied the heredity of traits such as "feeble mindedness" and alcoholism, and assumed that social constructions such as "pauperism" were also inherited. The ERO collection includes correspondence, documents and photographs of the ERO, which existed at Cold Spring Harbor from 1910 to 1924. The collection possesses one of the few remaining copies in the world of H. Laughlin’s 1939 book on the Eugenics Records Office, as well as a comprehensive collection of photographs of ERO Field Workers’ Training Classes not available elsewhere.
Research Value and Significance of Collection link

Dates

  • 1902 - 2003

Creator

Language of Materials

English

Access Restrictions

Some restrictions apply, see Archivist for details. Access is given only by appointment, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Use Restriction

Archival materials must remain in the archival reading area. Item duplication is to be done by archivists. Fees are applied to copies made. Digital photography is permitted by users. Due to the very fragile nature of some materials in this collection, some are available through photocopies; others must be used under the supervision of an archivist.

Historical Note

This collection was generated by the Eugenic Record Office which was created as a department of the Carnegie Institute of Washington Station (CIW) for Experimental Evolution (SEE)at Cold Spring Harbor New York. The Carnegie Institute of Washington engaged in research in biology from 1904 using a tract of approximately 9 acres leased for 50 years from the Wawepex Society in Cold Spring Harbor NY. With Charles Davenport as Director, a laboratory was built and the “station” opened in June 1904; it was named “Station for Experimental Evolution” (SEE) in 1906. In 1910, with funding from Mrs. E.H.Harriman, an 80 acre farm near the SEE was purchased, and an office building was erected to establish the Eugenics Record Office (ERO). In 1918, Mrs. Harriman transferred the farm and building to CIW along with an endowment for its maintenance. The Record Office formally came under the aegis of the Carnegie Institution of Washington in 1918. In 1921 the SEE and ERO were combined into the CIW Department of Genetics with Charles Davenport as the Director. After Charles Davenport retired in 1934, Dr. Albert Blakeslee served as Director of the CIW Department of Genetics until 1941 when Milislav Demerec was named Director. The ERO closed in December 1939 and materials including the collection of forms containing hereditary and genealogical information records were put into storage and the name of the ERO was changed to Genetics Record Office. In 1948 the records from the Eugenics Records Office were donated to the University of Minnesota for use by the Dight Institute of Human Genetics. That material was then dispersed amongst three institutions: the American Philosophical Society, Jackson Laboratories and The Genealogical Society of Utah. The ERO was devoted to the collection and analysis of American family genetic and traits history records. These eugenics studies collected information such as inborn physical, mental and temperamental properties to enable a family to trace the segregation and recombination of inborn or heritable qualities. The family study files include individual analysis cards, field worker reports, pedigree charts, and special trait studies. Davenport was president of the American Society of Zoologists and in 1910 he founded the Eugenics Record Office at Cold Spring Harbor, and appointed Harry H. Laughlin to direct it. Laughlin became a spokesman for the programmatic side of the eugenics movement, lobbying for eugenic legislation to restrict immigration and sterilize "defectives," educating the public on eugenic health, and disseminating eugenic ideas widely.

Extent

16 linear feet (24 Boxes)

Overview

The Carnegie Institute of Washington engaged in biological research in Cold Spring Harbor, NY and along with private funding established the Eugenics Record Office (ERO) from 1910 until the Office closed in 1939. The Eugenics Record Office Collection contains administrative papers, photographs, publications and supporting materials produced in the collection and analysis of American genetic and family history records. The collection is divided into five series: H. H. Laughlin material, Horse Studies; ERO Publications; ERO Family Studies and ERO Administrative material.

Arrangement Note

This material was processed to series level and the material is arranged chronologically within the series with the exceptions oversized material that has been housed separately. Materials for this collection were found generally unorganized; the boxes were largely unlabeled and theywere not from the creator of these records. An inventory has been created for this collection. Like material was grouped into series by the processing archivist to assist researchers. Where folders were clearly identifiable as belonging to another institution (as determined by date, person, or subject), the processing archivist removed the folders for refilling in the relevant Related Collections. It is recommended that this collection be researched in conjunction with Related Collections.

The records were arranged in 5 series. With the exception of the ledgers, all materials in these series were arranged alphabetically. The ledgers were arranged chronologically.

Provenance

The collection represents material generated, accumulated and maintained by the Carnegie Institution of Washington (CIW) Eugenics Record Office (ERO) from the opening of the initial office in Cold Spring Harbor, New York in 1904 The material also reflects research generated by successor departments (Department of Genetics) with variant names. These records have been stored on site since their creation, and subsequently in the attic of the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Library Building until their removal to the renovated Library and Archives in 2010.

Related Materials

It is recommended that this collection be researched in conjunction with Related Collections: Carnegie Institute of Washington, Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Sciences and Long Island Biological Association historical collections located at Cold Spring Harbor Lab Archives. The Charles Benedict Davenport Papers 1874-1946 at the American Philosophical Society. These could be located in our archives or another institution. See related finding aids in Digitools (Charles Davenport, Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Sciences, Carnegie Institute of Washington and Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory).

Acknowledgement

This collection was processed with funding provided by the New York State Archives’ Documentary Heritage Program.
Title
Carnegie Institution of Washington - Eugenics Record Office Collection
Author
Finding Aid Prepared by E.D.Pessala.
Date
July 2012.
Language of description
Finding aid written in English.

Repository Details

Part of the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Archives Repository

Contact:
Library & Archives
Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory
One Bungtown Rd
Cold Spring Harbor NY 11724 USA
516-367-6872