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Anthropometrics in the U. S. Bureau of Education: The Case of Arthur MacDonald's “Laboratory”

  • James B. Gilbert (a1)

Extract

In early 1892, Arthur MacDonald, a young docent in applied ethics from Clark University in Wocester, Massachusetts, traveled to Washington to assume the duties of specialist in education “as preventive of pauperism and crime” for the United States Bureau of Education. Hired by the Hegelian philosopher and Commissioner of Education, William T. Harris, he quickly won the approval and praise of his superiors. By the middle of the decade, however, Harris became aware of several disturbing tendencies in his new clerk-specialist. Instead of gathering material for use by educational experts, MacDonald was accumulating “laboratory instruments” for the study of anthropometrics (the measurement of physical characteristics and speculation about their effects upon psychology). Worse, some of the material MacDonald presented to the department, and some which he published in outside books and articles, showed that he was advocating controversial theories of criminology inspired by Cesare Lombroso in Italy and Alphonse Bertillon in France. MacDonald thought he had found a direct link between physical appearance and criminality, insanity, and poverty, in other words, a system of physical stigmata. On the basis of this, he proposed to reorient education from its traditional emphasis upon development toward considerations of hygiene.

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Notes

1. See, “Preface” to MacDonald, Arthur, Criminology (New York, 1893).

2. Ford, T. B., “William T. Harris, an Educational Reformer,” in Baeumler, Alfred and Monroe, Paul, Internationale Zeitschrift fur Erziehung (Berlin, 1935), pp. 245–49. Daniel, John to the Commissioner of Education, September 30, 1887 in Psycho-Physical Laboratory File, Office of Education, U. S. Bureau of Education, Washington D. C. Archives. Hereafter cited as Psycho-Physical MSS. See also, for early history of the Bureau of Education, Warren, Donald R., To Enforce Education (Detroit, 1974).

3. Leidecker, Kurt F., Yankee Teacher: The Life of William Torrey Harris (New York, 1946), pp. 3756, 69–77, 316.

4. Ibid, passim.

5. Harris, William Torrey, Thoughts on Educational Psychology (Bloomington, Illinois, 1889), pp. 26–7. Harris, William Torrey, Psychologic Foundations of Education, International Education Series, XXXVII (New York, 1898), p. 4. See also Dowler, Larry, “The New Idealism and the Quest for Culture in the Gilded Age” (doctoral dissertation, University of Maryland, 1974), pp. 286ff.

6. Harris, William Torrey, “Herbert Spencer,” Proceedings of the Department of Superintendence, National Education Association (Chicago, 1904), pp. 4655. Harris, William Torrey, “Notes on Biology versus Sociology and Psychology,” Manuscript, William Torrey Harris Papers, Library of Congress, Washington D. C., Box 40. Hereafter cited as Harris MSS.

7. Harris, William Torrey, “The Difference Between Efficient and Final Causes in Controlling Human Freedom” (Bloomington, Illinois, 1902), passim. Harris, William T., Psychologic Foundations of Education, pp. 4–9.

8. Harris, William Torrey to Eliot, Charles W. Chairman, Committee of Ten, November 22, 1893, Box 15, Harris MSS. Roberts, John S., Harris, William Torrey: Ä Critical Study of his Educational and Related Philosophical Views (Washington, 1924), p. 41. Harris, William Torrey, “Higher Education; its Function in Preserving and Extending our Civilization,” Educational Review (New York, September, 1898).

9. Harris, William Torrey, “Moral Education in the Common Schools,” read to the Sixth Meeting of the Illinois Social Science Association (Chicago, October 16, 1883), pp. 16. Harris, William Torrey, “The General Government and Public Education Throughout the Country,” Papers on School Issues of the Day, XIV (Syracuse, New York, 1890), pp. 6–7.

10. Harris, William Torrey, “The Philosophy of Crime and Punishment,” Proceedings of the Annual Congress of Prison Association of the United States (Pittsburgh, 1891), p. 229. Harris, William Torrey to Seaton, Col. C. W., Superintendent of the 10th Census of the United States, January 8, 1885, Harris MSS. Harris, William Torrey, “Introduction,” Report of the Commissioner of Education for the Year, 1893–94, 2 Vols. (Washington, D. C, 1896), Vol. 1.

11. MacDonald, Arthur to Leeke, Eva Elizabeth, Daughters of the American Republic, February 22, 1921, Washington, D. C, Arthur MacDonald Manuscripts in Bureau of Education Manuscripts, National Archives, Washington, D. C; hereafter cited as MacDonald MSS.

12. Ludmeer, Kenneth M., Genetics and American Society: An Historical Appraisal (Baltimore, 1972), p. 34, 87. Davenport, Charles Benedict, Heredity in Relation to Eugenics , Intro, by Rosenberg, Charles E. (New York, 1972). Fink, Arthur E., Causes of Crime: Biological Theories in the United States, 1800–1915 (Philadelphia, 1938), 4Iff. on Lombroso. Goddard, Henry H., Feeble-Mindedness; Its Causes and Consequences (New York, 1914). Ripley, William Z., “Race Progress and Immigration” in “Race Improvement in the United States,” Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, Vol. 24 (July, 1909). Haller, John S. Jr., Outcasts from Evolution: Scientific Attitudes of Racial Inferiority, 1859–1900 (Urbana, 1971), p. 102.

13. See, for example, “Report of Committee A,” American Institute of Criminal Law and Criminology (Chicago, 1909), “Physical Bases of Crime: A Symposium,” Papers and Discussion Contributed to the 38th Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Medicine, June 14, 1913 (Easton, Pennsylvania, 1914), Dictionary of Races or Peoples, Report of the Immigration Commission, United States Senate, 61st Congress, 3rd Session (Washington, D. C, 1911). See, Report of the State Commission to Investigate Provision for the Mentally Deficient, New York State Senate, February 15, 1915 (Albany, New York, 1915), p. 135 for information on Russell Sage Financing. State of New York, Board of Charities, The Bureau of Analysis and Investigation: Its Purposes and Field, Eugenics and Social Welfare Bulletin f (Albany, New York, 1912), p. 1. Cravens, Hamilton, American Scientists and the Heredity-Environment Controversy, 1883–1940, Doctoral Dissertation, (University of Iowa, 1969).

14. MacDonald, Arthur, “Ethics as Applied to Criminology,” Journal of Mental Science (January, 1891), pp. 25, from clipping file in “Studies of Modern Man,” II, Library of Congress, Washington, D. C, hereafter cited as MacDonald Clippings.

15. Harris, William Torrey, “Annual Statement of the Commissioner of Education” (Washington, D. C, 1891), p. 5.

16. Harris, William Torrey, “Annual Statement of the Commissioner of Education” (Washington, D. C, 1892), p. 5. Harris, William T. to the Secretary of Interior, August 13, 1892, Letters of the Commissioner of Education sent to the Secretary of Interior, National Archives, Washington, D. C, hereafter cited as Education to Interior MSS. “Service Record of Arthur MacDonald,” October 20, 1921, MacDonald MSS. Arthur MacDonald to Secretary Cortelyou, January 13, 1903, Theodore Roosevelt Papers, Library of Congress, Washington, D. C, hereafter cited as Roosevelt MSS.

17. Harris, William, “Statement,” 1891, p. 5. MacDonald, Arthur, “Institutions for the Defective and Dependent Classes,” Report of the U. S. Commissioner of Education for the Year 1889–90 (Washington, D. C, 1893), passim. See also MacDonald, Arthur, “The International Congress of Experimental Psychology,” Science, XX (November, 1892), p. 288. See Harris, William Torrey to Standish, A. K., December 9, 1899, Commissioners Records, U. S. Archives, Washington, D. C, hereafter cited as Commissioners Records.

18. MacDonald, Arthur, Abnormal Man, with letter of Transmittal by Harris, William Torrey, U. S. Bureau of Education, Circular of Information #4 (Washington, D. C, 1893), p. 5. Harris, William Torrey, “Annual Statement of the Commissioner of Education, 1893” (Washington, D. C, 1893), p. 29. Lombroso, Cesare, Crime and Its Causes , trans, by Horton, Henry P., intro. by Parmelee, Maurice (Boston, 1918). MacDonald, Arthur, “Genius and Insanity,” Journal of Mental Science (April, 1892).

19. Harris, William Torrey, Report of the Commissioner of Education, 1893–4 (Washington, D. C, 1896), xlv. MacDonald, Arthur, “Criminological Studies,” in Annual Reports of the Commissioner of Education, Vol. XX, 1893–94 (Washington, D. C, 1896), 1663–1675.

20. MacDonald, Arthur, Criminology, intro. by Lombroso, Cesare (New York, 1893), pp iv, 57, 173, 271–2. MacDonald, Arthur, Le Criminel-type dans quelques Formes Graves de la Criminalite,” 2eme ed. (Paris, 1894).

21. MacDonald, Arthur to Harris, William Torrey, October 30, 1900, Commissioners Records. See also William Torrey Harris to Secretary of the Interior, June 23, 1900, Education to Interior MSS. MacDonald was given permission to visit charitable institutions and then prisons to collect statistics for the department. MacDonald, Arthur, Abnormal Woman: A Sociologic and Scientific Study of Young women, Including Letters of American and European Girls in Answer to Personal Advertisements (Washington, D. C, 1895), p. 97.

22. Ibid.

23. MacDonald, Arthur, “Mental Ability in Relation to Head Circumferance, Cephalic Index, Sociological Condition, Sex, Age, and Nationality, from the American Statistical Association, MacDonald Clippings.

24. Bliss, A. B. to Harris, William Torrey, Connecticut, April 31, 1899, Psycho-Physical MSS.

25. Harris, William Torrey to the Secretary of the Interior, December 8, 1900, pp. 14, Psycho-Physical MSS.

26. MacDonald, Arthur to Roosevelt, Theodore, May 10, 1901, Roosevelt, MSS.

27. U. S. Senate, Congressional Record, 57th Congress, Second Session, May 29, 1902, Vol. 35, pt. 6 (Washington, D. C, 1902), p. 6123. U. S. House of Representatives, Committee on the Judiciary, Hearings on Bill, H. R. 14798 to Establish a Laboratory for the Study of the Criminal, Pauper and Defective Classes (Washington, D. C, 1902), pp. 3, 33ff. MacDonald, Arthur to Garfield, James R., Secretary of the Interior, October 4, 1907, Psycho-Physical MSS.

28. Harris, William Torrey, “Bureau of Education Estimates of Appropriations,” quoted in U. S. House of Representatives, Laboratory for the Study of the Criminal, Pauper and Defective Classes, Report #2087, 6th Congress, Second Session (Washington, D. C, 1908–1909), p. 2. New York Times, “Ousted a Criminologist,” February, 1903, p. 7.

29. “‘Doctor’ Arthur MacDonald and the Patho-Social Humbug,” New York Sun, February 18, 1903. MacDonald, Arthur to Secretary Cortelyou, January 13, 1903, Roosevelt MSS.

30. U. S. Senate, Congressional Record, 57th Congress Second Session, Vol. 36, pt. 2 (Washington, D. C, 1903), p. 1577. Parkhurst, C. H. to Roosevelt, Theodore, March 16, 1903, Roosevelt MSS.

31. MacDonald, Arthur to Scott, Charles F., March 16, 1903, Roosevelt MSS.

32. “The ‘Laboratory’ for Study of Abnormal Classes, Begun in Bureau of Education, at Washington, A Myth,” Interstate Medical Journal (August, 1903), MacDonald MSS.

33. Harris, William Torrey, “Danger of Using Biological Analogies in Reasoning on Educational Subjects,” Address to the National Education Association, 1902, p. 7, Harris MSS.

34. “MacDonald vs Sun Printing and Publishing Association” Supreme Court, Trial Term, Kings County; December, 1904, New York Supplement, Vol. XCII (St. Paul, 1905), pp. 3841. “MacDonald vs Sun Printing and Publishing Association,” New York Supplement, Vol. XCVIII (St. Paul, 1906).

35. Lt. Wigmore, John H. of Provost Marshall, General, War Department quoted in “Memorandum re: Record of Arthur MacDonald”, 1922? to Secretary Tigert from the Assistant to the Commissioner, pp. 4–5, MacDonald MSS.

36. MacDonald, Arthur, “Statistics on Congressional Life and Activity,” U. S. House of Representatives, Hearings , Committee on Printing (Washington, D. C, 1912), p. 4.

37. MacDonald, Arthur to Secretary Cortelyou, January 13, 1903, Roosevelt MSS. White, William A. to Secretary of the Interior, January 2, 1907, pp. 1–2, Psycho-Physical MSS. See also, “Inventory of Contents of Cases of Apparatus Loaned by the Bureau of Education to the Government Hospital for the Insane,” Psycho-Physical MSS. For some results of the work, see Franz, Shepherd, Handbook of Mental Examination Methods (New York, 1919).

38. MacDonald, Arthur, “Statement,” in Hearings on a Bill for the Study of the Criminal, Pauper, and Defective Classes, U. S. Senate, Committee on Education (Washington, D. C, 1908). Hearings to Establish a Laboratory for the Study of the Criminal, Dependent, and Defective Classes, U. S. House of Representatives, Committee on the Judiciary (Washington, D. C, 1930), pp. 5–9. MacDonald, Arthur, “Natural Mental Tests,” typescript submitted to the Commissioner of Education, 1921, pp. 2–4, MacDonald MSS.

39. Harris, William T., “Danger of Biological Analogies.”

40. Harris, William T. to Secretary of Interior, December 8, 1900, Psycho-Physical MSS. Secretary of Interior to Jenkens, John J., Committee on the Judiciary of the House, June 22, 1908, Psycho-Physical MSS.

41. Dr. E. E. Brown, Commissioner of Education, “Partial Program for the Development of the Bureau of Education, in the Near Future,” Commissioner of Education Papers, Development of New Programs, National Archives, Washington, D. C, hereafter cited as New Programs MSS. Lane, Franklin K. to President of the Senate, January 18, 1917, New Programs MSS. Claxton, P. P. to Secretary of the Interior, January 13, 1917, New Programs MSS, “Memorandum for the Establishment of Research Stations,” September 15, 1919, New Programs MSS.

42. Haller, , Outcasts from Evolution. Boas, Franz, The Shaping of American Anthropology, 1883–1911: A Franz Boas Reader , Stocking, George Jr., ed. (New York, 1974), pp. 202–212. Boas, Franz, “Changes in Bodily Form of Descendants of Immigrants,” Abstracts of Reports of the Immigration Commission, intro. Oscar Handlin, 2 Vols. (New York, 1970), I, 501–551. Mullen, E. H., “Mentality of the Arriving Immigrant,” Public Health Bulletin #90 (Washington, D. C, 1917).

Anthropometrics in the U. S. Bureau of Education: The Case of Arthur MacDonald's “Laboratory”

  • James B. Gilbert (a1)

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