Letters between McDougle and Dr. A. H. Estabrook regarding their study in Virginia. The letters included names and places that have been redacted by SUNY Albany, who holds the original documents.
McDougle grew up in the Appalachian Mountains. He was born in Tennessee to a school teacher and after attending a normal school in Kentucky, he transferred to Clark College in Massachusetts to complete his undergraduate degree. He then went on to earn both a Masters and Doctorate there. At college, Mac, as his friends called him, could not be taken from his southern roots. Friends joked in the yearbook that he was an "expert in Mooneshineology." He wrote his doctoral dissertation on slavery in Kentucky, combining both his interest in the south and race relations. After a quick stint at a boys' school in New Jersey, McDougle returned south for a job at Sweet Briar College.
In 1923, McDougle paired up with Dr. Arthur H. Estabrook to investigate the mixed race people living around Sweet Briar. Estabrook was working at the Eugenics Records Office of the Carnegie Institute and had already looked into tri-racial isolate families in New York and North Carolina. At a time when immigration had just been culled, infant mortality was still a huge problem, and birth control was still illegal in many states, figuring out what traits were hereditary was vital to scientists and social workers. The middle and upper classes thought people living in tenements were dirty and stupid, but wondered if that always be a part of their lineage. Were violence, pauperism, criminality, and 'feeble-mindedness' inherited traits? Estabrook, a fellow Clark alum, now had a man on the ground to do a proper sociological study of one of these families. McDougle could interview the people and look into marriage and property records to find out as much as he could about the family.
The investigators made their way to the homes of the family, called the "Browns" and the "Jones" in the study. What lay before the girls and McDougle in the hollers of the mountains was isolation and extreme poverty. The families lived in log houses and rough shacks, a few in board houses. They were farmers, relying on the finicky and grueling work of growing tobacco to make a living. Some owned their property, while others rented. There was no compulsory education, no official school. And even if there had been a public school, the one-drop rule meant that if the children were suspected of having any African ancestry, they would be forced into an inferior segregated school, if one even existed. A church operated a mission in the area, which included an elementary school, but as in many areas of the United States at the time, schooling was often overlooked for working in some capacity - whether it was in a field or in a factory.
"The white folks look down on them and so do the negroes."
McDougle and Estabrook reported that there lived about five-hundred members of this family in 32 square miles in south western Virginia. They called the 'tribe' the Win, representing White-Indian-Negro, yet they refrained from actually including any true information about where the people lived or what their names were. It's surprising that the researchers felt the need to protect the privacy of their subjects. This was before the days of the institutional review board and ethical approval of experiments and research studies. This was when doctors were injecting 'inferior' people with syphilis to see what would happen or removing testicles on prison inmates. It's possible that the Win tribe was what is today recognized as the Monacan tribe of Virginia. The geographic area fits (being located in Amherst County, Virginia) and some of the names that were changed remain similar to the history of the Monacans (Johns changed to Jones, Bear Mountain changed to Coon Mountain).
"This study has included both mental and physical characteristics, modes of living, earning capacity, schooling, and special customs." - Mongrel Virginians, 1926
Just like census takers, McDougle and his assistants based their ideas of race on the color of people's skin. Many women he came across he described as 'white,' while those who had copper skin he considered obviously Native American, and those with dark skin were always African American. Sometimes, the authors express surprise that someone had a white parent, yet still had very dark skin. The most important characteristics always seem to be hair color, skin color, eye color, and general character. About character they wrote things like:
"He is a typical Win, unintelligent and very stubborn in make up."
" 'G' a boy of seven, was born with a paralysis of both legs below the hips. the physician of the State Orthopedic Clinic states that this was due to a clot of the brain."
"One girl is a prostitute."
A girl who gets in fights and has deformed feet, "is as fit a case for institutional care."
What Dr. McDougle and Dr. Estabrook wrote has been called racist by many, and it is, but at the time, it was simply part of the eugenics movement. Using words like stupid and feeble-minded were considered appropriate determinations of intelligence. Today, we realize that the conditions of the Wins are more related to poverty than anything else. They lacked access to education. They presented physical deformities that were cause by malnutrition or lack of access to health care. They resorted to disreputable professions because it was the only way to make money.
At the time, the lower-classes presented a scary view to many upper-class Americans. The 'problem' of immigration had been taken care of in 1921 with the Emergency Quota Act which was mostly geared towards keeping southern and eastern Europeans out of the United States. But what would happen when races mixed? Would degenerates breed degenerates? If the races mixed, that would eliminate the white race and bring everyone down, the eugenicists figured.
McDougle and Estabrook also assume that the Wins wanted to be more white, to marry someone lighter skinned and pass for whites. The Supreme Court case Plessy v. Ferguson (1896) allowed segregation while the Racial Integrity Act of 1924 in Virginia stated that even "one drop" of non-white blood classified a person as 'colored.' In the case of the Wins, the researchers cited their godlessness, lack of chastity, idleness, drunkenness, illness, and lack of education as proof that this intermixing has created generations of degenerates. They write that if the Racial Integrity Act "can be enforced, it will preserve racial integrity" (181).
By the time their study was published, Ivan McDougle had moved on to a position at Goucher College in Baltimore, but Estabrook still worked for the Eugenics Records Office. In fact, he looked into the effect of the Carrie Buck Supreme Court Case that allowed for sterilization of the "feeble-minded." The Eugenics Movement had it's height in 1924, but it was not until after WWII and the extreme eugenics of the Nazis that the ideas associated with the movement - sterilization and isolation - were finally seen as unethical.
This is a cursory overview of the topic. Check out the Eugenics Records Office, the SUNY Archive of Estabrook's Papers, and the full "Mongrel Virginians" paper for more information.
The year that the Lying-In hospital opened, the only other hospitals for women in Baltimore were the Maryland Woman's Hospital (at 112 E. Saratoga St.) and the Maternite Lying-In-Asylum at 113 E. Lombard St., both associated with the College of Physicians and Surgeons. Part of the reason that medical schools opened hospitals was so that their students could learn by seeing patients, not just sitting in a classroom. Intern years and residencies were not officially part of the medical school curriculum yet. The Lying-In Hospital gave the University of Maryland, where Dr. Miltenberger and Dr. Neale were both graduates of and professors at, a perfect opportunity to help and teach.
"The large proportion of needy poor and unfortunates in every large city calls loudly for aid for simple charity's sake, while the benefits to the community, both present and future, from an institution where practical instruction at the bed-side could be afforded to advanced students, are self-evident." - First Annual Report p. 8
The Lying-In Hospital came at the advent of the new era of hospital. The wards were large, with high ceilings and white-washed walls. The beds were made of painted iron. The simple construction made them easy to clean. On top of the bed frame there were wire-spring mattresses, a relatively new invention that was much cleaner and hygienic than stuffed mattresses. Although they didn't have running water in the wards (Baltimore would not have a city-wide sewer system for another 24 years), polished-surface basin and pitcher were used for cleaning patients.
Another distinct feature was that both white and black people were attended to in the hospital. Johns Hopkins would become famous for serving all races of poor people a few years later, but the Lying-In Hospital was already doing it. However, the report does make a specific point that the two wards are separate from one another.
In their first seven months of operation, the hospital saw 62 women, 57 of whom gave birth. Two women died, most likely a result of postpartum hemorrhage since no cases of septicemia were reported. Four out of fifty-eight children died, a relatively low rate compared to national infant mortality, which continued to be as high as twenty percent in some areas into the 21st century.
I'll end with my favorite quote from the 1st report:
"All malt liquors, wines, spirits, etc., brought to the house shall be placed in charge of the Matron, and used only by order of the attending physicians."
A friend and luthier, Andy FitzGibbon sent me these images of a fiddle made in Baltimore by a man name August Heck. Baltimore once had a vibrant instrument making scene, and I wondered if Heck was part of that.
Heck was born in Germany in 1847 and emigrated to the United States in 1884, during the second large wave of German immigration. The first large flow came in the 1850s, after the 1848 revolution forced many liberals out of the country. In the 1880s, more than one million Germans resettled in the United States, many escaping religious prosecution and military service. Baltimore had a large German population from every wave of immigration, and German instrument makers like William E. Boucher, Jr. and C.H. Eisenbrant had very successful businesses.
We can track Heck a bit by the locations on his labels. Violins #74 and #77 turned up with "Heckville, Indiana," while an advertisement listed him later in Valparaiso, Indiana. By 1891, he was in Baltimore and by 1900, he's listed in the Washington, D.C. census as an instrument maker. While in Baltimore, he even filed a patent.
"A chin rest for violins" is patented by August Heck, of Baltimore, which is the combination with a clamp having lips for embracing the violin, of a clamping twin button whose plant of motion is at a right angle with lips.
The language from the newspaper isn't too clear. Basically, his invention featured a round gear that screwed to tighten a chin rest on the top and bottom of the fiddle. Most chin rests need a little key to tighten two rods that connects the top (the chin rest) with another metal piece on the bottom of the fiddle.
Industrialization meant innovation and everyone wanting to patent their million dollar idea. Thomas Edison, Alexander Graham Bell, and Nikola Tesla did have lots of good ideas that they patented, and they were rewarded for it. Thousands of others followed their lead. In the 1880s, the boom really took off when inventors no longer had to create a model of their patent. All they had to do was have an idea, a description of how it worked, and a drawing. By the end of the century, 700 to 800 patents were being filed each week. Since Heck only needed the idea and a drawing, there is no guarantee that any of these chin rests were actually ever made.
Heck moved around quite a bit. He had lived in at least three states after having only been in the United States for 16 years, and seemed to be constantly chasing his fortune. From Washington, D.C., he may have moved to Los Angeles where he's listed in the 1920 census as a 73 year old man, but still an instrument maker.
Come in, the stacks are open.
Away from prying eyes, damaging light, and pilfering hands, the most special collections are kept in closed stacks. You need an appointment to view the objects, letters, and books that open a door to the past.