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Wednesday, June 29th, 2005, 04:38 AM
‘Toward a Racial Abyss: Eugenics, Wickliffe Draper and the Pioneer Fund’

By Michael G. Kenny in Journal of History of the Behavioral Sciences, Vol. 38(3), 259–283 Summer 2002

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.[...]

Research funded by Pioneer received widespread public and media attention in 1994 because of its important role in Richard Herrnstein’s and Charles Murray’s book The Bell Curve, which explored the relation between heredity, intelligence, class, race, crime, immigration, and economic success. An intense controversy erupted at once, and the media turned their attention to Pioneer. Herrnstein and Murray advanced a self-consciously “apocalyptic” vision of the long-term “dysgenic” effects of current demographic trends. Though American in its focus and obsessions, their book reiterated arguments about genetically driven societal decay that have been in wide circulation since Sir Francis Galton first gave eugenics its name.

Three researchers provided much of the core evidence for The Bell Curve case: educational psychologist Arthur Jensen, psychometrician Richard Lynn, and psychologist cum evolutionary theorist J. Philippe Rushton. All figure large in the citation index, all are in the top rank of Pioneer grantees,2 and all ring the changes on old eugenical themes. Jensen has provoked debate since the 1960s through his statistical studies of education, differential intelligence and the so-called “g-factor”—“Spearman’s g”—a general intelligence factor held to underlie positive correlations among tests of mental ability (Jensen, 1969, 1998; see Brand, 1996; Weyher, 1998, p. 1360).

Rushton has attempted to provide an evolutionary explanation for group statistical differences in IQ, brain size, sexual behavior, crime rates, and measures of family stability; he uses these measures to rank the major races of the world in descending order of social desirability, from Mongoloids to Caucasoids to Negroids (Rushton, 1994, 1997, 1999, 2000). Richard Lynn is also interested in qualitative racial ranking, and detects adverse “dysgenic” tendencies at work in modern society, just as the founders of eugenics did long before (Lynn, 1991, 1996, 1998).

The term “dysgenesis” was itself coined in 1913 by Caleb Saleeby, a British eugenicist worried about the decline of the middle-class birth rate—yet another indication of continuity of theme (Soloway, 1995, p. 57).3 As an anthropologist interested in social and intellectual history, I was intrigued by these developments, and therefore began looking into Pioneer’s origins. The eugenics movement is pivotal to the story that emerged, with fear of racial miscegenation, immigration, and degeneration supplying the emotional dynamic for the plot.

2. A full list of Pioneer grantees may be found at http://www.ferris/otherserv/isar/institut/pioneer/pfspread/


Eugenics has always been a pluralistic tendency, embracing social reformers, sociologists, politicians, geneticists, psychologists, medical researchers, and anthropologists in a complex web of historical and personal relationships. It shifts shape depending on where, when, and how it is looked at. In one guise, eugenics abets a socialist critique of invidious class distinction; in another, it provides a rationale for antimiscegenation and sterilization legislation. It has been used to defend the existing gender hierarchy and also to support feminist attacks on it, while at the same time making important contributions to the development of mathematical statistics, medical genetics, and epidemiology (see Hacking, 1990; Werskey, 1978).

Both the American Eugenics Society and its British equivalent attracted people of widely different intellectual and political persuasions. Nevertheless, racial preservation and improvement are common themes underlying a wide spectrum of otherwise divergent approaches. These concerns have given rise to agendas aimed at the improvement of the human race as a whole or, more commonly, one race in particular. But just who and what are to count as races worth preserving and improving?

What Wickliffe Draper had in mind was his own Anglo-American branch of the Caucasian race, and the Pioneer Fund remains essentially true to Item “B” of an agenda originally mandated by its 1937 charter:

A. To provide or aid in providing for the education of children of parents deemed to have such qualities and traits of character as to make such parents of unusual value as citizens... especially children who are deemed to be descended predominantly from white persons who settled in the original thirteen states prior to the adoption of the Constitution of the United States [1787]. The foregoing purposes shall be carried out in such manner as to give assurance to [such] parents that their children shall not lack an adequate education or start in life and thus to encourage an increase in the number of children of such parents, and in so far as the qualities and traits of such parents are inherited, to aid in improving the character of the people of the United States.4

B. To conduct or aid in conducting study and research into the problems of heredity and eugenics in the race generally and such study and such research in respect to animals and plants as may throwlight upon heredity in man, and research and study into the problems of race betterment with special reference to the people of the United States. (typescript of Pioneer’s NewYork State charter of incorporation; papers of the American Eugenics Society)5

The only modification to the Charter since its drafting has been—so as “to prevent confusion”—the insertion of “human” before “race betterment” (Weyher, 1998, p.1354 n6). Though the Charter language has been changed to accommodate shifts in public sentiment, Draper’s great project illustrates the perennial ability of conservative eugenicists to find reductive genetic explanations for whatever the social problems of the day happen to be, coupled with an ambivalent faith in the powers of social engineering to effect change in human nature itself.

The underlying premises are straightforward, reiterated throughout much of the racially oriented eugenicist literature of that time and ours, and which I summarize as follows: Heredity is a determining factor in national destiny because society is naturally stratified by innate intelligence; intelligence and its sociological correlates are therefore asymmetrically distributed across races and classes; intelligence, self-control, and the enterprise that they enable are the essence of civilization—that which makes civilization possible in terms of the inventions that create it and the behaviors that sustain it; the capacity of given races for civilization varies directly with the statistical proportion of the genetic elite it contains, and their presence or absence is self-evidently manifest in the world-historical record of cultural

4. The Pioneer website states that though “the Pioneer charter authorizes scholarship programs, . . . these charter provisions have never been utilized” (http://pioneerfund.org/past.html).

5. Unless otherwise indicated, material directly relating to the creation of the Pioneer Fund is from the papers of the American Eugenics society and cited with permission of the American Philosophical Society. accomplishment; any process working to contaminate or dilute this natural resource under- mines civilization itself and is the prelude to its inevitable decline; the danger is immanent, the enemy is at the gates or already within them; something must be done! Wickliffe Draper espoused all of these principles, and turned to prominent eugenicists, psychologists, anthropologists, and geneticists for advice in furthering their understanding (Draper, in Lynn, 2001, p. 9); what came of their interaction is my topic here. Yet, while the general intent of his Fund is clear enough, Draper himself remains a shadowy elusive figure, about whom surprisingly little is known, Richard Lynn’s recent book on Pioneer’s history notwithstanding (see Lynn, 2001; Sedgwick, 1995). I therefore begin with the man himself and the social milieu of his time, place, and class.


Draper’s family history reflects the social changes afoot in nineteenth-century America. The first Draper of concern to us—Ebenezer Draper (1813–1887)—was cofounder in 1842 of “Hopedale,” a Christian socialist community in southeastern Massachusetts. Draper and the leader of the community, Adin Ballou, were Universalists who believed that it is God’s intent to redeem all humanity rather than just a Calvinistic elite of saints. They had no place for Hell, and thought that it would be possible to establish an equivalent to Paradise on earth, a true Christian commonwealth based upon the socialist principles of the early Church (Ballou, 1896).

Hopedale was a cooperative joint-stock venture based on farming and small-scale manufacturing. Ebenezer Draper’s brother, George (1817–1877), joined somewhat later, bringing with him an expertise in machinery design cultivated in the New England textile industry. When Hopedale fell on hard times in 1855, it was George Draper who picked up the pieces, forcing a dissolution of the community’s joint ownership system. The Drapers henceforth devoted themselves to a business that George had already started on his own, a venture which became the Draper Company, for a long while the world’s foremost manufacturer of weaving equipment. Ballou remembered George Draper as someone: of inflexible will, and not one to be turned from his purpose if its attainment were within the realm of possibility.

Hence, when he came to feel that our socialistic undertaking was financially impracticable, that it stood in the way of his success as a business man of the world, and that therefore it must be abandoned, so far at least as he was concerned, all his energies were directed to the accomplishment of that result. (Ballou, 1897, p. 288; see Mass, 1990 and Spann, 1992).

As the Draper enterprise flourished, Ballou’s ideal Christian society faded slowly into memory. Hopedale became a company town under the paternalistic guidance of the Draper family and, though the Company itself is no more, it still remains a landmark of community design (Garner, 1984; Spann, 1992). George’s son, George Albert, married Jessie Fremont Preston of Kentucky, the daughter of a prominent Confederate Civil War General. George A. and Jessie Draper were the parents of Wickliffe and his sister, Helen. Wickliffe’s father seems to have had little to do with the practical management of the family business.

Nevertheless, when he died in 1923 he was worth nearly $11 million dollars, much of it in the form of stock, the bulk of which was equally divided between his two children (Milford Daily News, 20 March & 7 April 1924). When Helen died a fewyears later, her share of the inheritance reverted to Wickliffe, whose now considerable wealth underwrote the Pioneer Fund and a number of related ventures launched at his own private initiative (William Tucker, personal communication).

Hopedale’s founders were raised in the school of practical experience.Wickliffe Draper went to prep school and then on to Harvard, Class of 1913. When Draper entered college in 1909, another Harvard man, Theodore Roosevelt, who had until just recently served as president of the United States and was a stirring personal example for many young men who came of age during his time. Military valor, hunting, exploration, ceaseless travel, and preservation of the white race characterize Draper’s interests henceforth.

Soon after leaving college, he got a chance to test his mettle against Roosevelt’s standard (Draper, 1938, pp. 247–248). Draper was acquainted with Theodore Roosevelt’s son, Archibald (Harvard, Class of 1917), who later edited a collection of his father’s writings on race, race suicide, and immigration, which is still available in some quarters under the title of Theodore Roosevelt on Race, Riots, Reds, Crime (T. Roosevelt, 1968; Weyher, 2001, p. xiii).

When the European war began in 1914, Draper joined the artillery branch of the British Army, long before the United States itself entered the fray. He served on the Western Front, including the Somme, and at Salonika in Greece where an abortive southern offensive had been launched against the Central Powers. Draper transferred to the U.S. Army upon American entry into the war, but was soon injured in France and invalided home to Hopedale, where he gave a talk at the Draper Memorial Church that “emphasized the prime necessity of absolute discipline in the army, as a requisite of victory, the sort of discipline that keeps the men at the guns, even though it means almost sure death to remain” (Milford Daily News, 5 December 5 1917).

Wickliffe Draper spent the next year as an artillery instructor with the U.S. Army at Forts Sill and Taylor in Oklahoma, and then the record is silent until his father’s passing in February, 1923. But only a month later Draper was already corresponding with Charles Davenport concerning “a bequest for the advancement of eugenics.” I do not knowhowhe came by this interest, nor now he was put in touch with Davenport, but eugenics was in the American air, and Charles Davenport was its prophet (Draper to Davenport, 20 March 1923).6


Davenport’s career and influence are well known, and here I will restrict myself to a little essential background for understanding what ensued when Wickliffe Draper contacted him. Davenport (also a Harvard man) pioneered the empirical study of human heredity as informed by Mendelian theory, which had come to dominate the field after the 1900 rediscovery of Mendel’s pea experiments. A historian of genetics concludes that he “was clearly the leading geneticist studying human heredity in the world at the time” and that his 1911 book, Heredity in Relation to Eugenics “contained almost all that was then known of human genetics” (Provine, 1973, p. 791).

A close associate believed that “what Galton did in England in the field of Eugenics, Davenport did for America” and contributed mightily to the development of physical anthropology in the process (Steggerda, 1944, pp. 173, 177; see Haller, 1963; Kevles, 1995; Ludmerer, 1972; Paul, 1995 & 1998; Stepan, 1982; 1995).

6. The Davenport/Draper correspondence is in the papers of the American Eugenics Society, and cited with permission of the American Philosophical Society.

With backing from the Carnegie Institution, he established a station for “the experimental study of evolution,” at Cold Spring Harbor on Long Island (still a major research center under the direction of John Watson of double-helix fame; see Allen, 1986; Carlson, 2001). This endeavor aimed at providing what Darwin himself could not, an understanding of the actual genetic processes involved in evolutionary change. Archibald Roosevelt’s family also had a home at Cold Spring Harbor, and Davenport corresponded with Draper about their doings (Davenport to Draper, 27 May 1925).

In 1910, additional funding was acquired through Mary Harriman—widow of railway magnate, Edward Harriman—to create the Eugenic Records Office (ERO), also at Cold Spring Harbor, which aimed at documenting the influence of heredity on physical form, and a variety of organic, mental, and social pathologies through the gathering of family histories by specially trained fieldworkers. Harry Laughlin, who had studied plant and animal breeding, became director of the Records Office and primary editor of its journal, The Eugenical News. Laughlin also gained entry to the U.S. Congress as an expert witness on the supposedly dysgenic effects of American immigration policy (Allen, 1986; Hassencahl, 1971; Kevles, 1995).

In 1913, Davenport organized the Eugenics Research Association as a society for scientific researchers. Among the signatories to its articles of incorporation were Laughlin, Davenport, Henry Fairfield Osborn (paleontologist director of the American Museum of Natural History), and Madison Grant, a patrician NewYork lawyer. In 1916, Grant generated a considerable stir with his book The Passing of the Great Race, which, given Adolf Hitler’s admiration for it, has earned him a bit part in the prehistory of Nazism (Ku¨hl, 1994, p. 85).

The American Eugenics Society was founded in1926 to address a more general membership than the ERA, a timely moment given the nativistic post-World-War-I social climate, which took a cruder form in the parallel resurgence of the Ku Klux Klan (Mehler, 1988, p. 88 & passim).7

Madison Grant was a bellwether for the anxieties of an American Anglo-Protestant elite confronting a rising tide of non-Nordic immigration from eastern Europe and feeble-minded degenerates from within. Grant will appear in Wickliffe Draper’s story again and his writings provide a refrain for much of what transpired. Here I emphasize the following two points. First, Grant was a dedicated and effective conservationist, and his involvement with racial preservation is a facet of that wider concern. In a letter to Draper, Harry Laughlin remarked on a natural affinity between environmental and racial conservationists, and that it should be possible to recruit the former in aid of the latter (Laughlin to Draper, 9 December 1938; see Brechin, 1996; Rainger, 1991; Samelson, 1975).8

Grant illustrates the principle as well as anyone possibly could. Henry Fairfield Osborn’s Preface to The Passing of the Great Race states with exquisite clarity the assumptions that drew people such as these to applied eugenics: namely, the conservation and multiplication for our country of the best spiritual, moral, intellectual, and physical forces of heredity; thus only will the integrity of our institutions be maintained for the future. Race implies heredity, and heredity implies all the moral, social, and intellectual characteristics and traits which are the springs of politics and government. Conservation of that race, which has given us the true spirit of Americanism, is not a matter either of racial pride or of racial prejudice; it is a matter of love of country... (Osborn in Grant, 1916, pp. vii–ix)

7. Dr. Barry Mehler, a historian at Ferris State University in Minnesota, has founded the Institute for the Study of Academic Racism (ISAR) as an information clearinghouse. Some of the AES material mentioned here may be found verbatim on his website, as may information on Pioneer, who it funds, and to what amount (http://www.ferris.edu/isar/homepage). Dr. Mehler is regarded as something of a beˆte noir by the Fund’s directors— and labeled a “Swastika Painter” by Harry Weyher (2001, pp. xl–xli).

8. Unless otherwise noted, all Laughlin correspondence is from the Laughlin papers at Truman State University, and cited with its permission.

Second, like Davenport, Madison Grant was impressed by the recent discovery of seem- ingly indestructible Mendelian “unit characters” (genes), which were now seen as the fundamental material on which natural selection did its work. On the first page of The Great Race, he therefore proclaimed that “the great lesson of the science of race is the immutability of somatological or bodily characters, with which is closely associated the immutability of psychical predispositions and impulses.”

Since “predispositions and impulses” are genetically encoded, improvements in racial character and intellect depend, like all such qualities, on the forces of natural selection. However, because the rise of civilization has ameliorated these forces, and inferior types therefore allowed to survive and breed, the only way forward is to protect past gains and guide future ones by taking direct control of human evolution through the application of positive and negative eugenics (Grant, 1916, pp. 228, 16; see Davenport, 1911, p. 225; for the British context Soloway, 1995).

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). But Fischer had also used his equivocal findings to argue for racially based psychological differences between populations and racial excommunication for any white settler who crossed the sexual color line, even with the already part-European Bastards (Fischer, 1913, p. 304).

He nevertheless concluded that further research needed to be done on the problem of race-mixing. Only then “will we comprehend anthropo-biology, and then for the first time we may—and we must—practice racial hygiene—practical eugenics” (1913, p. 306). In the 1930s, Fischer got his chance, and then crossed paths with Wickliffe Draper at the 1935 Berlin meetings of the International Congress for the Scientific Study of Population Problems.

Though much of this might be dismissed as rationalized social prejudice, serious scientific issues were involved as well, stemming from the fateful juncture of Darwinian evolutionary theory and Mendelian genetics. That the populations of the world have somewhat different evolutionary histories was as evident then as it is now. The deeper questions were to what extent “race” is a meaningful concept at all, and if so how it should be defined, the significant characteristics that define it, and the degree to which supposed racial differences in intelligence and/or behavior are also part of the evolutionary story. Davenport, Fischer, Laughlin, Grant, and Draper were convinced that the latter are profoundly implicated. That once widely shared proposition, so obvious as to be almost inarguable, echoes on to this day.


It was therefore natural that when Draper wrote Charles Davenport in 1923—“contemplating a bequest for the advancement of eugenics”—he went straight to the top and received an enthusiastic response (Draper to Davenport, 20 March 1923). As well he might, since Draper was proposing an endowment for the Eugenic Records Office of $1–1.5 million, yielding up to $60,000 in annual investment income. Davenport responded that: The lines of profitable work in eugenics are very numerous. You have explained the parts of the work that appeal most to you, namely, the maintenance of the highest standard of innate qualities of effectiveness, altruism and social cooperation in our population.

You would preserve in the population a high proportion of the excellent Nordic traits by a proper selection of immigrants and by securing desirable matings (the repression of undesirable ones) in the population already in America. He then outlined the research topics that Draper might find interesting: “the prevailing physical, mental and social qualities of the different ‘races’ of Europe that are contributing largely to America’s germ plasm; the race crosses that improve and those that tend to deteriorate the quality of the progeny; the way to bring about . . . a preponderance of those races whose mixture will not be too disharmonious, especially when mated with the older Nordic stock” (Davenport to Draper, 23 March 1923).

Specific studies were proposed on the impact of cheap southern European labor in Pennsylvania mining towns; on the “biologico-eugenical situation” of those parts of the Gulf States that were over 75% Negro; and on social conditions in black-ruled Haiti and Liberia, so as to learn howto best handle the “Negro problem” in majority black areas of the U.S. Davenport thought that any one of these projects might also contribute toward improved understanding of how to improve “our human breeding stock in America,” and concluded that “if in some way or other human matings could be placed upon the same high plane as that of horse breeding the most progressive revolution in history would have been achieved” (Davenport to Draper, 23 March 1923).

In another letter to Draper, Davenport wondered whether human ability can keep up with scientific progress: “Are we breeding men capable of meeting the new demands; are we breeding a sufficiently high quality and enough of them? Training of the inferior will never replace native capacity and native capacity must be trained to the limit. It is for studies of human breeding to point to the solution of the problem” (Davenport to Draper, 29 March 1923).

This correspondence even contains a hint that Draper might choose to settle at Cold Spring Harbor and engage in eugenics work himself. But nothing immediate came of this, or of the tantalizing prospect of a million dollar endowment. Draper was soon off to Mexico and India, after which things languished until 1925 when he finally came up with a modest $1,000 gift. That prompted a note of thanks from Davenport who wished Draper success in reducing the Indian tiger population (Davenport to Draper, 27 May 1925).

Davenport nowsuggested that Draper’s resources could be profitably applied to the study of the heritability of special gifts, such as musical ability. Draper didn’t much care for the idea and wrote back with a suggestion closer to his heart—research on the effects of misTOWARDscgenation in countries such as Brazil or Haiti. That was the genesis of the first major Draper- funded project: a study of race crossing in Jamaica. Davenport was allowed to acknowledge in the published report that “this research was suggested, and rendered possible through a gift made for the research to (and gratefully accepted by) the Carnegie Institution by Col. Wickliffe Preston Draper” (Davenport & Steggerda, 1929, pp. 3, 5; my emphasis).

Draper ultimately contributed $10,000 to investigate, “in the most objective and quantitative way possible . . . the inheritance of the traits of pure blooded negroes . . . and of white, as found in the same places with especial reference to the inheritance of the differential traits in mulatto offspring and the distribution of these traits in later generations.” The ultimate aim was to address “the hypothesis that the products of miscegenation are less capable of developing and maintaining a proper social organization than the parental stocks” (Davenport to Draper, 12 January 1936; Draper to Davenport, 5 February 1926; Davenport to Draper, 23 February 1926). Not surprisingly, the conclusions resulting from this project are consistent with the hypothesis that launched it.

Davenport and his anthropological prote´ge´, Morris Steggerda (who did most of the actual fieldwork), divided up the Jamaican population into more or less pure “Whites,” more or less pure “Blacks,” and mixed-race intermediaries (“Browns”).9 Assignment to one or the other of these categories was based on known family history, but much more so on local ascription and eyeball inspection.

Of course the “Browns” were of particular interest, and in the final report Davenport and Steggerda concluded that this segment of the Jamaican population labored under mental and physical disadvantages peculiar to their mixed-race status. Whereas Fischer’s African work had relied on anthropometry and physiological measurements, the Jamaica study added an important new element in the form of psychometric tests, among them the “Knox Moron Test” devised to screen out feeble-minded immigrants at Ellis Island, and the famous U.S. Army Alpha Test used on military recruits in World War I (Knox, 1914).10

This new emphasis on psychometrics accounted for the inclusion of two psychologists, Walter Bingham and E. L. Thorndike, on the Carnegie committee overseeing the Jamaica project. Bingham was an early leader in the application of psychology to industry; Thorndike achieved renown in the American psychological profession for his work on learning theory, and had also been a member of the Galton Society of New York, precursor to Davenport’s Eugenics Research Association. The final member of the committee, in addition to Davenport himself, was anthropologist Clark Wissler, erstwhile associate of Franz Boas at the American Museum of American History, who had come to anthropology by way of psychology where he was trained in psychometric statistics at Columbia University, and later became wellknown for ethnographic studies of the Sioux and Blackfoot in the American West (Freed & Freed, 1983, 1992).

But unlike Franz Boas—whose culturalist approach evolved into an early and radical critique of racialist thinking—Wissler maintained a strong commitment to eugenics and worried about the future of the Nordic race (1923, p. 359). He served on the Board of the Eugenics Research Association, and was co-organizer along with Laughlin and Davenport of the Second International Congress of Eugenics held at the American Museum, published under the evocative title Eugenics in Race and State (Davenport et al., 1921). Wissler attached equal credibility to the works of Grant and Boas, which he described as “the serious thought of eminent men, which must be taken as the starting point in every new investigation” (1923, p. 286).

I cannot imagine that Franz Boas found this proposition very congenial, since he had already condemned The Great Race as a “dangerous” book based on “dogmatic assumptions which cannot endure criticism” (Boas, 1917, p. 305).11 Given the eugenicist background to their project, one of Davenport and Steggerda’s conclusions therefore stands out in high relief: “disharmonies in the mental sphere are socially more significant, perhaps, than those in the physical sphere, and such disharmonies are apparently common in the adult Browns” (Davenport & Steggerda, 1929, p. 471).

The striking fact about the distributions of the grades of the Browns, as compared with the distributions of the grades of Blacks and Whites, is such an excess of extremely poor
scores . . . . This again speaks for segregation in mental matters . . . . The viewthat the “mulatto” is superior to the Black holds for some members of the Brown group. From such mulattoes have come our Booker T. Washingtons. . . . The equally widespread view that the mulatto is inferior to the full-blooded negro refers to this extraordinary proportion of individuals of low-grade intelligence, brought out by our statistics. (1929, pp. 363–364)12

These results were in print in 1929, and in sum Wickliffe Draper got just what he paid for in the form a splendid looking monograph full of facts, figures, and photographs which, on the face of it, seemed to scientifically establish that black/white miscegenation can have unfortunate consequences. Charles Davenport believed that they had accomplished something of historic importance towards understanding “one of the greatest problems of the world.” A copy of Race Crossing was sent to Draper in July, 1929, and Davenport wrote that “I trust that you will be able at least to read the summary of conclusions at the back and that you will feel pleased at the outcome of this expenditure” (Davenport to Draper, 25 May 1928; Davenport to Draper, 16 June 1928).

Harry Laughlin employed the Jamaica study to argue against further non-Nordic immigration into the U.S., warning that miscegenation and hybridization would be the inevitable result with rising crime and social disorder following in their wake (Allen, 1986, p. 248). However, British population geneticist Lancelot Hogben analyzed the statistics in detail, and was unimpressed, concluding that “the onus of proof lies on the shoulders of any who, on the basis of differences recorded in this investigation, would elaborate legislative policies and reinforce social barriers” (Hogben, 1931, p. 138; see Barkan, 1992, pp. 162–168; Tucker, 1994, p. 65).

[I]11. Boas did, however, positively acknowledge Grant’s work in setting up the Bronx Zoo.
12. Eugen Fischer had also called attention to the abilities of some mulattoes, specifically mentioning the African Americans Booker Washington and W. E. B. Du Bois; but he did not think that their small numbers were worth the statistical risk of condoning widespread miscegenation (1913, p. 297). Davenport and Steggerda’s general conclusion to the Race Crossing monograph had the same drift: “One gains the general impression that, though on the average the Browns did not do so badly, there was among them a greater number of persons than in either the Blacks or Whites, who were muddled and wuzzle-headed. The Blacks may have low intelligence, but they generally can use what they have in fairly effective fashion; but among the Browns there appear to be an extra 5 percent who seem not able to utilize their native endowment. There are so many variables, however, and the numbers are so small, that the results merely propose an hypothesis and do not warrant a conclusion” (p. 472). Nevertheless, that “extra 5 percent” was sufficient cause for alarm.


As the Jamaica research got under way, Wickliffe Draper headed off on a self-funded expedition to the western Sahara. Draper’s revealing summary of post-graduation activities for the 25th Anniversary Report of the Harvard Class of 1913 lists his occupation as “investor,” and then under the heading of “Sport” he mentions “a dozen years of travel. Shooting jaguar in Matto Grosso and deer in Sonora; elephant in Uganda and chamois in Stiermark; ibex in Baltistan and antelope in Mongolia. Climbing in Alps and Rockies. Pigsticking in India and fox-hunting in England. Exploring in West Sahara with French Mission” (Draper, 1938, p. 42).

French Mission? Upon looking into this, it turned out that Draper had contacted the Geographical Society in Paris with another research proposal, this time writing himself in as an investigator. The Society referred him to a Capt. Augie´ras, an artillery officer and fellow avid sportsman stationed in Algeria, who signed on as leader of what came to be known as “L’E´ xpedition Augie´ras-Draper”. Not only were Augie´ras and Draper kindred spirits, the latter was going to pay the entire bill for the trip—which Augie´ras reckoned would come to about 500,000 francs (ca. $175,000 in current U.S. dollars).13 Draper also fancied himself as an anthropologist, and in preparation reportedly took courses at the University of London.14

Anthropometric instruments were therefore purchased for research among the desert tribes they would encounter along the way (Augie´ras, 1931, p.11; see Augie´ras, 1935). In late 1927, accompanied by a camel-mounted military escort, a French research team, and a Citroe¨n dix cheveux motorcar, the “Mission Augie´ras-Draper” set off from southern Algeria into the uncharted desert, passing north of the Niger Bend, and five months later coming out to the Atlantic coast at Dakar, Se´ne´gal. Among their number was a young The´odore Monod, at the beginning of his long career as a desert ethnologist, ecologist, and philosopher.

Geography aside, the expedition’s only notable discovery was that of a “Negroid” human fossil, which came to be known as “Asselar Man” after the place where it was discovered in what is now Mali. The Pioneer Fund remembers Draper as the “discoverer of Asselar Man,” but it was actually found by Monod and a scientific colleague (http://www.pioneerfund.org/about.html; Monod in Augie´ras, 1931, pp. 254–255). Asselar Man was fully described in a monograph by the eminent French palaeoanthropologist and Neanderthal specialist, Marcellin Boule, who speculated on its significance for the interconnected racial histories of Africa and Europe (Boule, 1932; Boule & Vallois, 1957).15 In the end, Draper himself only measured a fewliving Tuareg heads, and made his way to the coast ahead of the main expedition.


Upon return from Africa, Draper corresponded with Charles Davenport about setting up a prize essay competition on the topic of “the relative fecundity of Nordics and non-Nordics” (Davenport to Draper, 25 May 1928). Then he was off again on his ceaseless travels, this time to thin out the big-game population of British Columbia and Mexico, resurfacing in the summer of 1932 when another Draper prize essay contest was announced “upon the best way to promote the fecundity of the gifted, or those most capable of advancing the social organization” (Davenport to Draper, 3 August 1932). Evidently, Draper was already thinking about what became a major project in applied positive eugenics and the first endeavor to be supported by the Pioneer Fund—investigation of factors affecting family size among U.S. Army aviators (Davenport to Draper, 25 May 1928; 3 August 1932).

13. Perhaps Draper had read Christopher Percival Wren’s best-selling 1924 pot-boiler Beau Geste, which in 1927 appeared as a silent film starring Ronald Coleman.
14. Inquiries to the University of London Archives fail to show any trace of him, which I am told would not be unusual if Draper had only enrolled for a course or two.
15. Boule was particularly stuck by the so-called “Grimaldi Negroes,” fossils which had been discovered at the Grimaldi Rock Shelters on the French/Italian border, and which seemed to have Negroid affiliations because of facial prognathism. Boule wondered if this influence might not have affected the occasional manifestation of this trait in modern Europe.

After the Nazis final rise to power in 1933, German eugenics prospered, to the satisfaction of rightward leaning American eugenicists such as Harry Laughlin (Ku¨hl, 1994). Eugen Fischer was by now a central figure in German racial anthropology and eugenics. Following his pioneering African study, he moved steadily upward in German academe, becoming Director of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Anthropology, Human Genetics, and Eugenics in 1927, and Rector of the University of Berlin in 1935.

Fischer himself remarked on political developments that, “it is a rare and special good fortune for a theoretical science to flourish at a time when the prevailing ideology welcomes it, and its findings can immediately serve the policy of the state” (quoted in Mu¨ller-Hill, 1988, p. 61). He served on an adjudication board established under the Nazi-sponsored 1933 eugenic sterilization law(see Burleigh & Wipperman, 1991; Proctor, 1988a, b; Weindling, 1989).

Wickliffe Draper wished to meet German eugenicists who, as Charles Davenport told him, were leading the way in the study of psychiatric epidemiology; evidently Draper had personal concerns (which unfortunately remain obscure) about the heritability of dementia praecox (Davenport to Draper, 13 & 28 October 1932; Draper to Laughlin, 28 August 1935; see Dowbiggin, 1997).16 Laughlin therefore wrote Fischer, who then was President of International Congress for the Scientific Investigation of Population Problems, that Draper would be attending the Congress, pointing out that “Colonel Draper has long been one of the staunchest supporters of eugenical research and policy in the United States” (Laughlin to Fischer, 31 July 1935).

Draper was also advised to meet Dr. Clarence Campbell, New York socialite, fellow Delegate, current American Eugenics Society President, and outspoken Nazi sympathizer, who gave a laudatory plenary lecture at the Congress praising German anthropologists, eugenicists, and Hitler himself for their leading roles in elevating racial welfare to the top of the national agenda (Laughlin to Draper, 15 January 1936; see Ku¨hl, 1994, pp. 33–34).

Campbell had persistently complained that insufficient attention was being given to “the effects of differential reproduction in the various population elements on the racial quality and survival value of oncoming generations. Nor is the attention to such matters regarded as an essential service to the nation and a patriotic duty” (1933, p. 45). In a 1936 number of Laughlin’s Eugenical News, Campbell noted with approval that, “the German nation more than any other nation identifies the Reich, or its government, with the Volk, or Race” and that anti-Nazi propaganda has obscured the fundamental truth of an idea which an individualistic America ignores at its peril (Campbell, 1936, p. 28; 1933, p. 50).

16. To this Davenport responded with a word of caution, pointing out that the category of dementia praecox itself is less than clear, that the disorders subsumed within it do not follow clear Mendelian lines of inheritance, and that much work in the form of statistically sophisticated family studies would be required to isolate its genetic components.
As example, Davenport cited psychiatrist Ernst Ru¨din’s epidemiological work of the incidence of mental illness in Bavaria, with the financial aid of the Rockefeller Foundation. Ru¨din was himself one of the drafters of the 1933 law.

Though it can be supposed that he found their racial policies congenial, my sources are silent concerning Wickliffe Draper’s personal opinion of the Nazis; nor is there any sign he was familiar with standard racialist authors like De Gobineau or Houston Stewart Chamberlain. Nevertheless, Clarence Campbell himself turns up in 1936 along with Davenport and Laughlin as an adjudicator for the Third Draper Contest for Researches in Eugenics. The winning topic, based on epidemiological research in Ohio akin to earlier German work, was entitled “The Probability of Commitment for a Mental Disorder of any Kind Based on the Individual’s Family History.”17


Upon returning from Germany, Wickliffe Draper nowturned his attention southward to Virginia. As always, racial preservation was the aim, and prevention of miscegenation one of the principal methods sought to accomplish it, buttressed by positive eugenics and immigration restriction. By the 1920s, Southern politicians had taken historical revenge for the outcome of the Civil War and Reconstruction by enactment of wide-ranging legislative measures aimed at establishing and perpetuating white dominance and racial separation.

In a famous lecture series delivered at the University of Virginia in 1955, and published as The Strange Career of Jim Crow, historian C. Vann Woodward attributed these developments to “the then current national racist literature of the ‘YellowPeril’ school and the flourishing cult of Nordicism.” He outlined the process whereby Social Darwinism, Southern politics, and eugenics had combined to produce a degree of legislated separation unknown even during slavery days (Woodward, 1974, p. 94; see Sherman, 1988, p. 71).

Charles Davenport had retired in 1934, and Laughlin was now Draper’s principal link to the eugenics movement. In early 1936, Laughlin telegraphed the president of the University of Virginia that he would be contacted by Draper concerning a subject of “mutual interest” (Newcomb to Laughlin, 18 February 1936). Draper subsequently traveled to Charlottesville and was cordially received by the dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, biologist and eugenicist Ivey Foreman Lewis, who vocally supported both immigration restriction and antimiscegenation legislation (Dorr, 2000). Lewis suggested that Draper get in touch with “Messrs. Cox & Powell” (Draper to Laughlin, 1 March 1936).

This was an apt suggestion, since Earnest Sevier Cox and John Powell were high-profile racial separationists. Cox was a Richmond real-estate agent, race theorist, and self-styled ethnologist, whose views on the “negro problem” were influenced by mining work in South Africa. In his opinion there were only two possible racial futures for America—separation or amalgamation. Like Madison Grant, he held that “mongrels” were congenitally unstable and that the specialized intellectual and moral qualities of the higher races were always obliterated when mixed with those of more generalized and hence prepotent primitive types (Cox, 1923, p. 74).

17. As late as 1938, Harry Laughlin was touting a German propaganda film—Erbkrank [hereditarily diseased]— replete with images of drooling misbegotten idiots, a cautionary tale about the dangers of not attending to the genetic health of the population. Laughlin wrote Draper with an enthusiastic account of the film’s salutary effects when shown in high schools: “You will be interested to know that the moving picture film ‘Eugenics in Germany’ has proven very popular with senior high school students. . . .When education is expected to result in practical longtime race betterment, the moving picture in the school offers a profitable medium for presenting facts” (Laughlin to Draper, 9 December 1938).

Cox’s 1923 book, White America, written with Grant’s advice concerning its “ethnological” content, concluded that the only real solution to the Negro “problem” was repatriation to Africa—the solution, Cox pointed out, that Abraham Lincoln himself had favored. A special edition was prepared for members of Congress in 1925, to help drive home the point— and reinforce the message of the restrictive1924 immigration bill—that “those who seek to maintain the white race in its purity within the United States are working in harmony with the ideals of eugenics.

Asiatic exclusion and negro repatriation are expressions of the eugenic ideal” (1923, p. 27). In noting the anti-immigration legislative activities of a populist southern senator, Harry Laughlin commented to Draper that “the senator is a man of your own type” (Laughlin to Draper, 18 March 1936).18 Laughlin wrote Cox that “Colonel Draper is particularly interested in your work” (Laughlin to Cox, 1 June 1936). As it turned out, he was very interested indeed. William Tucker has shown from Cox’s papers at Duke University, that it was Draper himself who anonymously funded publication of the Congressional edition of White America (Tucker, 2000, p. 5; cited with permission). Powell (Virginia, Class of ‘01), was a locally well-known composer, pianist, and Nordicist.

In 1922, he helped found a short-lived organization called “The Anglo Saxon Clubs of America” which was aimed at promoting nativistic principles among the “original” American stock, selection and exclusion of immigrants, and “the fundamental and final solutions of our racial problems in general”—once again repatriation, a subject on which Powell corresponded with no less than Marcus Garvey, who had started his own back-to-Africa movement as the definitive black answer to white oppression (see Lombardo, 1988; Smith, 1993).

Powell supported the draconian 1924 Virginia “Act to Preserve Racial Integrity,” which declared that, “it shall hereafter be unlawful for any white person in this State to marry any save a white person, or a person with no other admixture of blood than white and American Indian.” Speaking before the Virginia Legislature, and citing the personal testimonial of Madison Grant in its favor, Earnest Cox defended the Act as “the most perfected legal expression of the white ideal” (1923, p. 593; see Lombardo 1988, p. 432; Sherman 1988, p. 77; Smith 1993).

The Racial Integrity Act was administered by Dr. Walter Ashby Plecker, head of the Virginia Bureau of Vital Statistics, who made it his business to ensure that the racial identity of every child born in Virginia would be recorded henceforth, and the “one-drop” rule strictly applied to the regulation of marriage. Like Cox, Walter Plecker expressed the fear that “Unless radical measures are used to prevent it, Virginia and other parts of the Nation must surely in time go the way of all other countries in which people of two or more races have lived in close contact” (Plecker, 1924, pp. 1–2). He therefore paid close attention to the regulation of African American midwives in order to ensure that there would be no slippage as to who got legally defined as white on birth certificates (Fraser, 1998, p. 74; see Dorr 2000, p. 265 n23).

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).

18. The senator is question was Robert (“Our Bob”) Reynolds of North Carolina; see Pleasants, 1988. Reynolds persistently introduced measures designed to limit immigration or to make life difficult for immigrants who didn’t live up to the American way. For a general legislative history of American immigration policy, and the influence of eugenics on it, see Hutchinson (1981).

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).

Laughlin speculated about the possible role of such an Institute in developing eugenically oriented school curricula. Its general goals would be “the maintenance, improvement and increase of the superior foundation racial family-stock of America, the maintenance of a marriage clinic providing advice on same, the application of eugenical data for the development of sound legislation which would build up the soundest racial and family-stock ideals of the American people” (Laughlin to Draper, 14 September 1937). As with Draper’s earlier scheme to endowthe ERO and move to Cold Spring Harbor, nothing came of a eugenics endowment for the University of Virginia. Inquiries to the University archives have failed to turn up anything bearing on the matter. Draper was rebuffed or directed his attention elsewhere.

In the end the Pioneer Fund was Wickliffe Draper’s principal legacy, though one without institutional base. The Virginia Racial Integrity Act was finally struck down in 1967 by the U.S. Supreme Court in the case of Loving v. Virginia.


In 1936, another Draper project was underway to investigate factors affecting reproductive choice of officers and officer’s wives in the U.S. Army Air Corps, and once again the initiative seems to have come directly from Wickliffe Draper himself. The proposition behind this research was that these officers—and presumably their wives—are by definition good genetic stock (white, intelligent, physically fit), and that financial subsidies for future college education might encourage them to have more children. Though the Air Corps officer complement was then small—only about 1,500 men—the project contained a larger vision aimed at formulating eugenic social policy on the model of what the Army study might reveal (Laughlin to Draper, 14 September 1937; minutes of meeting, 22 March 1937; draft study proposal, 1 June 1937, AES papers).

There is no opening for philanthropic support which promises a greater return in the future strength and welfare of the American people than in attempting practical population-control. Such control may be accomplished in a measure by first influencing those forces which govern immigration, and the sterilization of degenerates, and which influence mate-selection and number of children differentially in favor of American racial strains and sound family stocks. The latter may be influenced by first influencing social and economic opportunity of potential parents. This last-named force is the one, as I understand it, which your present plans are attempting to analyze and to use. (Laughlin to Draper, 23 September 1936)

Discussions about establishing a free-standing foundation for the support of eugenics research paralleled formulation of the Air Corps project. This time the scheme came to fruition, but the name finally chosen for the fund was influenced by how it was thought that the public would react to the already loaded term “eugenics,” which as early as 1931 had already acquired many of the connotations assigned to it by Lancelot Hogben: “ancestor worship, anti-semitism, colour prejudice, anti-feminism, snobbery, and obstruction to educational progress” (Hogben, 1931, p. 209). A number of alternatives were floated, but in the end it was thought best to keep “eugenics” out of whatever name they finally hit upon:

If we were to investigate, for example, members of the Flying Corps and their wives and ask them various questions and make some offer as to the education and bringing up of their children, there might be a little amusement attached to the suggestion that they were picked out for eugenics purposes so that some ridicule might interfere with the investigation and carrying out of the work. For this reason a more colorless name, such as “Pioneer Foundation” or some similar name might be advisable. (Malcolm Donald to Laughlin, 19 February 1937)

The name finally chosen for the Fund therefore resulted from a perceived necessity to hide its true nature from the first group—Army officers no less—selected as subjects for a breeding experiment in applied positive eugenics. Harry Laughlin reluctantly went along with the charade:

While in itself (the Pioneer Foundation) is a colorless term, it would be perfectly appropriate if this foundation should have for its purpose the maintenance of the pioneer traditions and the perpetuation of pioneer family-stocks and the hereditary qualities— physical, mental and spiritual—of the pioneer families of America. (Laughlin to Donald, 24 February 1937)

So, the Pioneer Fund it would be, and in a letter to Draper, Laughlin hoped “that great and lasting good will be accomplished in the most patriotic development of racial ideals and in their maintenance by the American people” (Laughlin to Draper, 24 February 1937). The Fund was incorporated in the State of New York on 16 March 1937. The first Board of Directors consisted of Draper, Laughlin, Malcolm Donald (Draper’s attorney), and Henry Fairfield Osborn’s nephew, Frederick Osborn, who had become interested in eugenics and eventually was Draper’s link to the mainstream movement following Laughlin’s forced retirement from the Eugenic Records Office in 1939. John Marshall Harlan, partner in a prominent NewYork lawfirm and future Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, was soon added to their number.19

19. Harlan’s firm was Root, Clark, Buckner, & Ballentine, which also was involved in handling the legalities for incorporation of the Pioneer Fund (Smalley to Laughlin, 3 March 1937). The Root in the firm was noted jurist Elihu Root, Secretary of State in the McKinley/Roosevelt administration. As for Harlan himself, see Yarborough (1992, pp. 13–32).

The Air Corps initiative was set up “to find out the relation, if any, between the total annual income of junior flying officers of the United States Army and their wives on the one hand and their number of children on the other” (Laughlin to Harlan, 11 June 1937). A scholarship endowment was therefore established through Draper’s bankers for whatever additional Army children resulted from Pioneer’s incentive scheme. It is said to have had a positive short-term reproductive impact (Blackmon, 1999; Weyher, 1998, p. 1355).

But the War intervened, and this seems to have ended the project. Draper himself went back into the Army and served as an intelligence officer in Alaska and India; the wellconnected Frederick Osborn was given command of the U.S. Army’s information and propaganda branch, and emerged a Major General. Eugen Fischer retired in 1942, but not before serving on a committee organized by Heinrich Himmler’s SS to coordinate and promote Germanization policies in the newly conquered eastern territories, the anthropological task being to decide which ethnic groups were racially assimilable into the pan-Germanic Reich.

Fischer survived the debacle, was passed over by the war crimes tribunals, and continued on with his academic work into the 1950s.20 John Flanagan, a Harvard-trained psychologist and the primary investigator on the Air Corps project, entered the Air Corps himself in 1941, where he devised aptitude protocols for the evaluation of pilot candidates. He went on after the War to become professor of psychology at the University of Pittsburgh where, among other things, he directed a massive survey of student aptitudes, outcomes, and resources in the American public schools.21 Because of the start it gave him in 1937, the Pioneer Fund regards Flanagan’s subsequent research as one of its major contributions to the behavioral sciences (Lynn, 2001, pp. 79–87).

Harry Laughlin’s hope that his work with Draper would promote the “patriotic development of racial ideals,” depended on the conceptual elision of race and nation. But the Nazis gave this kind of thing a bad name, and in subsequent years the Grant/Laughlin/Draper school of eugenics was increasingly relegated to the right wing of North American public debate, where it somewhat equivocally remains.


A leftward trend away from the old eugenics was evident in a falling-out between Wickliffe Draper and Frederick Osborn, who in the 1950s and 1960s was attempting to steer the movement in a more progressive direction. The younger Osborn—“Honorary Associate in Anthropology”—was based in the American Museum of Natural History, which was at the same time host to Franz Boas’s most prominent student and outspoken liberal, Margaret Mead (Osborn, 1951).

Osborn nowsupported policies calculated to indirectly accomplish the goals of positive eugenics through an increase in general prosperity and enhancing the accessibility of contraception and family planning advice. His hopes were buoyed by statistics indicating a falling birth rate among the lower (hence less intelligent) classes and a baby boom among the middle and upper orders.

20. On Fischer’s role and fate, see Mu¨ller-Hill (1988, pp. 49–50) and Weindling (1989, passim). Peter Padfield, Himmler’s biographer, characterizes Fischer as “a special favorite of Himmler’s” (1990, p. 363). On the other hand, Weindling—who may be more authoritative in this case—reports that Fischer’s relationship with the SS was rather distant, that he owed his position more to Nazi ideologist, Alfred Rosenberg, and that he remained a peripheral figure with respect to the formulation of eastern policy (1989, p. 555).

21. This was known as “Project Talent” and funded by the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare (see Flanagan, 1962). Flanagan also founded the American Institute for Research, which continues to carry out contract research on a variety of topics relating to human capacities.

Now“the more successful people in every environment have the most children,” though he also pointed out that this could easily change (Osborn, 1968, p. 40). Meanwhile, Draper shifted his own activities toward direct engagement with right- wing activists, Cold Warriors, and segregationists (May, 1960). One sign of estrangement between the two men is seen in a memo by Osborn recounting a luncheon meeting with Draper in which they discussed funding for the American Eugenics Society.

The Society then seems to have been mainly funded out of pocket by Osborn and Draper themselves; in response to a request for further support: Draper said that if the Eugenic Society would take a strong public position along the lines of his thinking, he would not only renew the grant but would be willing to guarantee full support of the Society for at least a five-year period. But if they did not want to take a strong position along the lines of his ideas, he would not make any more contributions.

He outlined his ideas to include measures for establishing racial homogeneity in the United States and other proposals which had, at present, no basis in scientific findings. Osborn told him that, under these circumstances, the Society would have to look elsewhere for funds. (Osborn to Eugenics Society, 16 December 1954)22 Draper still had Negro repatriation on his mind, just as he had in the mid 1930s when a warm relationship developed between himself and Earnest Cox that lasted until the latter’s death in 1966. As William Tucker has shown, this friendship took the practical form of frequent anonymous financial assistance.

The last act in that relationship was the funding in 1966 of a reprint edition of Cox’s earlier prorepatriation pamphlet on “Lincoln’s Negro Policy.” Arrangements for publication of this pamphlet, which was distributed through a conservative publishing house, were handled by Harry Weyher, Draper’s attorney and later, president of the Pioneer Fund (Tucker, 1999, p. 13).23 Such developments disturbed Osborn, who alluded to the nature of their differences in a 1956 letter: “I still think that our ultimate aims are very similar, but I recognize that we go about them in such different ways that it is hard to find a common ground.” Osborn then asked if Draper did not want him “to resign as an officer and trustee of the Pioneer Fund, if this has not already been arranged for? If so, my resignation is in your hands with this letter” (Osborn to Draper, 14 June 1956).

In 1958, Osborn did indeed resign, observing in a letter to Draper that “my own view is a cautious and conservative development based on the gradual advance of science,” clearly implying that Draper’s approach was not (Osborn to Draper, 28 April 1958).24 Whereas the two men once addressed each other as “Fred” and “Wick,” it is now “Wickliffe” and “Frederick.” Draper’s last letter to Osborn terminated their relationship: “I fear that, tho our interests in public questions are similar, our values and aims are so different that further meetings might not be mutually advantageous or agreeable” (Draper to Osborn, undated letter).

Perhaps it was hindsight, but in a 1969 interview Frederick Osborn said that he had long known that Davenport’s Eugenics Research Association consisted of propagandists and racists (Hassencahl, 1971, pp. 361–362). The split between Osborn and Draper represented a longstanding tension within the eugenics movement between the simplistic and essentialist style of the eugenical old guard, and those better informed about population genetics and more inclined to allowfor environmental interpretations of social problems. This more liberal attitude has been characterized as “reform eugenics” and, at least after the War, Frederick Osborn’s approach certainly fell in that category (see Kevles, 1995, pp. 251–268; Soloway, 1995, pp. 193–225).

In the 1930s, Osborn’s British counterpart, Dr. Carlos Blacker, secretary of the British Eugenics Society, lashed out at Nazi eugenics policy as badly informed, despotic, and dangerous (Blacker, 1933). Likewise Osborn disapproved of Harry Laughlin’s pro-Nazi policy as editor of the Eugenical News, in which capacity he has become a political embarrassment to the Carnegie Institution. As backroom maneuvers got underway to remove Laughlin from the Eugenic Records Office, Osborn attempted to discourage his active administrative involvement in the Air Corps project (Osborn to Laughlin, 22 June, 1937; see Hassencahl, 1971).

22. Memo reproduced at http://www.ferris.ecu/ISAR/Institut/pioneer/Foresign.htm.
23. Cited with permission
24. Osborn/Draper correspondence from the papers of the AES, as are notes from Osborn to the AES and to “unspecified.”

Draper himself, with whom Osborn had once worked so closely, was, by the mid 1950s, dispensing money through two special-purpose committees set up with the help of sympathetic congressmen, staff connected to the House Committee on Un-American Activities, prominent segregationist Senator James Eastland of Mississippi, and an assortment of conservative academics (Osborn AES memo to unspecified, 25 May 1960; Lynn, 2001, p. 17).

A particular focus seems to have been research into racial blood-type incompatibilities (May, 1960, pp. 420–422; see Winston, 1998). Though the facts remain obscure, this research was most probably meant to build on the findings of hematologist, Dr. John Scudder, who perceived a statistical risk of hemolytic shock in interracial black/white blood transfusions because of the presence of rare antibodies found in persons of African descent. Scudder’s original paper was reprinted in the anthropological journal Mankind Quarterly which had been founded in 1960 specifically for those who “have more than a passing interest in the racial history of mankind” (Gayre, 1960, p. 4; Scudder et al., 1960).25 Scudder’s findings were immediately appropriated by anti-integrationists to bolster their warnings about the deleterious biological and social effects of miscegenation (Putnam, 1960, p. 50).

Draper became acquainted with lawyer Harry Weyher, who was reportedly recruited to Pioneer’s board because of mutual antipathy for the 1953 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education, which struck down the “separate but equal doctrine” used to legitimate racial segregation in the American public schools (Sedgwick, 1995, p. 154; Weyher, 2001, p. xviii). Weyher became Draper’s personal attorney, and went on to become the president of the Fund, an office that he continued to occupy until his death in early 2002 (he was succeeded by J. Philippe Rushton). Ironically, his old employer, John Marshall Harlan— a judicial conservative—voted with the majority of the Supreme Court to sustain Brown v. Board and to strike down the Virginia racial integrity statute.

Draper voted with his money, establishing a scholarship fund in aid of students wishing to attend southern whites-only private school, while anonymously channeling substantial donations to the Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission, a body that had been set up to oppose integration and civil rights legislation by means both fair and foul (Blackmon, 1999). Draper also anonymously endowed a chair in medical genetics at Wake Forest University in North Carolina. Its first occupant was H. Nash Herndon, a pioneer of the genetic counseling movement interested in the effects of inbreeding among Appalachian hill people, and president of the American Eugenics Society from 1953–1955 (see Herndon, 1955).26

25. The Quarterly has been hospitable to the publications of Pioneer grantees. Two of its past editors—Roger Pearson and Richard Lynn—have themselves been major recipients of Pioneer’s largesse.

26. Herndon first worked in an early genetic counseling unit at the University of Michigan, where he was an associate of medical geneticist James Neel. Though deceased, the latter has recently come in for public scrutiny of his own because of the controversies surrounding the work of anthropologist Napoleon Chagnon, among the Yanomamo of Venezuela and Neel’s own eugenicist agenda in launching this research (see Neel, 1994; Paul, 1998, pp. 136–137; Tierney, 2000).

Herndon’s benefactor remained as reclusive as ever, occasionally sounding out leading geneticists about the possibilities for eugenic research, while living alone in his sumptuous NewYork apartment surrounded by trophies of African hunts. Wickliffe Draper never married, and died in 1972, leaving a five-million dollar bequest to the Pioneer Fund as his principal legacy.


The story continues, as do spirited debates over Pioneer’s nature and intent. Here I have shown how the Fund originated, the context of its birth, the issues it was originally intended to address, and the enduring attitudes of its founder. But another version of that history has been advanced by Harry Weyher in response to “politically motivated” critics, and by Richard Lynn in a book on Pioneer’s history and accomplishments. Both emphasize Pioneer’s historical legacy—maintaining that the Fund has contributed greatly to the development of aptitude testing, psychometrics, demography, behavioral genetics, and the study of individual and group differences. “Pioneer is proud of its success in helping to reshape the face of social science and in helping to make mainstream again some important and previously tabooed topics” (Lynn, 2001, pp. 537–553; Weyher, 1999, p. 332).27

However, historians on all sides of the eugenics issue are naturally affected by the ideological currents of their own times, with the result that historical complexities run the risk of being effaced or even “polarized” in response to the current phase of the nature/nurture dispute (Zenderland, 1997).28 That tendency runs strong in Weyher’s account of Pioneer’s origins, and a measure of sanitization is the result.

The Fund is forthright about what it supports and why: projects of “first rate scientific importance” that, “because of their transitorily controversial nature” were unlikely to receive funding from more mainstream granting bodies operating on the basis of “political correctness” (Weyher, 1998, p. 1356). Weyher therefore invited the world at large, via the readership of the psychometrically oriented journal Intelligence, to imagine “what the state of knowledge in behavioral sciences would be today, minus things funded by or associated with the Pioneer Fund and the scientists it has supported?” (1999, p. 321). Richard Lynn and Arthur Jensen both serve on that journal’s editorial board, but then so does their left-wing critic, James Flynn. How the behavioral and social sciences in general would have fared without Pioneer support, I will leave it for others to judge.

As Weyher rightly pointed out, eugenics is a blanket term for many different tendencies ranging from left to right which should not all be lumped together and condemned because of Nazi excesses. But he also spoke of his close friendship with and admiration for Colonel Draper, and Lynn’s history of Pioneer is “dedicated to the memory of Wickliffe Preston Draper, Scholar, Soldier, and Philanthropist” (Weyher, 1999, p. 325; 2001; Lynn, 2001). It would therefore appear that Pioneer’s goals are essentially continuous with those set out in 1937, and it is appropriate to ask what permutation of the eugenics movement the Fund represents.

27. Weyher also notes that two Pioneer grantees have been invited to give the Galton Lectures in the UK, sponsored by the Galton Institute, the organizational successor to the British Eugenics Society (Weyher, 1998, p. 1357; 1999, p. 332).

28. Zenderland’s paper appears as part of a 1997 special symposium in this journal dedicated to the topic of “Historians and The Bell Curve,” Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences, 33(2).

All that Weyher has to say about Pioneer’s origins is that it was founded by persons “interested in genetics and evolution as the keys to understanding human nature, both the similarities between individuals and groups and their differences” (Weyher, 1999, p. 331). He acknowledged that eugenics is indeed a part of that history, but warned that the term should be understood to mean, “the improvement of the hereditary qualities of the human race, both by promoting the fertility of healthy and productive individuals and by discouraging the fertility of the sick and dependent” (1998, p. 1354; my emphasis).

Concerning Wickliffe Draper’s views on race, Richard Lynn says only that “Draper was concerned about the social status of blacks in the United States and their relative educational and occupational attainments,” and therefore funded private publication of a book demonstrating the existence of average black-white differences in IQ (Lynn, 2001, p. 17).29 The other aspects of Draper’s involvement with the race issue go unmentioned. Likewise, Harry Weyher said that Draper would not have been particularly concerned with racial issues were it not for the fact that “the political and social developments of the 1950s and 1960s made the issue salient” (2001, p. xviii). The record shows otherwise.

The Devil, as they say, is in the details. Mr. Weyher also stated that most of Pioneer’s adverse publicity is based on a small proportion of the total number of grants awarded to investigate group differences (1998, p. 1348). But, though the total number of grants in this area may be relatively few, the actual sums awarded to Richard Lynn, Arthur Jensen, and Philippe Rushton, or institutes associated with them, add up to approximately 30 percent of the total amount contained in the 57 awards granted by Pioneer in the period 1971–1996.30 Other top recipients have included persons and organizations dedicated to immigration reform or associated with far right, even nordicist beliefs (Tucker 1994, pp. 251–268).

The awards to immigration-reform organizations would once again appear to connect to an old eugenicist theme—the dysgenic and culturally disruptive effects of indiscriminate immigration without due attention to the “quality” of the immigrants.31 Mr. Weyher’s assertion that Pioneer “has no political agenda” therefore seems a bit misleading.

However, the single largest recipient of Pioneer support is an ambitious project studying twins in different social settings so as to decouple hereditary from environmental influences on the development of personality and intelligence, and hence to determine a reliable index of genetic heritability. Hence the Fund’s record is mixed, ranging from support of traditional and more or less mainstream research on intelligence and behavioral genetics to endeavors that are decidedly less so—but in any case always aimed at demonstrating the influences of heredity on human affairs.

29. The book in question was A. M. Shuey’s The Testing of Negro Intelligence. The first (1958) edition of Shuey’s book was subsidized out of pocket by Draper himself, the second (1966) by Pioneer. Shuey herself did not draw any social policy implications from her findings, but in this time period—with the integration issue very much on the national front burner—they would not be hard to find, especially given that Shuey’s Ph.D. supervisor at Columbia University had been psychometrician Henry Garrett, who turns up frequently through this period in the context of a number of conservative causes, and was another prominent Pioneer grantee (Lynn, 2001, pp. 61–76; Tucker, 1994; Winston, 1998).

30. A figure derived from detailed listing of Pioneer grants at http://www.feris/otherserv/isar/institut/pioneer/ pfspread/pfp6.htm. The total of all grants from 1971 to 1996 was about 15 million dollars.

31. According to the list cited in note 30, large Pioneer awards have gone to the American Immigration Control Foundation and the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR). The latter has received over 1.5 million dollars.

Weyher believed that research funded by Pioneer will eventually prove “invaluable to the future of humanity in general” (1998, p. 1367). Pioneer grantees suggest that their findings have social policy implications. Richard Lynn forecasts that, if present trends continue, the average intelligence of the population of the United States will decline and with it the quality of its civilization (Lynn, 1998, p. 359). Arthur Jensen urgently recommended that “greater consideration could be given to the relevance of [Spearman’s] g to domestic policies on poverty, welfare, job training, and public education” (Jensen, 1998, p. 578). Using such findings, Herrnstein and Murray concluded that “the nation is at a fork in the road. . . .The stakes are large and . . . continuing to pretend that there’s nothing worth thinking about is as reckless as it is foolish” (1994, pp. 367–436).

This is eugenics in its prophetic mode, voices crying in the wilderness. The movement has always been future-oriented and activist and, as I said at the beginning, tends to couple an ambivalent faith in directed evolutionary change with a sense of clear and present danger. The supposed source of the eugenic threat has changed with the times; the sense that there is one has not. The crux of the matter is whether, how, and by whom these genetic Jeremiads get translated into social policy, or into diffuse social attitudes concerning the genetic inevitability of what currently passes for the order of things.

Whatever Pioneer’s goals may be now, “human” race betterment was most certainly not its aim in the early years. The historical record unequivocally shows that the Fund was established to provide a scientific basis for projects to defend the American white race against degeneration from within and contamination from without. These were Wickliffe Draper’s primary and passionate concerns. The African American presence and racially deleterious immigration where focal points of his anxieties; a declining white middle and upper class birthrate was the opposite side of that same coin. All research and political activity with which Draper himself had anything to do was in the service of an agenda aimed at forestalling America’s genetic decline through positive and negative eugenics. Any other conclusion is obfuscation bordering on whitewash. The degree to which Pioneer continues to serve these goals, I again leave it for the reader to judge.

William Tucker and an anonymous reviewer for this journal contributed some extremely useful suggestions for this article. Thanks also to Mrs. Malloy of the Bancroft Memorial Library in Hopedale, Massachusetts, for information pertaining to Wickliffe Draper’s actvities and family background. Finally, thanks to Julian Pleasants and Diane Paul.

Source: Wiley InterScience (www.interscience.wiley.com)


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