DAVID STARR JORDAN AND THE HISTORY OF EUGENICS

Blog post by Randi Richardson

David Starr Jordan was the seventh president of Indiana University.  He was inaugurated on January 1, 1885, becoming the nation’s youngest university president at the age of 34 and the first president of Indiana University that was not an ordained minister.

starr
David Starr Jordan c. 1880.  Photo courtesy of IU Archives.

During the course of his six-year presidency he oversaw the university’s growth at the new campus in Dunn’s Woods, improved the university’s finances and public image, doubled the enrollment and increased the number of faculty.  Eventually Jordan Avenue, Jordan River, Jordan Field and Jordan Hall would be named in recognition of his many accomplishments.  What is lesser known is the role he played in the history of American eugenics.

Jordan, who graduated from Cornell University with a master’s degree in 1872, came to Indiana University in 1879 as a professor of zoology.  About that same time, Francis Galton was pioneering the principles of eugenics in England based, in part, upon the theories of his half cousin, Charles Darwin who published works about the survival of the fittest.  Not long afterward, Jordan became an advocate of eugenics.

Eugenics is a set of beliefs and practices that aim at improving the genetic quality of a population through selective breeding.  On the positive side, eugenics might include programs that encourage particularly “fit” individuals to reproduce.  On the negative side, eugenics has prompted marriage restrictions and forced sterilization of people deemed unfit for reproduction.  After becoming popular in the United States, eugenic programs also became popular in Germany where they evolved into a lethal solution under Hitler and the Nazi regime.

Although Jordan did not coin the term eugenics, he was among the first to call attention to it in the U. S. when he published The Blood of the Nation: A Study of the Decay of Races through the Survival of the Unfit in 1902.  By then he had become the founding president of Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, ranked as one of the world’s top universities, and an early leader of the U. S. eugenics movement.

In 1906, Jordan became chair of the eugenics section of the American Breeders Association, the first organization in the U. S. devoted entirely to eugenics.  A year later, in 1907, the first eugenics/sterilization law was passed in the U. S.  Hoosiers may be surprised to learn that it was in the state of Indiana and heavily influenced by Jordan’s authority.  That law was revised in 1927 and repealed in 1974 after more than 2,300 of the state’s most vulnerable citizens were involuntarily sterilized.

California became the third U. S. state to pass eugenics/sterilization legislation.  By 1921 that state accounted for nearly 80% of all forced sterilizations in the U. S. thanks in large measure to the prominence and organizational abilities of Jordan, who by then had been in California for more than two decades, and the resources of Ezra Gosney, an American philanthropist and eugenicist.

Gosney founded the Human Betterment Foundation (HBF) in 1928 in Pasadena, California, primarily to compile and distribute information about compulsory sterilization legislation in the U. S. for the purposes of eugenics.  Jordan, then chancellor of Stanford, was an initial member of the HBF’s board of trustees.  In 1935, the HBF took credit for inspiring the eugenics program in Germany.

Adolf Hitler was obsessive in his attempts to create a superior Aryan race through forced sterilization and ethnic cleansing.  From 1933-1945 the eugenics movement in Germany began the cleansing by deportation and ended with the horrific “final solution” and the elimination of some 6,000,000 Jews and other less desireables such as Gypsies and homosexuals in concentration camps and mass killing centers.

Once fairly mainstream, it was through the negative association with Hitler that the eugenics movement fell into disfavor during the second half of the twentieth century.  Support for eugenic theories plummeted.  Ultimately there were more than 65,000 forced sterilizations in 33 U. S. states.  The last forced sterilization in the U. S. was performed in Oregon in 1981.

starr4
Jordan Hall, 1962. Courtesy IU Archives.

Jordan died at his Palo Alto home in 1931.  In 1937 a new Palo Alto middle school was named in his honor.  In 2015, a student’s book report about Jordan’s influence on the eugenic movement sparked an interest in renaming the school; in 2018 the name was changed in favor of Frank Greene, Jr., an African-American memory chip inventor.

In June 1956 Jordan Hall at IU-Bloomington was formally dedicated.  It houses the biology department and was named for the university’s past president who was also a foremost ichthyologist.  In the fall of 2017 the walls of Ballantine Hall were plastered with notes urging IU to rename the building in light of the leadership role Jordan played in the eugenics movement.  This was during the same time that the renaming of the Wildermuth Intermural Center was under consideration because Ora Wildermuth, for whom the building named, was identified as a racist.

Although the matter or renaming Jordan Hall came up again for discussion in the late fall of 2018, no action was taken and interest among the students and faculty seems minimal.  Could it be that too few people know Jordan’s history?   Or is it that they don’t care?

 

 

IU Union Club Hotel Opened in 1947

Blog post by Randi Richardson

union hotel
Postcard of the new Union Club from the collection of the author.

In the 1940s, hotel accommodations in Bloomington were woefully inadequate.  For that reason, hotel accommodations at the Indiana Memorial Union on the IU campus were expanded by opening the Union Club Hotel as an annex to the existing facility in the Spring of 1947.

The new Union Club, which included a dining room that could accommodate 105 patrons, was located directly north of the Union building.  It was once used by the officers club at Bunker Hill.  After being sawed into twelve sections and disassembled, it was moved to the IU campus by truck.

It could accommodate 125 guests in 89 beautifully appointed, single and double bedrooms with a suite of three rooms on the first floor.  The dining room was scheduled to offers meals three times a day and open seven days a week to the public.

In January 1950, Eleanor Roosevelt spent the night in the Union Building and had lunch the next day at the Union Club.

Source:  Bloomington (Monroe County, Indiana) Evening World, April 11, 1947, p. 7.

Remembrances of Drs. David Hervey and James D. Maxwell

The clipping noted below, written by Agnes McCulloch Hanna, was published in an undated, unsourced Bloomington newspaper under a column called “Looking Back.”  It was found in a scrapbook compiled by a man named Fred Lockwood.  The scrapbook is held by the Monroe County History Center, Bloomington, Indiana.  The item below was abbreviated from the original, as noted by the ellipsis, and excludes much of the information pertaining to the home built by Joshua Owen Howe later the property of David H. Maxwell.

According to information from the Rose Hill Cemetery Index, David H. Maxwell was born September 17, 1786, and died May 24, 1854.  His burial was in Rose Hill.

maxwell

 

…Dr. David Hervey Maxwell had written the constitution of our state with his own hand, and it may be seen to this day in our archives.  In 1838 his son, Dr. James D. Maxwell was elected to the Board of Trustees of Indiana University and held this office with the exception of a short period until his death in 1892.  In the discharge of his duties as secretary and trustee, he was noted for his fidelity and abiding faith in the ultimate success of the institution.

He helped his college through trial by fire and political controversy and was steadfast to it.  He saw it develop to the new and enlarged institution on its new campus.  Maxwell Hall is named in honor of David Hervey and James Darwin Maxwell.  His service rendered with no financial reward.  Miss Juliette Maxwell, youngest of his daughters, offers an annual prize to women students of the university, the James Darwin Maxwell medal, for excellence in scholarship and principals.

In a spacious house [on S. College Avenue, described at length in an earlier MCHC library blog] he and Mrs. Maxwell entertained twice each year the trustees and members of the faculty and their wives at dinner parties.  Dr. James Darwin Maxwell was born in 1815 near Hanover, Ind.  Of his ten children, three daughters are living—Mrs. Allan B. Philputt of Indianapolis, Miss Juliette Maxwell who resigned recently from the department of physical training at the university, and Miss Fannie Bell Maxwell, formerly an instructor at Ferry Hall, Lake Forest, Ill.  Mrs. Grace Philputt Young, his granddaughter, is a member of the Department of Romance Languages of which her husband is the head at Indiana.

This is a family which is tied intimately to our state and its university.  The house, which was for many years connected with the town and college, still holds its place as it is now the home of the Burton-Woolery post of the American Legion, many of whose members were graduated from the university, some of whom are attached to the university and all of whom see and take part in its activities.  A long life and a happy one, the Howe-Maxwell house has had in Bloomington.  Few can belong more closely to the community.  –Indianapolis Star

Blog post by Randi Richardson

 

Beauty and the Billionaire

Throughout the years many beauties have graced the halls of Indiana University-Bloomington.  Only one, however, caught the eye of Howard Hughes, once described as the world’s  richest man, also an entrepreneur, movie producer and a consummate playboy.

That beauty was Indiana native Sallilee Conlon, an 18-year-old IU freshman who studied opera in the School of Music.  She was photographed by one of those ubiquitous photographers who periodically visit college campuses to photograph coeds and then publish their work in various newspapers and magazines.  The editors of Life magazine were so impressed with Sallilee’s picture that they put her photograph on the cover of the May 18, 1953 issue.

Howard, who was magnificently obsessed with girl-finding, routinely scoured magazines for beauties that he might wish to pursue.  Days after her picture appeared in Life, Sallilee was contacted by RKO Pictures, Howard’s movie studio, and invited to come to Los Angeles with her mother.  From there the mother-daughter duo was flown to Las Vegas where Howard , 30 years Sallillee’s senior, squired her about the town in great style for about six months.

Upon their return to LA, Howard put up the mother-daughter duo in a house.  For the next five years, Sallilee was given voice lessons and instructed to be patient while she waited for the perfect movie role or singing offer.  Periodically she spoke with Howard by phone, although there is no evidence she ever again spent time in his physical presence.  At his direction, however, she was forbidden to date, and her behavior was scrutinized closely to determine her compliance with Howard’s demands.

Ultimately Sallilee was informed by her voice coach that Howard had countless young women under contract, all waiting to become stars and/or Mrs. Howard Hughes.  With that information, Sallilee had enough.  She terminated her relationship with Howard and set upon a career path of her own design.

Her journey led her to work behind the scenes in TV news, and she became the long-time companion of George Putnam, a well-known news anchor.  When George died in 2008, Sallillee was noted among his survivors.  It is quite possible that she is still living today, but that has not been verified.

Blog post by Randi Richardson

Photo from the 1953 IU Arbutus.

Sources: Peter Harry Brown & Pat H. Broeske, Howard Hughes:  The Untold Story (Boston, MA:  Da Capo Press, 1996.