Eugenics came to America in a turbulent and trying time, as it followed closely on the heels of the civil war. After the war most Americans were uneducated and struggling through a series of depressions that began in 1873. There was a great deal of strife in the U.S. during this time. Families were starving and trying desperately to find jobs in a constantly fluctuating economy. The depressions continued, striking about every 10 years, until the Great Depression, which began in 1929.

Another key factor was the uneven distribution of wealth in America. The vast majority of American families were living off of less than $800 a year, while the rich were enjoying unprecedented profits due to a swelling stock market. One example of this is found in Henry Ford, owner of the Ford Motor Company. Henry Ford posted a personal income of $14 million in the same year that the average personal income was $750. (Gusmorino) The inflated stock market and uneven distribution of wealth caused the economy to become unstable.

The U.S. had also been making extensive loans to the Allies during and after World War I. Europe was devastated after the war. Factories were destroyed, land was charred, cities were ruined and the economic bases of many countries were shattered. The loans totaled more than $128 billion by 1927 and the Allies were no where near being able to repay them. (Gusmorino) This was not viewed as a great risk at the time due to the good standing of the U.S. economy.

The final straw was drawn on Tuesday October 29, 1929. "Black Tuesday" marked the greatest dive the stock market had ever experienced. Following more than a month drooping prices the market finally gave out. On Monday October 28 the market dropped a record13 percent and by Tuesday sellers were in a fury to sell. If there was any chance of recovery it was lost in the unprecedented trading of Tuesday. In one day more than 16 million shares changed hands. The stock market of the 1920s was based greatly on confidence and when that confidence was shaken the predictions of a crash became self-fulfilling prophecies. "Black Tuesday" marked the beginning of the Great Depression. The depression would last almost 12 years, until December of 1941 when the U.S. joined World War II. (Nordeen)

The depression was a brutal time for America and the air became stagnate with poverty. Americans needed someone to blame for the misfortune they suffered through and the government couldn't seem to offer any worth while solutions. This was a prime environment for the eugenics movement to move into the mainstream.

Eugenics became recognized as a legitimate science, in America, in the early 1920s. It made major moves, though, during the 1930s. The movement offered answers as to who was responsible for the social and economic state of the country. The finger of blame was directed at paupers, the "feebleminded," "degenerates" and the "mentally diseased." The Jews were one of the larger demographics targeted, along with Russian and Polish immigrants.

18-year-old mother, now California Migrant

 

 

Evicted sharecroppers along HW 60 in New Madrid county in Missouri

 

 

Woman sweeping steps of shack in a "Shanty Town" in Iowa

 

 

3 Men Share a camp site in Harlingen, Texas

















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