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American Eugenics Movement: Topics in Chronicling America

In the early 20th century, eugenics "pseudoscientists" sought to breed the perfect human race. This guide provides access to materials related to the "American Eugenics Movement" in the Chronicling America digital collection of historic newspapers.


"How the ancestry of 1,146 brothers, sisters, and cousins, of whom 580 were insane, others criminals or epileptics and the remainder normal, has been traced back through seven generations to the parent stock-- a sane father and a feeble-minded mother." October 28, 1911. Western Kansas World (WaKeeney KS), Image 3. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers.

Engineering a new aristocracy of "human thoroughbreds" might sound like something from a science fiction novel, but at the beginning of the 20th century, many Americans sought to do just that through the new pseudoscience of Eugenics. Eugenics, a process that sought to "purify" the human race through scientifically calculated breeding, became immensely popular in the United States and resulted in a smattering of scientific societies and contests to determine the family with the purest genes. Read more about it!

The information in this guide focuses on primary source materials found in the digitized historic newspapers from the digital collection Chronicling America.

The timeline below highlights important dates related to this topic and a section of this guide provides some suggested search strategies for further research in the collection.


1880s Heredity is identified "scientifically" as a cause for many physical and mental problems.
1904 Galton lays out the process for integrating eugenics into the public mind.
1904 - 1950s The formal Eugenics Movement begins. Eugenics societies, state fair competitions, match-making services, and eventual forced sterilizations develop out of the movement. The formal movement comes to an end after World War II.