Eugenics Record Office (ERO) Collection

The Eugenics Record Office Collection is one of the Archive projects being undertaken as part of the New York State Documentary Heritage Program Grants (DHP) grant. Specifically, by processing this previously hidden historic collection materials will be available for scholarly use by global audiences.

The Eugenics Record Office (ERO) was opened in 1910 as part of the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory then known as the Carnegie Institute of Washington. Director Charles Davenport, superintendent H. H. Laughlin, and the office staff studied problems relating to human heredity until the office closed in 1939. The Eugenics Record Office Collection includes correspondence, documents and photographs from 1910 to 1939. Consistent with the social concerns of the period, the ERO studied the heredity of traits such as "feeble mindedness" and alcoholism, and proposed that social constructions such as "pauperism" were also inherited.

Fieldworkers, primarily women, took summer training course in heredity, Darwinian theories, elementary statistical methods, and eugenics legislation. The fieldworkers worked extensively from 1910 to 1917 taking family histories that were stored for future studies on diseases and insanity. Approximately 96 fieldworkers collected data by way of surveys that included biographical sketches and pedigrees on families from site visits and personal interviews. Many of the field workers finished the summer with a research project involving collecting and analyzing the eugenics data. The ERO Collection includes these published reports.

- E.P., Project Archivist