The Kallikak Family is a pre-eminent text in the history of mental retardation and psychology in which Goddard (1912) claimed he proved the heritability of feeble-mindedness and the necessity of institutionalization. The book contains 14 photographs, some of which have been retouched. These photographs were interpreted in this paper within the context of clinical photography of the feeble-minded during the eugenics era, and the conclusion was made that the photographs are masterpieces of visual indictment propaganda that worked on the levels of assumed scientific objectivity, hovel imagery, mutually amplifying juxtapositions, stereotypic images of imbecility, and religious symbolism to achieve persuasiveness. A resolution of alleged “skullduggery” surrounding the retouching is presented.
Goddard's (1912) book, The Kallikak Family, is a classic of both psychology and mental retardation and is “the best known and most widely quoted of all the studies of defective stock” (Davies, 1930, p. 63). At the time, it was regarded as a major scientific breakthrough, and its story would be “told and retold countless times by others, for the saga of the Kallikaks found its way into scholarly journals and scientific texts, legislative debates and court cases, political speeches and popular magazines” (Zenderland, 2004, p. 165). Goddard was even approached for the rights to turn the story into a Broadway play, an event that apparently never materialized (Smith, 1988; Zenderland, 1998).
The story was published at the peak of the indictment era, considered to be around 1908 to 1912 (Wolfensberger, 1975). This era is perhaps the darkest chapter in the history of mental retardation in North America, and Goddard's (1912) text played a significant role in defining the “menace of the feeble-minded” and justifying that era's social policies, especially that of large-scale institutionalization and involuntary sterilization (Trent, 1994).
In The Kallikak Family, Goddard (1912) claimed the book was a report of a “natural experiment” (pp. 68, 116) in which the heritability of feeble-mindedness was proved conclusively. He described a eugenical investigation in which he traced five generations of feeble-minded families prior to Deborah Kallikak, a resident of the famous Vineland Training School, located in Vineland, New Jersey. Deborah's family was traced back to an affair between a Revolutionary War soldier, Martin Kallikak, Sr. (d. 1837) and a “nameless feeble-minded woman” (p. 36). Goddard simultaneously contrasted five generations of fine, upstanding, property-owning citizens that resulted from the marriage of the same soldier to a “respectable girl of good family” (p. 29). The differences between the two sides of the same family are presented as proof that feeble-mindedness is inherited in accordance with Mendelian genetic theory.
Goddard made extensive use of photographs in his work. For example, his textbook on feeble-mindedness contained 38 plates, each with multiple photographs of individual cases (Goddard, 1912). The Kallikak Family contains 14 photographs that can be divided into two groups: those devoted to the display of Deborah Kallikak and her achievements (6 photographs), and those showing her family and their current and ancestral homes (8 photographs).
At the time, photography was regarded as “the ultimate form of realistic portrayal” (Gilman, 1976, p. 5) and a useful diagnostic tool. For example, Martin Barr at Elwyn Institute (Media, Pennsylvania) also made considerable use of photographs and believed that they could be used to teach professionals how to recognize the feeble-minded. Barr and Maloney (1920) said:
By comparing the picture with the short description of the case accompanying each—including the diagnosis, family history, and notes of mental progress or retrogression—a very fair idea of the type can be gained, and put into practice in daily examination of defective children. (p. 177)
Thus, Goddard's first purpose for publishing photographs in The Kallikak Family was to convey the image of objective scientific documentation of the Kallikak family members by using realistic illustrations of his thesis of the hereditability of feeble-mindedness.
More recently, the photographs have been the subject of a controversial interpretation by Gould (1981), who accused Goddard of retouching some of the photographs of Deborah's family members to deliberately create a false impression of feeble-mindedness and/or evil. However, this allegation has been challenged by others (e.g., Fancher, 1987), who offered more innocent explanations of the retouching, such as necessity to enhance the reproduction of the photographs. My purpose in this paper is to understand Goddard's Kallikak Family photographs from within their contemporary photographic context and then to use this photographic context to provide an interpretation of the retouching that could resolve the existing alternative interpretations. It is important that we have the best understanding we can of such an important text and such an important figure in the history of mental retardation. Such examination of the past can provide important ways to “assess our present and guide our future scientific and professional behavior” (Kral, 1988, p. 746). Moreover, understanding the history of eugenics “is valuable because it makes so dramatically visible the cultural value judgements that are inevitably part of defining any human difference as a disease or a disability and identifying any specific factors as ‘the’ cause” (Pernick, 1997, p. 90).
The task is, first and foremost, to reconstruct the meaning the photographs would have had to readers at the time of publication. To do this, I collected 1,233 individual photographs, mostly of people labeled feeble-minded, that were published in clinical textbooks and professional journals of eugenics and/or feeble-mindedness between the years 1900 and 1930. This time frame is regarded by historians to best represent the “eugenic era” in the United States (Haller, 1963; Ludmerer, 1972). I examined the photographs, looking for themes and conventions of presentation (Bogdan, 1988; Bogdan & Biklen, 1992) that could be beneficial in the interpretation of the Kallikak photographs.
Almost half the photographs are devoted to Deborah Kallikak, who was a celebrity at Vineland. She is said to have “made a profound impression on all who knew her, and had a queen's knack for inspiring devotion” (Doll, 1983, p. 32). Her portrait appears regularly in Vineland reports. She was featured on the front page of a Vineland pamphlet, which included an artist's rendering of the Kallikak study findings, listed the names of the Trustees, Officers of the Board, and lady visitors to Vineland Training School, called for donations to the endowment fund to continue the research department, and invited visitors to the school.
Most significantly, however, she was the full-page frontispiece of The Kallikak Family with the caption “as she appears today at the Training School” (Figure 1). “I'm famous,” Deborah would say as a result of this book (Reeves, 1938, p. 199). Gould stated that this frontispiece was an “honest” picture of Deborah (Gould, 1981, p. 170). The photograph, however, is a staged image purposely constructed to give a positive image of Deborah as a high-grade imbecile (Elks, 2004). Deborah is shown seated in a large leather chair associated with many images of intelligence, such as an open book (symbolic of her life?), fine clothes, necklace, brooch, well-set hair, and even the suggestion of eye makeup. She is shown in a very relaxed pose, calm, confident, and poised. It is a regal portrait. Even the cat on Deborah's lap is rich with symbolism. According to Reeves (1938), who was Vineland's executive social worker, Deborah used to breed Persian cats. She even named one “Henry” after Henry Goddard, who wrote “the book what [sic] made me famous” (Reeves, 1938, p. 194). This “privilege was allowed because it was thought that a little vicarious family life would aid in sublimating her most dangerous impulses” (Reeves, 1938, p. 197).
Deborah's photo essay continued with pictures showing her at a sewing machine and as a waitress (Figure 2) and displaying her woodworking and dress-making handiwork. The photo essay concluded with a picture of her holding some fern fronds in a large garden, looking very much like a photograph of a bridesmaid at a wedding. The final picture is of Deborah, age 17, with a small dog, presumably her pet. We know she was a lover of nature and animals (Smith, 1988). In all her photographs, her general appearance is immaculate.
It is evident that Deborah was given very special treatment, unlike the usual photographs of feeble-minded people. First, it was very rare at the time to have this many photographs devoted to a single person, with one photograph attractively displayed in an oval frame. There is only one group picture of her that I could find (a band photograph), and very little retouching is evident, with the possible exception of some lines in her white dress. Photos of Deborah appear to be at least semi-professional (the frontispiece shows a lot of clutter in the sides of the frame and a very makeshift studio more consistent with an amateur), but, otherwise, the lighting and composition is good, especially for an indoor photograph of the time.
Reeves (1938) described Deborah on her transfer to Vineland State School (across the street from the Training School) in the following words:
Deborah at this time was a handsome young woman, twenty-five years old, with many accomplishments, though her academic progress had remained stationary just beyond second grade. . . . For our part we knew we had acquired distinction in acquiring Deborah Kallikak, for by this time the story of her pedigree was becoming well known. And such a capable, well trained and good looking girl must be an asset. (pp. 195, 196)
The contrast between Deborah the “wild little creature” (Reeves, 1938, pp. 195) who was admitted to Vineland Training School in 1897 and the celebrity she was 15 years later could hardly be greater. Interestingly, the use of the idiom “wild creature” is reminiscent of Itard's “Wild Boy of Aveyron” (Itard, 1806/1962). Goddard (1912) was, nevertheless, quite clear in his advocacy of Deborah's need for “institution protection”:
Today if this young woman were to leave the Institution, she would at once become a prey to the designs of evil men or evil women and would lead a life that would be vicious, immoral, and criminal, though because of her mentality she herself would not be responsible (p. 12).
Thus, in The Kallikak Family, which is an exposé of the notorious Kallikaks showing successive generations of feeble-mindedness and social problems, Goddard gave pride of place to the one Kallikak saved by Vineland from bad family influences and who later became their most famous success story.
Fine Institution Helpers
Goddard (1912, 1914a, 1914b) was not reticent in trumpeting success stories of Vineland. One technique he used to do this was to describe individuals the institution had turned into “fine institution helpers” and accompanied his description with a photograph. For example, Goddard (1914a) described Mamie C. in glowing terms as a fine institution helper. She was a
quiet, attractive pleasant girl, very efficient, needs very little supervision, a very valuable helper in the kindergarten, leading the children in many ways and relieving the teacher of much work; besides that she takes all the care of the rooms of the assistant Superintendent and his wife. (p. 87)
Her portrait shows Mamie in fine clothing, including some jewelry, and in her role as a teacher.
Another example was Theresa N., whom Goddard (1914a) described as “very useful and helpful in the cottages and is very motherly with the little children” (p. 109) and Donald U. who “has been well trained here at the School and under supervision does excellent work on the farm” (p. 115). Goddard wrote that he was “stoop shouldered” (p. 114) when admitted, but the photograph, shows him with his hands on his hips as if to emphasize the lack of stoop in his shoulders, presumably as a result of his care at Vineland. Another resident, Gertie K., was even compared to the Kallikak family (hence the last initial K?) in that the normal offspring are credited with a different father to the defective offspring. Gertie's whole family “is part of a very large defective and degenerate race living in a more or less prescribed region where there is very little regard for the conventionalities or for law” (p. 172). Now, she “waits on table very nicely and is in every way a most attractive child” (p. 172).
For Goddard, however, the finest institution helper was Deborah Kallikak, “The World's Best Known Moron” (Reeves, 1938, p. 199) and the best illustration of the belief at the time that “These high grade, sensitive, super-egoistic patients often prove invaluable as institution helpers” (Reeves, 1945, p. 8).
Deborah's accomplishments included the following: She did housework and childcare for the superintendent's family; she was the custodian of the gymnasium and of the Costume Room (making and mending costumes for school plays) and took starring roles in the plays; she was an excellent coronet player; she excelled in embroidery, wood-craft, and basketry; was an excellent worker in the laundry and factory; she was assistant to the nurse in the hospital building for low-grade patients; she was in charge of the institution's kindergarten; she read books and magazines; she bred and raised cats; and she waited tables (Doll, 1983; Reeves, 1938, 1945).
Deborah's “Bad” Family
Unlike the images and conventions of intelligence that may be seen in Deborah's photographs, pictures of Deborah's family members abound with images and conventions of imbecility, the most significant image being that of the hovel.
The image of the hovel is a common representation associated with the feeble-minded. This stems from the great interest eugenicists had in finding and documenting the heritage of notorious families, such as the Jukes, Pineys, Nams, and Hickories. Dugdale (1910) described the actual physical structure of a “Juke” hovel as follows:
They lived in log or stone houses similar to slave-hovels, all ages, sexes, relations and strangers “bunking” indiscriminately. One form of this bunking has been described to me. During the winter the inmates lie on the floor strewn with straw or rushes like so many radii to the hearth, the embers of the fire forming a center towards which their feet focus for warmth. This proximity, where not producing illicit relations, must often have evolved an atmosphere of suggestiveness fatal to habits of chastity. . . . I have seen rude shelters made of boughs covered with sod, or the refuse slabs of saw mills set slanting against ledges of rock and used in the summer abodes, the occupants bivouacking much as gypsies. Others of the habitations have two rooms, but so firmly has the habit established modes of living, that, nevertheless, they often use but one congregate dormitory. . . . The older girls, finding no privacy within a hovel overrun with younger brothers and sisters, purchase privacy at the risk of prudence, and the night rambles through the woods and tangles end, too often, in illegitimate offspring. (pp. 13, 14)
In photographs, the housing conditions of such “degenerate families” were portrayed in very conventional ways and are immediately recognizable (e.g., Figure 3). Characteristics of the hovel image include slope, most clearly seen in the fact that very little is vertical or perpendicular, giving the unmistakable impression that the building is falling down; its construction from wood and scraps of building materials with holes and gaps in the walls; people posed in front of the hovel (thereby juxtaposing degenerate people with their degenerate homes); its isolated location in rural settings (the house is usually a solitary edifice); and with animals nearby (either in a special animal lean-to, or referred to as co-habitors).
Just how negatively the inhabitants of hovels were viewed at the time may be seen in the following description of “The Pineys” written by Kite (1913), Goddard's fieldworker for The Kallikak Family.
But the real Piney has no inclination to labor, submitting to every privation in order to avoid it. Lazy, lustful and cunning he is a degenerate creature who has learned to provide for himself the bare necessities of life without entering into life's stimulating struggle. Like the degenerate relative of the crab that ages ago gave up a free roving life and, gluing its head to a rock, built a wall of defense around itself, spending the rest of its life kicking food into its mouth and enjoying the functionings of reproduction, the Piney and all the rest of his type have become barnacles upon our civilization, all the higher functions of whose manhood have been atrophied through disease. (p. 10)
The image of the hovel is, therefore, one of poverty; squalor; and an animal-like, unhealthy, and disease-ridden lifestyle. It is a particularly powerful image because eugenicists believed that the feeble-minded created their own environment. The hovel, and the accompanying notorious family studies, was for the eugenics movement, its “central, confirmational image: that of the degenerate hillbilly family, dwelling in filthy shacks and spawning endless generations of paupers, criminals, and imbeciles” (Rafter, 1988, p. 2). The significance of the image of “hovel” as a powerful icon of the feeble-mindedness and degeneracy that may be found within them may be further illustrated by the fact that of the eight photographs used to illustrate Rogers and Merrill's (1919) study of “degenerate families,” seven are of hovels and Kite's (1913) description of “the Piney-type” of feeble-mindedness excerpted above includes several photographs of their hovels. The hovel is, thus, the visible manifestation of feeble minds. The power of the image was such that it even created its own classification of feeble-mindedness, namely “The Hovel Type” as when Laughlin (1914) described the “hovel type of source of defectives” (p. 140). Thus, the image itself came to signify the presence of a collection of degeneracies, including feeble-mindedness, sexual immorality (especially incest), alcoholism, pauperism, and epilepsy—all the characteristics of “notorious families.” It is also a powerful image to use because few people would disagree that they represent a problem that needed to be addressed even if they disagreed about what exactly should be done.
Moreover, because Goddard (1912) believed people created their environments (p. 53), one could, in effect, judge a person by his or her environment. Thus, the mere presence of “hovel” implies the presence of degeneracy. Because the hovel-type of defective was primarily socially degenerate (e.g., sexually immoral) and because such social degeneracies are hard to photograph, the next best thing was to photograph the place in which these socially degenerate acts took place.
The Kallikak Family contains several photographs of hovels. Figure 4 (top) is an unmistakable photograph of a hovel—a falling down or sloping wooden structure with people on the front porch, in a rural setting. Figure 4 (lower) also has hovel features, except that it is predominantly of stone construction. The slope of the building is, however, very marked. The image of the hovel is so powerful that this alone would be enough to image the Kallikak children as feeble-minded.
Ruins as Biblical Symbols
Goddard's religious background and beliefs are significant. His mother was a Quaker preacher, and he was educated at Quaker schools (Zenderland, 1998). Goddard's first position was that of principal at a Quaker school in Ohio, where he taught mathematics and conducted daily chapel services and weekly prayer meetings (Zenderland, 1998). Interestingly, Goddard's field worker, Elizabeth Kite, who gathered much of the data for the Kallikak study, was a “passionate believer and an active member of the International Catholic Truth Society” (Zenderland, 1998, p. 179).
Goddard (1912) made frequent references to scripture in The Kallikak Family. For example, he wrote that Martin Kallikak, Sr. stepped aside from the “paths of rectitude” (p. 50), and the “paths of virtue” (p. 103) (cf. Psalm 23 “paths of righteousness”) and became a “powerful sermon against sowing wild oats,” a transgression to which “society has too often winked at” (p. 102) (cf. And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent—Acts 17: 30). Even the choice of “Deborah” as a pseudonym has biblical significance, Deborah being the name of both a nurse, a prophetess, and musician in the Bible (see Genesis 35:8 and Judges 4 and 5). Goddard (1912) exhorted:
Now that the facts are known, let the lessons be learned; let the sermons be preached; let it be impressed upon our young men of good family that they dare not step aside for even a moment. Let all possible use be made of these facts, and something will be accomplished. (p. 103)
The Kallikak Family included three photographs of homes, sites, and ruins of homes of Kallikak ancestors (Figure 5). They could be interpreted as visual slander in that they imply that there is a connection between ruins and feeble-mindedness; but any building, over time, will deteriorate for any number of reasons, and even a palace in ruins looks bad. Goddard (1912) believed that the feeble-minded “made their environments” (p. 53): “Both lines lived out their lives in practically the same region and in the same environment, except in so far as they themselves, because of their different characters, changed that environment” (p. 50). It is very unfair, however, for someone to come several generations later, take a photograph of a ruinous, uninhabited building, and imply that the ruins we see today are the result of the type of inhabitants that used to live there.
Ruins are also the long-term consequence of hovels. If one characteristic of the hovel is its slope—a powerful indicator that it is falling down— then a ruin is the logical long-term result. Thus, a ruin may be seen as a hovel over the long run, an “old hovel.” The image of the hovel and the hovel in ruins are really just the same image but at different times.
However, I believe that Goddard had another reason for including photographs of Kallikak ruins, namely, the biblical symbolism they convey; the idea that the long-term consequences of Martin Kallikak's sin may be seen today in these ruins; and that this is, by implication, what will happen to society, if not our whole civilization, if nothing is done about feeble-mindedness. For example, if you look at Figure 5 and compare it with the following scripture, the parallel is striking.
I went by the field of the slothful and by the vineyard of the man void of understanding; And, lo, it was all grown over with thorns, and nettles had covered the face thereof, and the stone wall thereof was broken down. Then I saw, and considered it well: I looked upon it, and received instruction. (Proverbs 24: 30–32)
It is evident from the photographs that a number of them have been retouched to varying degrees (e.g., facial features such as the eyes, nose and mouth, hair, eyebrows as well as clothing (see Figure 4). In interpreting this retouching, it is important to understand the role eugenicists gave to personal appearance. Eugenicists believed that it was possible to recognize the feeble-minded by being able to recognize “stigmata of degeneracy” or just simply physical “peculiarities” (Barr, 1904, p. 125). Tredgold (1908) believed that “The majority of aments are the products of a markedly abnormal germinal plasm, and, as a consequence, not only the brain, but the whole body is marked by defects of anatomical developments and physiological function” (p. 78). A typical list of stigmata of degeneracy might include
facial asymmetry, harelip, protruding or malformed ears, facial grimaces, strabismus or other eye difficulty, high, cleft, or missing palate, deformities of the nose, irregular and impacted teeth. Peculiarities in the shape of the head, malproportioning in the general physique (such as unduly long arms or legs), gigantism or dwarfism, extreme awkwardness. (Pressey & Pressey, 1926, p. 40)
Thus, any retouching of the photographs that draws attention to eyes, ears, noses, and mouths would have particular significance to eugenically oriented observers of the photographs who would likely see any seeming anomaly as evidence of degeneracy. Moreover, retouching of the mouth would have had additional significance. Mouth and mouth irregularities were a key feature of photographs of low-grade feeble-mindedness, the gape and an open mouth being especially associated with idiocy (Elks, 2004). A gape may be defined as a mouth that is clearly open, to a degree beyond that which is consistent with breathing or a normally relaxed mouth, or resulting from an abnormally large tongue (as in mongolism and cretinism), and for no readily apparent reason (such as eating or smiling).
The physiognomic significance of the mouth was often used by eugenicists in diagnosing feeble-mindedness. Tredgold (1908) gave the following description of the mouth as an “anomalie of aments. . . The lips are often thick, coarse, prominent, and unequal in size. The mouth is heavy and flabby-looking, generally open, and devoid of either refinement or firmness” (p. 84).
Thus, the gape, mouth, and references to eating disorders all function as images and indicators of imbecility. Interestingly, The Kallikak Family includes the following extract of Deborah Kallikak's exemplary history since coming to Vineland in November 1897: “Average size and weight . . . no bodily deformity . . . mouth shut” (p. 2). Thus, the fact that the mouth in this case was closed was a point of observation and diagnosis. Goddard (1919) also wrote in his caption to Millet's painting “Man With the Hoe,” that one should “Note the typical imbecile look, open mouth and low forehead” (p. 240).
Textual references to the mouth and to eating disorders may be found frequently in case descriptions of idiots and imbeciles. For example, Elizabeth Kite, Goddard's field-worker, made the following observation on one of her field trips: “Three children, scantily clad and with shoes that would barely hold together, stood about with drooping jaws and the unmistakable look of the feeble-minded” (p. 77).
Given the significance of the mouth, it follows that any added emphasis given to the mouth in photographs or text, has a significance not associated with other parts of the body. Thus, although retouching was a common practice among eugenicists and of the period in general (Kral, 1988), retouching of the mouth, especially if in a crude and obvious way, can convey associations with lower grades of feeble-mindedness.
Several of the retouched mouths in Figure 4 appear to be open. Thus, given the imagery and conventions of the times, the children whose mouths have been emphasized, if not made to look open, bear an unmistakable image of imbecility or idiocy. Similarly, the retouching of eyes in the photographs can give the impression of the presence of stigmata of degeneracy.
Another image of feeble-mindedness found in The Kallikak Family photographs I have called “Goddard's cap.” Goddard's (1914a) text on feeble-mindedness reveals an interesting phenomenon with respect to the clothing of the feeble-minded. One convention appears to have been to make one photograph of the person wearing the cap, juxtaposed to another of the same person without the cap. The presence of a cap (on a male), however, bears a strong association with a diagnosis of imbecility and not to a diagnosis of idiot or moron or to the chronological age of the person photographed. Thus, of the 13 feeble-minded individuals pictured wearing caps and whose feeble-mindedness was assumed to be of hereditary cause, 11 (85%) are imbeciles. Only 2 who were diagnosed as morons wore caps, and no idiots wore caps. The presence of a cap, in Goddard's text, therefore, is usually associated with a diagnosis of hereditary imbecility. Interestingly, all but one of the boys wear caps in the Kallikak Family photographs (Figure 4). By implication, we can interpret the cap imagery as indicating that the boys could be perceived as hereditary imbeciles, which of course is the thesis Goddard set out to prove.
Mutually Amplifying Juxtapositions
Zenderland (1988) believed that the Kallikak photographs should be interpreted as a “contrast” in the relative “surroundings” and not to the facial features between Deborah and her relatives (p. 743). However, the photographs function as much more than contrasts and may be characterized as mutually amplifying juxtapositions. A mutually amplifying juxtaposition may be defined as the juxtaposition of two extreme opposites, where each opposite extreme serves to amplify the other. This concept is alluded to by Scheinfeld (1939), when he referred to the “comparison of the very good Kallikaks with the very bad Kallikaks” (cited in Smith, 1988, p. 67), presumably in relation to both the text and the photographs.
Eugenicists made frequent use of the mutually amplifying juxtaposition in their books and journals. A common example was the juxtaposition of microcephaly and hydrocephaly. Although it is not uncommon for microcephaly to be associated with hydrocephaly within the same brain (Doll, 1917; Goddard, 1919), authors of textbooks on feeble-mindedness typically presented microcephaly juxtaposed to hydrocephaly in different people (e.g., Figure 6). This juxtaposition of an (abnormally) large head with an (abnormally) small head has the effect of increasing (or exaggerating) the differences. Thus, an already small head appears even smaller when juxtaposed to a larger than normal head, and an already large head appears even larger when juxtaposed to an abnormally small head. The larger the discrepancy between the two juxtaposed subjects, the greater the exaggeration. This phenomenon was used to great effect in freak show presentations when, for example, a giant is juxtaposed to a dwarf.
There is no amplifying effect if the atypical is simply juxtaposed to the typical, such as a measuring stick, as could easily have been done for people with abnormal head sizes. Juxtaposition with the “normal” is simply a comparison and not (necessarily) an exaggeration.
Barr (1904) advocated asexualization (castration) of feeble-minded males and, on one occasion, employed a mutually amplifying juxtaposition by presenting two photographs—one of a boy with “precocious physical development” next to a “castrate.” The two opposite extremes (very large genitals and castration) thereby served to amplify each other.
Figure 7 present an extremely blatant example of the mutually amplifying juxtaposition. The two photographs present evidence of the home of a feeble-minded person contrasted with that of a person of vigorous mind. The “dirty shack” has the image of a hovel (sloping, wooden building with a porch) except that in this instance the shack actually slopes all the way into the ground.
The photograph of the white house (taken on a sunny day) represents a great contrast to the dull overcast gray photograph of the hovel occupied by the feeble-minded person. This house is upright (full of “right” angles) and not sloping at all. There is a garden that is being tended with a watering can and the overall image is one of order (note the even spacing between the people), poise, “upright respectability,” and relaxed accomplishment. The image, therefore, reflects an ideal rather than a typical middle-class homestead.
We do not know whether the white house is large for the time, or of average size. It is, however, a multi-story dwelling with many rooms apparently for a number of adults and is significantly larger when compared to the hovel, which seems to be little more than a single room. Moreover, a hovel that is built into the side of a hill is extremely unusual in photographs of this period (it is the only one of its kind I found). As such, it is an extreme image of a type of dwelling that is juxtaposed to a very positive image.
The mutually amplifying juxtaposition is also evident in Goddard's (1912) chart of the two lines of descent of the Kallikak family (Figure 8). The two lines are not just good juxtaposed to bad, but very good and very bad. Kite (cited in Smith, 1985, p. 53) described a “veritable gulf” separating the two sides of the family, socially and intellectually. The symbolism of the good (white) and bad (black) lines of descent is also mutually amplifying. Significantly, the two lines are increasing in distance apart with each generation giving another image of amplification of the difference in the families.
The most prominent example of the mutually amplifying juxtaposition, however, is the term Kallikak itself. The good–bad juxtaposition is so fundamental to The Kallikak Family photographs and imagery that it is the basis of the book's title—a pseudonym comprising the two Greek words Kalos and Kakos. Kalos has the sense of healthy, serviceable, beautiful, attractive, lovely, and good, with the overall idea of “what is ordered or sound”; the term Kakos, on the other hand, has the meanings of unserviceable, incapable, morally evil, bad, weak, and ruinous (Kittel & Friedrich, 1985).
Thus, the two groups of photographs seen in relation to each other represent a mutually amplifying juxtaposition. Deborah is world famous but her siblings and relatives are infamous; Deborah is productive (in the institution) but her relatives and siblings are social sores. Deborah Kallikak is not just a fine institution helper, but a celebrity and a “cause celebré.” On the other hand, the degenerate Kallikaks, without the benefits of expertise and services of the Vineland Training School, live in houses now ruined or huts and hovels and are perpetuating their degeneracy with each new generation. Thus, when Queen Deborah is juxtaposed to the degenerate brood of “Old Sal,” each amplifies the other in the opposite direction. The notorious family is displayed in all its squalor compared to the cultured display of Deborah in her fine institution. The Vineland Training School, and its eugenic ideals, are thus exalted and vindicated by the display of Deborah's happy productivity, while the misery and ruin of her unprotected and untutored Kallikak kin is plain for all to see. From a constructivist perspective, the photographs represent the use of images and conventions in such a way as to guarantee that readers would “see” feeble-mindedness and, thus, reinforce the main thesis of the text, namely, that left to themselves, feeble-minded parents would produce feeble-minded children, but that with institutionalization, not only would the degenerate line of offspring be broken, but such children could be trained to become productive and useful citizens. Thus, the good is so good and the bad so bad that the entire book—text, title, chart, and photographs—function as an extended example of the mutually amplifying juxtaposition.
Gould (1981) presented a serious accusation against Goddard in his analysis of the Kallikak photographs by charging that Goddard's use of the photographs amounted to “conscious fraud” (p. 27) and “conscious skullduggery” (p. 171) of an egregious nature in relation to the retouching of the facial features of the Kallikak children to make them look “evil or stupid” (p. 172). Specifically, Gould alleged that:
In a few cases—Cyril Burt's documented fabrication of data on IQ of identical twins and my discovery that Goddard altered photographs to suggest mental retardation in the Kallikaks—we can specify conscious fraud as the cause of inserted social prejudice. (p. 27)
He further contended that “It is now clear that all of the photos of non-institutionalized Kakos were phonied by inserting heavy dark lines to give eyes and mouths their diabolical appearance. The three plates of Deborah are unaltered” (p. 171). In his caption to Figure 2 Gould wrote “Note how mouths and eyebrows are accentuated to produce an appearance of evil or stupidity. The effect is much clearer in the original photograph produced in Goddard's book” (p. 172).
Gould's (1981) original accusations have been further endorsed by Smith (1988) and most recently repeated by Black (2004), who added “nefarious-looking,” “doctored,” and “sinister” to the lexicon of Goddard's alleged skullduggery.
Is this, however, a fair charge against Goddard? Gould (1981) found the retouching objectionable because he believed that without the retouching, readers would not have seen feeble-minded and/or evil Kallikaks. He further believed that this skullduggery was deliberate because the face of Deborah had not been retouched. Thus, Gould contended that Goddard deliberately tricked readers into seeing feeble-mindedness and/or evil because this suited Goddard's thesis and purpose for his book.
I do not believe that Gould's (1981) accusation can be supported from a contextual perspective for the simple reason that readers would have seen feeble-minded and/or evil-looking people even without the retouching. For example, images of evil permeate the entire book. It is present in the term kakos used in Goddard's (1912) fictional family name “Kallikak,” in the image of the hovel, in statements such as referring to the “evil” (pp. 29, 102) Martin Kallikak engendered, for which society had to pay a heavy price and in referring to the “evil consequences” of the “debauchery” spread by the feeble-minded (p. 108). Goddard even stated that the Kallikaks had “pronounced tendencies to evil” (p. 63), which leaves open the possibility that perhaps some of them may even look evil. Although I cannot find a direct reference to members of the Kallikaks looking evil, Goddard did refer to a 15-year-old girl as a “vulgar, repulsive creature” (p. 73) and to an adult woman as appearing to be “criminalistic” (p. 87). Thus, the image of evil and other extremely negative images are present throughout the text and are powerful enough to influence observers to see people who look evil/sinister/nefarious/depraved regardless of any retouching. Thus, Goddard's retouching did not create an image of evil that was not already there but may have exaggerated or reinforced such an image already present.
A similar interpretation may be made with respect to the image of feeble-mindedness. Even without the retouching, the photographs did not merely suggest feeble-mindedness, they screamed feeble-mindedness. The image of the hovel was more than enough to do this. Thus, retouching did not create an image of feeble-mindedness where there was none, which would be fraudulent, because the image was already very present. Retouching in a way that emphasized the mouths or eyes, for example, may have had the effect of exaggerating an image of imbecility by suggesting the presence of stigmata of degeneracy but would not have created a new image of feeble-mindedness.
It must be remembered also that Goddard did not believe viciousness was the cause of antisocial acts but that inherited feeble-mindedness was the raw material from which social ills were made. Goddard (1912) stated “We have been accustomed to account for their defects on the basis of viciousness, environment, or ignorance” (p. 11), but his response was, “How do we account for this kind of individual? The answer is in a word ‘Heredity’—bad stock” (p. 12). Goddard was clear that for girls like Deborah, because “all her instincts and appetites are in the direction that would lead to vice” (p. 12), it was absolutely imperative that they be supervised at all times. Thus, unrestrained feeble-mindedness and evil were seen to be naturally and inextricably interconnected according to Goddard. The photographs, therefore, confirmed what people, including Goddard, expected to see and would have seen with or without retouching. Gould's (1981) allegation that the retouching was deliberate and deceitful “phonying” of presumably otherwise typical-looking people cannot be supported. Goddard took a group of people that would have been instantly recognizable as “feeble-minded” and/or evil-looking and may have made them look more so by retouching to various degrees, but he did not fraudulently create a phony image. How can you create a false impression of imbecility by retouching when the image was there in the first place? How can you trick people into seeing evil-looking people when they already see them?
Fancher (1987) and Zenderland (1988) have presented two alternative and innocent interpretations of the retouching, namely, that the retouching of the photographs was “primarily to improve their reproducibility for publication” (Fancher, 1987, p. 588) and second, that making children look feeble-minded was against Goddard's (1912) general argument about the moron, who was a problem precisely because he or she did not look feeble-minded. However, these two explanations are also inadequate. Although it is possible that the photographs lacked detail and needed to be enhanced for reproduction, this does not explain why they were retouched in a manner that is consistent with an interpretation of feeble-mindednesss and/or evil. Second, although it is true that Goddard considered the moron type to “be for us our great problem” (p. 102), he was, nevertheless, very clear that some of the Kallikaks did indeed look feeble-minded (e.g., “a glance sufficed to establish his mentality, which was low,” p. 78). Therefore, to retouch some children in the photographs in a manner that gives them facial features that may ensure they look more feeble-minded and leave others unretouched is entirely consistent with his argument.
In conclusion, I believe the best frame to view the retouching is not as trickery and dishonesty at the hands of a charlatan but as examples of eugenic propaganda. Goddard believed his own research and wanted everyone to accept his hereditability argument. The Kallikak Family was a serious, sermon-like work of eugenic action research that called the nation to wake up to the scourge of feeble-mindedness and adopt the solution of institutionalization. “Had the nameless girl been segregated in an institution, this defective [Kallikak] family would not have existed” he wrote (Goddard, 1912, p. 104). Even sterilization was simply a “help” until he could get “segregation thoroughly established” (p. 115). The Kallikak Family photographs, therefore, represent masterpieces of visual propaganda that illustrate Goddard's conclusions from his “natural experiment.” Working on several powerful levels—these photographs assumed objective scientific documents, as mutually amplifying juxtapositions, as stereotypical images of hovels and imbecility, and as religious symbols—the photographs helped to propel Goddard's work to pre-eminence in the field and fueled a dark chapter in the history of mental retardation.
Author: Martin A. Elks, PhD, Director, Bucks County Association of Independent Support Brokers, 1282 Estate Dr., West Chester, PA 19380. MartinElks@aol.com