Henry Herbert Goddard's impact on the history of the fields of psychology, intelligence testing, and mental retardation has been well-documented (Smith, 1985; Zenderland, 1998). This impact began in 1906 when he was hired as the director of the psychological laboratory at the New Jersey Training School for Feeble-Minded Boys and Girls (changed to The Training School at Vineland in 1911 and generally referred to as The Vineland Training School), the first such laboratory in the United States to be housed outside of a university.

Goddard's tenure at Vineland was marked by a series of historically important events, including the introduction of the Binet Simon Intelligence Scale to an American audience; coining the term moron to define certain segments of the population of people labeled as “feebleminded”; and, along with other intelligence testers, developing the Army Alpha intelligence test. He is most frequently recalled, however, because of his role in the eugenics movement of the early 20th century, particularly as the author of the notorious eugenic family study, The Kallikak Family (Goddard, 1912). Goddard told the tale of a “degenerate” family from rural New Jersey. The progenitor of this line, an American Revolutionary War soldier called Martin Kallikak, Sr., sired his disreputable ancestral line through a dalliance with an allegedly feebleminded barmaid. Martin Sr., however, later married an upstanding Quaker woman and became the forefather of a second line of descendents that included, as Goddard (1912) put it, “respectable citizens, men and women prominent in every phase of life” (p. 30). Goddard's tale contrasting these disparate ancestral lines was presented as conclusive proof of the hereditary nature of intelligence, feeblemindedness, criminal behavior, and degeneracy for years and was used by American eugenicists to justify their racially and politically charged rhetoric and policies. The Kallikak Family was received with acclaim by the public and by much of the scientific community and was reissued through 12 printings, including a reprinting as late as 1939 (Zenderland, 2004).

The well-documented abuses propagated by the eugenics movement resulted in segregation, involuntary sterilization, and discrimination against people with disabilities, people who were poor, people from racial and religious minority groups, and immigrants (Carlson, 2001; Kevles, 1985; Smith, 1989). By the mid 1940s, Goddard's methods and interpretations had been opened up for criticism and, after the horrors of the Holocaust, the study's legitimacy was largely disavowed. Although the interpretation of Goddard's impact and work changed over time, by all intent and purposes his actual impact ended when, in May of 1918, he left Vineland to assume the position of director of the Ohio Bureau of Juvenile Research.

Leaving Vineland: Goddard's Version

Goddard's decision to leave The Vineland Training School was, according to his own version of the story, a difficult one. His biographer, Leila Zenderland, described the personal and professional tug-of-war waged by Goddard as he considered whether to leave the comfort and prestige of Vineland for a position in Columbus, as discovered through documents in Goddard's files in the Archives of the History of American Psychology at the University of Akron, particularly a list Goddard drafted of the pros and cons associated with his move (Zenderland, 1998, p. 303). One undeniable advantage of the move was that the new position would pay considerably more than Goddard was earning at Vineland. He would, in fact, be the second highest paid employee in the state of Ohio, second only to the governor (Zenderland, 1998, p. 303). In the end, according to Goddard's version of the story, the challenge, the pay, and the opportunity to direct his own agency swayed him to leave Vineland.

Two sources that, to our knowledge, have not previously been widely considered suggest the possibility of different reasons for Goddard's departure. Although these sources do not provide unequivocal evidence to reject Goddard's version, given the importance of Henry Herbert Goddard to the history of the field of mental retardation and the infamy of the eugenics movement, we believe it is worthwhile to consider these sources.

Leaving Vineland: Reconsidered

The first of these two sources is the autobiography of Goddard's successor as director of the psychological laboratory, Australian psychologist Stanley D. Porteus. Porteus is best remembered for the development of the Porteus Maze test, a nonverbal measure of intelligence. Porteus was at Vineland from 1918 to 1922, at which time he accepted a position at the University of Hawaii and was succeeded as director at Vineland by Edgar A. Doll, who had served as Goddard's assistant. Doll was developer of the Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scale.

In 1969, Porteus published his memoirs, in which he described his recruitment to Vineland. Porteus wrote that in August of 1918, 3 months after Goddard's departure, he received a cablegram from Edward Ransom Johnstone, superintendent of The Vineland Training School, asking: “Would you accept one year's appointment to the research department here? Letter follows” (Porteus, 1969, p. 62). Porteus did not know Johnstone, but, like most psychologists in the world, was familiar with Vineland and Goddard's work with the Binet test and the Kallikak family. The letter that followed, as promised, offered Porteus a one-year internship at the pay rate of $2,000 annually, less than half of what Goddard had been earning, though still more than Porteus was making in Melbourne. Johnstone's letter also indicated that although he “did not want to lay down any requirements that may hamper” him, he “should like” Porteus' research “to connect as closely as possible to that being carried on by our men at the Wistar Institute of Anatomy” (Porteus, 1969, p. 63).

The Wistar Institute was (and remains) an independent medical research institute named after Caspar Wistar, a Philadelphia physician and author of the first American medical textbook. In 1905, Milton Greenman, MD, became director of the Wistar Institute. Greenman is best known, perhaps, as the co-developer of the Wistar rat, a current-day standard strain of laboratory rats. When the psychological laboratory at Vineland was funded by Philadelphia soap magnate Samuel Fels, Greenman was one of three men (along with Fels himself and Earl Barnes, a former professor of education at Stanford) with whom Johnstone was required to meet with on a quarterly basis. In his account of Goddard's departure, Porteus signaled that Greenman was a catalyst for challenging Goddard's research, writing:

About 1917, doubts began to creep in regarding the validity of the evidence gathered for Goddard, on which he based his book The Kallikak Family. It is quite possible that Dr. Greenman was one of those who decided Goddard's findings were both too good and too bad to be true; the descendants of the revolutionary officer through marriage with a woman of his own social class included no feebleminded as compared with the terrific load of mental defectives that hung from the limbs of the Kallikak family tree. (p. 68)

The eugenics movement and the early history of intelligence testing have had their share of “findings that were both too good and too bad to be true,” most notoriously Cyril Burt's data on twin studies and the heritability of intelligence. If, however, Greenman suspected the validity of Goddard's Kallikak data by 1917, he was among the earliest to do so. In 1922, outspoken columnist Walter Lippman published an article in which he was critical of intelligence testing in general; the Army Alpha Beta testing in particular; and questioned the veracity of the conclusions of the Kallikak study, though not explicitly Goddard's methods or data. Three years later, noted psychiatrist Abraham Meyerson (1925) challenged the validity of the Kallikak data itself, especially the data-collection process:

I confess to a feeling of shame in the presence of the work done by the field worker in this case. I have had charge of a clinic where alleged feeble-minded persons were brought every day and I see in my practice and hospital work murderers, thieves, sex offender, failures, etc. Many of these are brought to me by social workers, keen intelligent women, who are in grave doubt as to the mental condition of their charges after months of daily relationship, after intimate knowledge, and prolonged effort to understand. Many a time it has happened that one of these excellent women has declared that her charge must be feeble-minded or insane, and yet the mental tests and psychological examinations have shown the contrary, that the patient was of full average mentality or better; often it has happened that the social worker (or the informant) has believed that the “social problem” was not feeble-minded, and yet the thorough examination has disclosed undoubted feeble-mindedness. And I have to say of myself, with due humility, that I have had to reverse my first impressions many and many a time.

Judge how superior the field workers trained by Dr. Goddard were! Not only do [sic] their “first glance” tell them that a person is feeble-minded, but they even know, without a shadow of doubt in so far as the book intimated, without the faintest misgiving, that “a nameless girl” living over a hundred years before in a primitive community, is feeble-minded. They know this, and Dr. Goddard acting on this superior female intuition, founds an important theory of feeble-mindedness, and draws sweeping generalizations, with a fine moral undertone, from their work. Now, I am frank to say that the matter is an unexplained miracle to me. (pp. 78–79)

By 1930, the notion that one could infer intelligence from physical appearance was under attack. In 1930, University of Minnesota professor of psychology Donald Paterson published a review of research pertaining to the relationship between physical characteristics and intelligence. Paterson concluded, essentially, that there were no compelling data supporting the putative relationship, and he pointed out that data from a 1912 paper by Goddard frequently cited in support of such a hypothesis could as easily be interpreted as showing no meaningful relationship between physical characteristics (in this case height and weight) and intelligence. In 1942, after Scheinfeld (1939), Bayles and Burnett (1941), and a critical article in Scientific Monthly (Dunlap, 1940) had appeared, all repeating and expanding Meyerson's original charges, Goddard felt compelled to defend his work. “For a decade the data were accepted apparently without questions” (Goddard, 1942, p. 574). He then proceeded to defend the work of Kite and the presumptions of feeblemindedness she developed:

It is well-known that superintendents of such institutions quickly learn [how to observe all grades of defectives], and when a new arrival appears they not only know whether he is a fit subject for their institution or is normal and does not belong there, but they also know his grade. Even the attendants acquire this ability rather quickly. (p. 574)

Goddard also claimed to have known the name of the “nameless” feeble-minded tavern girl: “She is nameless to the reader only. We had her name; and not only her name but her history. We were fortunate enough to find an intelligent lady of advanced age, who knew personally the “Nameless one” (1942, p. 575).

Unfortunately, Goddard had been informed by Kite in response to a 1928 query from him on that topic that they did not have the “nameless one's” name or history. In 1944, Scheinfeld published a rebuttal to Goddard. By 1945, Goddard's reputation and the validity of The Kallikak Family study were, essentially, discredited. If doubt about the Kallikak data emerged by 1917, as Porteus suggested, that was earlier than previously suggested.

Continuing his recitation of the events surrounding Goddard's departure and his arrival, Porteus (1969) acknowledged, “whether Greenman communicated his doubts to Fels cannot now be proved” (p. 68). He then relayed the rest of the story, as he attested it was related to him:

When an invitation came to Goddard to head the newly established Bureau of Juvenile Research in Ohio, an offer carrying with it the then princely salary of $7,500 a year, this demand for his services was no great surprise. That came when Goddard laid the flattering proposal in the Vineland Committee's lap. Instead of meeting those terms, as he no doubt expected they would, Greenman and Fels congratulated him on the honor and suggested that he accept. (p. 68)

Porteus' (1969) story concerning Goddard's departure, then, was that Greenman, or another director, had begun to suspect the validity of Goddard's data, and when Goddard presented the Ohio offer as a means to get a boost in salary at Vineland, the ploy backfired, and Fels and Greenman used the opportunity to move Goddard out of his role as director of the Psychological Research Laboratory.

With the exception of the letters from Johnstone to Porteus, this recounting must be accepted as intriguing, but subject to the whims of ego, the vagaries of second- or third-hand information (with such information coming from someone who might potentially benefit from changes in the circumstances, as was the case with Greenman and Wistar), and the distance of more than 50 years between experience and recounting.

Leaving Vineland: The Samuel Fels Papers

Letters in the Samuel Fels papers at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania provide a second source that raises questions about Goddard's version of his departure. As noted previously, Samuel Fels provided funding for the psychological laboratory at Vineland. Goddard acknowledged his debt to Fels by dedicating The Kallikak Family (1912) to the soap magnate. Fels required Johnstone to meet regularly with himself, Barnes, and Greenman, and most of the correspondence between Vineland and Fels in the Fels Archives up to late 1917 are routine, focused primarily on Johnstone's requests for funding and detailing expenses. On October 17, 1917, Johnstone sent a letter to Fels thanking him for the latest quarterly payment, and “enclosing a copy of program for year as Goddard and I laid it out” (Johnstone, 1917a). That attachment, which Johnstone referred to as a program of research on the “Psychology of the Undeveloped Mind,” was, in essence, a continuance of the research in which Goddard had been engaged over the years leading up to that time.

The next correspondence signals the first indication of a problem, beginning with its date: December 31, 1917. What might be so important to compel Johnstone to spend New Year's Eve writing to Fels? By all appearances, nothing less than the fate of Fels' funding for the research laboratory was at stake. After communicating yet another request for “the latest quarterly payment,” Johnstone stated: “I am enclosing outline of the new plans. Goddard is acquainted with what I am saying here and while he has not expressed a definite opinion I think he is going to be satisfied with it as it stands” (Johnstone, 1917b).

One has to question either Goddard's acquaintance or satisfaction with the new plans based on Johnstone's next sentence (“Before it is formally presented to him, however, I think that you and Dr. Greenman and perhaps Mr. Van Wagenen, if you think best, should go over it with the idea of making such changes or emphasizing such points as are needed”) and on the “new plan” itself. In the attachment, Johnstone (1917b) began:

The following is an endeavor to put into form the results of our last conference. The lines are purposely sharply drawn in order that there may be no misunderstanding of the division of activity, but I have not greatly elaborated the plan in order that it may be enlarged or modified—as seems best.

He then proceeded to provide the specificity he deemed necessary or appropriate:

In view of the present unsettled condition of affairs and the uncertainty of the future, it is deemed advisable to make a complete revision for the plans for the Research Department to be in effect with the opening of the new fiscal year—May 1, 1918.

To this end the Research Department shall be divided into Laboratories. The Training School shall furnish the place, the facilities, and the materials. Each Laboratory head shall work under the direction of the institution or individual that sends him here or shall pursue his own studies if he comes here of his own accord, and the various laboratories shall be autonomous.

The heads of the laboratories shall be undisturbed by administrative duties, and all shall work under the general direction of the Superintendent of the Training School in all matters related to the institution. It shall be the duty of the Superintendent of the TS [Training School] to administer the affairs of the Department in letter and in spirit in order that Dr. Goddard, or any other scientist who may in the future come into the laboratory, may be free to pursue his studies without giving attention to petty details and annoyances.

Prior to this, all department heads had reported to Goddard who, in turn, reported to Johnstone. Now, all heads were to report to Johnstone, not Goddard. Yet, so far the only explanation for the reorganization is that Goddard has been annoyed by petty details, presumably of an administrative nature. The possible reasons for the overhaul appeared later in the letter:

From now until the close of the fiscal year [April 30, 1918, since the new plan was to be in place May 1], Dr. Goddard will develop all of the time necessary to get his book in shape, using the present staff. Beginning with the new year we shall employ as assistants to Dr. Goddard only people who have good training along psychological lines—preferably men—and we shall have in mind two things.

  1. That they shall not continue in the laboratory longer that one year unless by vote of the Research Committee. (It is the intention to set a policy of training good psychologists along the special lines relating to feeble-mindedness and then send them out to—if possible—develop other centers.)

  2. These assistants shall be selected with a view to their being able to work with as little expenditure of Dr. Goddard's time as may be. They shall pursue definite studies on the children which shall continue or initiate such lines of psychological research as Dr. Goddard shall direct, working only on problems that will be of really use to him in his larger studies.

The plan concluded:

It is recognized that each investigator has the first right to publish his researches over his own name and in such scientific journals as may appear to him desirable, provided any desired number of reprints may be purchased by the Training School and provided also that such researches may be published by the TS in any form desired. No responsibility for statements made in such scientific publications shall be assumed by the Training School.

The Superintendent as heretofore shall always have control of the children and no scientific work shall be conducted on the children without his knowledge and consent. (Johnstone, 1917b)

This letter clearly indicates a reorganization at the Training School that dislodged Goddard from his previous role as director and supervisor.

If the December 31 letter from Johnstone to Fels signaled a problem, a handwritten letter from Goddard dated February 21, 1918, seems to suggest that the problem was between Fels and Goddard. Goddard wrote:

My Dear Mr. Fels:

Life is a strange mixture of pain and pleasure. We learn to bear the pain that as we say is inevitable with a fair degree of complacency. It is when we feel that the unpleasant could have been avoided that regret comes in and takes away all the fortitude that we could have shown in the face of the disaster.

It was painful for you to come to the decision that you made known in your letter: It is painful to me to have you come to such a decision but it is vastly more painful to realize that I am largely responsible for your decision and to always have to regret that I was not able to make the work appeal to you.

After a brief attempt to emphasize the importance of the work in which he has been engaged to the world and, indeed, to Fels himself, Goddard continued:

Had you seen fit to go on with the programs we started five years ago—and had it not been for outside influences I think you would have gone on—we would by now have had results that would have satisfied you. No one could appreciate as I did the fatal error of that decision of the committee not to go on.

I am responsible, I know. I should have been able to convince, but I believe there were subtle influences at work that I did not understand and hence could not counteract.

But in such cases one cannot always walk by sight. It takes faith. You must find some one in whom you have faith and then trust all to him. I sincerely hope that my leaving Vineland will clear the way for some one in whom you have such faith to come in and that you will trust him implicitly and turn your entire income if need be to the solution of this problem. There is no place in the word so fitted for this as Vineland.

Goddard concluded:

I have written freely because it no longer concerns me personally and so I cannot be accused of pleading my own cause. I am pleading your cause and Vineland's, but most of all the cause of humanity.

Sincerely,

Goddard

Henry Herbert Goddard's letter accepting the position in Ohio was dated February 21, the same day he wrote to Fels (Zenderland, 1998, p. 303).

Conclusion

The Porteus book and Fels' files painted a different scenario related to Henry Herbert Goddard's departure. The Fels archives are of particular importance as primary source material. As late as October 17, 1917, Edward R. Johnstone had submitted a plan to Fels for funding that maintained the status quo with regard to Goddard's work, a plan in which Goddard had been actively involved in formulating. By December 31, Johnstone had conferred with Fels and, as a result of that conversation, had drafted a revised plan in which Goddard was neither involved in formulating nor had been informed of prior to its submission to Fels. The revised plan severely limited Goddard's authority, but clearly still included Goddard in the work of the laboratory. In Goddard's February 21, 1918, letter to Fels, Goddard makes it clear that the “painful decision” was Fels' decision, not his own. Could the decision have been to accept Goddard's resignation instead of making a counter offer, as Porteus contended? Possibly, although Goddard's letter does not allow one to conclude such unambiguously. The timing of the acceptance letter to Ohio and Goddard's letter to Fels certainly suggests that Goddard's decision was, potentially, influenced by Fels' previous letter and decision.

Again, the Fels' information is suggestive of an alternative, or perhaps more complex, version of the story of Goddard's departure from Vineland, independent of Porteus' autobiographical musings. Several questions emerge from Johnstone's letter of December 31, 1917, and Goddard's letter of February 21, 1918, that would help clarify the picture. From the Johnstone letter:

  1. Johnstone wrote that the proposal embedded in his letter “is an endeavor to put into form the results of our last conference,” so to minimize misunderstandings “in view of the present unsettled condition of affairs and the uncertainty of the future.” Thus, this proposal was worked out between Fels and Johnstone (at a minimum) prior to Johnstone drafting the letter and that the “last conference” and the letter are a response to Fels' challenging, in some way, the existing Vineland research program. With regard to the “unsettled condition of affirms” and “uncertainty of the future” to which Johnstone referred, it would be helpful to know whether Johnstone was simply referring to Fels' challenge itself or whether there was some other event that precipitated the challenge.

  2. The reorganization of the laboratory removed responsibility from Goddard and shifted it to Johnstone. Was this at the request of Goddard or was there some event that made this necessary?

  3. Why the concern about statements of researchers reflecting the Vineland Training School?

  4. Why the statement with regard to the control of the children by the superintendent?

With regard to Goddard's letter:

  1. Goddard wrote: “it was painful for you to come to the decision that you made known in your letter.” To what letter is Goddard referring? Was it to him or to Johnstone? What decision was made?

  2. Goddard then wrote: “it is vastly more painful to realize that I am largely responsible for your decision and to always have to regret that I was not able to make the work appeal to you.” What about Goddard's work led to Fels' decision? One might suggest that Goddard's eugenic rhetoric finally got to Fels, but then Porteus was hired who, himself, held strongly eugenic views.

  3. Goddard noted his belief that had it not been for outside influences, Fels would not have come to his decision.: Certainly much of the research from this point forward in which Vineland is involved is driven as much by Greenman and Wistar and, also clearly, Porteus was told to align his work with Wistar. Was Greenman the outside influence to which Goddard referred, or are there others?

At this juncture, we can do no more than speculate, so will refrain from doing so. We suggest, however, that there may be more to the story pertaining to Goddard's departure and would encourage efforts to sort out answers to these questions.

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Author notes

Authors: Michael L. Wehmeyer, PhD (wehmeyer@ku.edu), Professor, Department of Special Education; Director, Kansas University Center on Developmental Disabilities; and Associate Director, Beach Center on Disability, University of Kansas, 1200 Sunnyside Avenue, Room 3136, Lawrence, KS, 66045. J. David Smith, PhD, Professor, Department of Specialized Education, University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Greensboro, NC 27402