Edwardian TED Talk

This entry is a part of a series. To clearly understand the material below in context,
you may wish to begin at the beginning with the introduction to the series.

For the first dozen years or so after Madison Grant joined the Boone and Crockett club, he was kept very busy with projects aimed at saving endangered species of U.S. big game animals from extinction, and saving some of the most majestic scenery in the US from destruction by commercial interests. He and his American Aristocrat associates felt it was their burden to make sure that the best of Natural America that they inherited from their elite colonial forefathers was available for their children and grandchildren. Such as the beauty of Glacier National Park.

glacierAfter a number of experiments in this field, they began formulating some of the principles of not just wildlife “preservation” (keeping as many of a particular breed alive as possible) but wildlife “management.” For their interest was not in the destiny of any one animal—it was the destiny of the species. Wildlife management taught that you made sure to encourage the breeding of pure-bred animals—“mongrels” were believed to be inferior. Thus, for instance, Madison Grant was adamant that the small herds of buffalo that were to be used to repopulate the buffalo refuges must NOT include any “beefalos”—cow/buffalo hybrids.

beefaloAnother wildlife management principle was that there should be no “misguided sentimentalism” that tempted humans to try to rescue old, sick, or deformed members of a herd. They should be allowed to die naturally—or even be “culled” from the herd by hunters so that their presence (and possible interbreeding between them and hardy animals) could not “pull down” the genetic quality of the herd as a whole. (This attitude would no doubt even have caused men with these principles to resist any temptation to save the “runt” of a litter of puppies…)

And a third primary wildlife management principle was that whenever a herd began to exceed the resources available to sustain it, it would be necessary to carefully identify the best breeding stock, preserving those animals. The rest were to be considered “surplus” and “expendable.” The wildlife managers would then arbitrarily dispense with…kill…as many of the expendables as necessary in order to balance the herd and the resources.

Grant and his associates had learned this third principle the hard way. In 1894 the Boone and Crockett club had persuaded congress to outlaw hunting in Yellowstone National Park in order to preserve the elk herd there.

elkProtected in the park, by 1910 the resident elk herd had grown so prolifically that they exceeded the food resources in the park. That year the park rangers had to spend $20,000 to import food to keep the herd from starving to death. This went on year after year with the elk population continuing to grow, and now becoming more and more dependent on “feeding stations” rather than finding their own food. Some elk were shipped to zoos, some were transferred to other wilderness areas, and it was a never-ending battle to deal with the situation. The lessons from this and other early conservation efforts were used in coming years to formulate principles that were adopted by future wildlife management programs all across the nation.

Yes, Grant had his hands full with projects aimed at animals and scenery right up through the Save the Buffalo success described in an earlier entry in this series. And then something happened that changed Madison Grant’s focus forever.

It started, in 1906, as usual with the forming of a new club. Evidently Madison and his friend Fairfield Osborn didn’t have enough club meetings to satisfy them yet, so they started a new one they called the “Half-Moon Club.” As always, it was an exclusive men’s club, open only to aristocrats, and aimed particularly at those with an interest in “science and adventure.” This one didn’t have official meetings every week or month, though. The idea was just a few gala events a year. It was named “Half-Moon” after explorer Henry Hudson’s ship that he sailed up the Hudson River in 1609 when he claimed the land that later became New York.

hudsonThe “crew” of the Half-Moon Club, formally attired in tails and white tie, held their “cruises” approximately twice a year. Grant sent out the elegant invitations depicting Hudson’s ship sailing to the New World under a half moon. In elaborate silver calligraphy, the members were requested to “reserve a cabin” for the upcoming “voyage,” which usually “set sail” at seven bells in the University Club. Each dinner, with approximately twenty members in attendance, was hosted by a Master Mariner (often Grant) who invited and introduced that evening’s Pilot who spoke about his recent adventures.  [from: Spiro, Jonathan. Defending the Master Race. University Press of New England, 2009. Kindle Edition. This book is the source of much of the information about Madison Grant in this blog series. I will just use the name of the author, Spiro, in subsequent citations in this entry.]

Yes, this was the Edwardian Era (the era that was only ten years long, that followed the 64-year Victorian Era). So you might say that Grant and Osborn were setting up an Edwardian TED Talk series!

The fourteen charter members of the Half-Moon Club included the architect who designed the New York public library and the congressional office buildings in D.C.; the co-founder of the modern Olympic games; the architect who had designed Penn Station and lots more in New York; and JP Morgan Jr. Later members included the sculptor who did the Lincoln statue for the Lincoln Memorial, artist Charles Dana Gibson (inventor of the Gibson Girl), the chief of staff of the US Army—and on and on. Madison knew everybody who knew anybody…

And thus it was …

On February 6, 1908, the brilliant economist William Z. Ripley was the Pilot for the fifth voyage of the Half Moon, and his lecture that evening was titled “The Migration of Races.” At the time of his appearance before the Half-Moon Club, Ripley was a professor of economics at M.I.T., and he was considered the country’s greatest authority on railroad corporations.

ripleyBut he also dabbled in anthropology, and in 1899 he had written The Races of Europe, an extensively researched and ingeniously reasoned 624-page tome (supplemented by a separately published 160-page bibliography) analyzing the population of Europe from an anthropological point of view. [Spiro]

Sounds scientifically innocent enough, eh?

Ripley was interested, first of all, in classifying the European population from the standpoint of anatomy. He hoped that by quantifying such features as stature, eye color, and skull shape, he could discover the ideal European racial “type” that underlay the historical veneers of environment, ethnicity, and nationality. “Race,” he declared, “denotes what man is; all these other details of social life represent what man does.” Ripley, in other words, sought to analyze the human population as a mammalogist would analyze, say, the caribou species.

And Ripley’s investigations showed that Europe was peopled not by one race (usually called the “Caucasian” race) but by three races. Northern Europe, according to Ripley, was home to the tall, long-headed “Teutons,” with their flaxen hair, blue eyes, and narrow noses. Central Europe was peopled by the stocky, round-headed “Alpines,” characterized by brown hair, grayish hazel eyes, and broad noses. And southern Europe was home to the medium-statured, long-headed “Mediterraneans,” with their dark hair, dark eyes, and broad noses. [Spiro]

race typesStill sounds mostly like a chart you’d see in a museum of natural history, eh?

But that’s not quite how the info hit the American Aristocrats of the Half-Moon Club (and the readers of Ripley’s book.)

This was of immediate interest to Ripley’s American audience because every year, in ever-increasing numbers, a “horde” of Alpines and Mediterraneans was entering the United States. In 1907, the year before Ripley spoke to the Half-Moon Club, immigration to the United States had reached its record peak of 1.28 million newcomers in a single year. Between 1900 and 1908, over six million immigrants had landed on the nation’s shores (one-quarter of the total immigration since the founding of the republic). Six million immigrants, Ripley pointed out, were enough people to repopulate all of New England (with types of people who would hardly be mistaken for native New Englanders). [Spiro]

At first it might seem that his concern was just “overpopulation.” But not so.

…Ripley had serious concerns about the effect of the newcomers on the nation’s gene pool. Madison Grant had always argued, regarding mammals, that the importation of nonnative species would either lead to mongrelization or displacement of the native species. And now Ripley conjectured the same of the New Immigrants, who in 1896 for the first time had outnumbered the traditional Teutonic immigrants. “We have tapped the political sinks of Europe,” lamented Ripley, and it was distressingly obvious that no people were “too mean [mean=lowly in status, undignified] or lowly to seek an asylum on our shores.”

The net result was the existence in America of “a congeries [a disorderly collection, a jumble] of human beings, unparalleled for ethnic diversity anywhere else on the face of the earth.” And the question was: what would happen if the incoming Alpines and Mediterraneans began to intermarry with the already-established Teutons? For an answer, Ripley turned to the new field of botany and borrowed the principle of reversion, which stated that the crossing of two varieties of domesticated plants sometimes produced an offspring with the traits of an ancient wild variety. To Ripley, this implied that if a “dark Italian type” should emigrate to the United States and mate with a native blond Teuton, the hybridized children could exhibit the traits of some primitive ancestor of man. [Spiro]

Yes, before you know it, we might have a nation overrun with little Neanderthals! And the greatest fear was not mixing the Teutonic ladies with Italians …

And finally, as if all this was not frightening enough, Ripley reminded his listeners of something they hardly needed to be reminded of: that one of the European groups emigrating to the United States in ever larger numbers was the Jews. While Ripley was fairly certain that, technically speaking, the Jews were not a separate race, he pointed out that they did have their own peculiar physiognomy that rendered them instantly recognizable. There was, first of all, the Jewish nose, with its exaggerated degree of “hook,” its marked “convexity,” and its “nostrility.” Jewish eyebrows were closer together than normal. Their eyelids were “rather full,” revealing the “suppressed cunning” of the people, and there was “a peculiar separation of the teeth.” “Quite persistent” also was “a fullness of the lips, often amounting in the lower one almost to a pout.” And finally, Jews were “prone to nervous and mental disorders; insanity is fearfully prevalent among them.” [Spiro]

Let me remind you we are not reading the writings of a German Nazi of the World War 2 era. This is a 100% American author. The quotations above are from his 1899 book, and the ideas expressed in that book were widely spread in the coming decades. One way was through lectures such as the one Madison Grant heard in 1908 at the Half-Moon Club gathering. Ripley had the ear of many of the most powerful people of his generation.

And did he give them an earful!

Ripley, like Madison Grant and many conservationists, was convinced of “the unfavorable influence of city life,” and held it to be a general rule that “the urban type is physically degenerate.” And who was the city dweller par excellence? The Jew. To congregate in commercial centers was “an unalterable characteristic of this peculiar people” because Jews had an inherent dislike for outdoor labor and physical exercise. It was the migration of the Jews into an urban environment, according to Ripley, that accounted for the fact that they were “one of the most stunted peoples in Europe” with their “narrow chests,” “defective stature,” and “deficient lung capacity.” (On hearing this, Grant the mammalogist almost certainly concluded that the Jews were a degenerate form of the human “type.”) In fact, claimed Ripley, the “unhappy country” of Poland was so “saturated with Jews” that Germany, to the west of Poland, “shudders at the dark and threatening cloud of population of the most ignorant and wretched description which overhangs her eastern frontier.”

But Germany was not the only country that should fear the Jews. For as a result of the lax immigration standards of the United States, “this great Polish swamp of miserable human beings, terrific in its proportions, threatens to drain itself off into our country as well, unless we restrict its ingress.”

Madison Grant certainly pricked up his ears when William Ripley lectured. He had spent many years worrying about the passing of the buffalo. And now it dawned on him that there was a much more important “passing” occurring before his very eyes, one that was much more troubling because it was much closer to home. HIS OWN RACE, the “Anglo-Saxons” or “Nordics” of North America descended from the superior “Teutonic” Northern European race, was threatened with both being crowded out by masses of degenerate Southern, Central, and Eastern European immigrants of the Alpine and Mediterranean type, and with having its very genetic purity tainted by “inter-racial” mixing with those degenerates.

Especially that most degenerate of all sub-human species…the Jew.

Grant later devoured Ripley’s book, and used its massive bibliography to guide his own research into this desperately important topic.

…after 1908 Grant never again pursued research in natural history. Instead, he switched his scholarly focus from mammalogy to anthropology and resolved to do for the imperiled Teutons [Grant chose to use the word “Nordics” to describe this group] what he had done for so many other endangered species.

By 1916 he had completed his own massive book, The Passing of the Great Race, reiterating and extensively elaborating on the themes of Ripley’s book. It was not intended to just be a dispassionate view of the “passing,” though. It contained a blueprint of a plan to “turn the tide” in America (and elsewhere around the world) and put the Great Race, the “master race,” back at the pinnacle of civilization—and of power—where it belonged.

Grant was poised to attempt to do what he did for the bison, the moose, the elk, and other endangered big game mammals of North America. He was going to save the most important mammalian herd in North America…the WASPs.

Up next…the

Lily White Blueprint.


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