Davenport Desk documents
As founder and director of the Eugenics Record Office, Harvard-trained biologist Charles Benedict Davenport gave the ERO its academic credentials. A young and ambitious biologist, by 1910 Davenport’s academic interests had shifted from animal morphology and evolution to human heredity, and he successfully lobbied railroad magnate widow and philanthropist Mary Harriman to help found what would become the country’s most influential eugenics research facility. The Davenport Desk files include drafts of his lecture and papers, which sport titles like “Do Races Differ in Mental Capacity?” and “A Biologist’s View of the Negro Problem.” Political and professional correspondences with disciple Harry Laughlin, colleague Madison Grant, and even Teddy Roosevelt lend insight to the pivotal role Davenport played as the visionary and figurehead of American eugenics. Meanwhile, letters to and from his wife and daughters shine a light on the eugenics leader’s personal life.