"'Besides,' Gordon said, 'if there was some kind of Appalachian inbreeding or retardation going on, you'd see it in the hairlines, facial features, motor ability.'Aside from the stunningly un-PC articulation of "Appalachian inbreeding" what struck me was the noting of hairlines. Hairlines? I tried doing a little googling about inbreeding and physical characteristics but didn't come up with much about hairlines. Jawlines, though, is another matter. The Hapsburg jaw, as classically manifested in Phillip IV of Spain, at top, is "mandibular prognathism" or severe lantern jaw and underbite. The Hapsburg dynasty was rife with this and other unfortunate conditions, with Phillip's son Charles II apparently reaching the apotheosis of inbreeding. The effluent of generations of close intra-family marriage (his father and mother were uncle and niece), Charles was impotent, mentally deficient, and unable to chew properly.
The famous Goya portrait of the Spanish royal family of 1800 is an excruciatingly unidealized representation of mental sluggishness, close marriage, political commentary and the just plain fugly.
I then revisited old cyber-research haunts at the fascinating and not-as-creepy-as-it-sounds Eugenics Archive (where the next image down is from). The Archive has a terrific educational site that's admirably thorough, beautifully cross-referenced and simply well-done (a quick guide to themes here). A description of the Archive from their site:
Eugenics was, quite literally, an effort to breed better human beings – by encouraging the reproduction of people with "good" genes and discouraging those with "bad" genes. Eugenicists effectively lobbied for social legislation to keep racial and ethnic groups separate, to restrict immigration from southern and eastern Europe, and to sterilize people considered "genetically unfit." Elements of the American eugenics movement were models for the Nazis, whose radical adaptation of eugenics culminated in the Holocaust.We now invite you to experience the unfiltered story of American eugenics – primarily through materials from the Eugenics Record Office at Cold Spring Harbor, which was the center of American eugenics research from 1910-1940.... It is important to remind yourself that the vast majority of eugenics work has been completely discredited. In the final analysis, the eugenic description of human life reflected political and social prejudices, rather than scientific facts.I'd found the Archive when doing a search about a book I'd read of: "The Jukes; a Study in Crime, Pauperism, Disease, and Heredity," by Richard Dugdale. First published in 1877, it was a study of the lineage of a certain (NY State) family perceived to be mired exclusively in prostitution, thievery and indigence, through several generations. The story continues:
A.H. Estabrook, of the Eugenics Record Office, resurveyed the Jukes (1915) and the Ishmaelites [another pseudonymous family] (1923), and found continued evidence of hereditary feebleminedness and other dysgenic traits. The Jukes and Ishmaelites joined the Kallikaks and Nams as examples of eugenical family studies that were widely taught to social workers and college students during the 1920s and 1930s.The Archive has riveting field photos, case notes and truly mind-boggling commentary. It also documents Estabrook's other book, "Mongrel Virginians." Enough said.
Lastly, I was moved to rediscover the work of Shelby Lee Adams whose photograph of the Napier family, "The Hog Killing" (1990), is shown above. He was born into Appalachia-- Hazard, Kentucky-- and gradually, over 30 years, became known for documenting it on film. I have a book of Adams' work and find it fascinating, but difficult, viewing.
I have not shied away from what and who has been presented to me. Only an insider could share in this world and I've worked with that knowledge all along. Indeed understanding my place within this culture has been part of my motivation. ...In my opinion this mountain culture should be applauded. Many examples of my work illustrate tolerance of others, resiliency, and acceptance with dignity of conditions others would abhor.