Ivy League Student’s Nude Photo Shoot
Whatever anxieties incoming freshman feel when arriving on their first day of campus for those attending the most prestigious universities from the 1880’s through the late 1960’s had the additional mortifying caveat of having to pose for nude photos. The practice was known as taking “posture photos’.’
All perversion have their start somewhere and our story begins in the 1880s at the Harvard Physical Education Department. Believe it or not long before Joe Francis, being nude at university wasn’t uncommon but it wasn’t Goldschläger or Spring Break that loosened those halter tops. In fact, nearly all universities during this period of time were not even coed. It was swim meets (meats?) that were all done in the nude because it was considered more “hygienic.”
At this period of time it was obvious no one had put any thought into bathing suits since they were made of wool which caused a number of issues such as wet clumps that would detach from the suit and clog up filters to the thought of walking around wearing a wet wool suit would trap bacteria around the genitals. Thus it was decided to get them dongs out to go doggy paddle around the deep end. One other factor to consider at this time was the fact of not having figured out the correct chlorine ratio which would often leave red rashes from skin irritation as well as chlorine burns which were not uncommon. However, all that bullshit aside it did not deter these guys from cannon-freeballin’ into these chemical cauldrons.
What excuse they used from 1880 to 1940 to validate collecting these old timey dick pic’s is not really known. Maybe they were just done for souvenirs? Perhaps their dicks were done up as bank robbers in some shots or their balls were done up as flappers? I am not putting any more thought or any research into finding out if their is any validity to my assumptions but I will say in 1940 these tits or GTFO out pics now took place under the banner of “Scientific Research.”
In 1940, a Harvard researcher and psychologist named William H. Sheldon co-opted the picture program and turned it into a “somatotyping campaign.’’ Sheldon invented the term somatotype as the name of his system of classification of various human physical forms. Within the parameters of each of these classifications was a specific criteria of shared physical features which Sheldon would then attempt to link a shared set of psychological variables as temperament and character. For example, all fat people are jolly.
By the time WH Sheldon left Harvard in 1947 to become the Director of the Constitutional Laboratory at the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons he had greatly expanded not only the number of universities that participated in having all their incoming freshman line up for various nude photographs and measurements but Sheldon had branched out into military installations and hospitals.
Sheldon began his somatotype studies in 1940 but his theory had fallen out of favor within the science community by 1950. Curiously Sheldon continued to take photos for another twenty years. His study was met with controversy early on with a scathing article penned by Yale professor George Hersey.
Hersey claimed the real reason was “eugenics” (the scientifically inaccurate theory that humans can be improved through selective breeding). Hersey further elaborated “the real solution is to be enforced better breeding — getting those Exeter and Harvard men together with their corresponding Wellesley, Vassar and Radcliffe girls.’’
Hersey’s assertion that the photos were actually being used as a matchmaking service for the hottest Ivy Leaguers was not a widely shared theory. Though the practice of photographing incoming freshman in the nude spread beyond the Ivy League schools of Yale, Harvard and Princeton to universities such as Mount Holyoke, Vassar, Wellesley and Smith.
When Sheldon’s experiment arrived out West to the University of Washington in the fall of 1950 he didn’t encounter the same kind of complacent parents he encountered back east. Washington University parents immediately objected and overloaded the switchboard with calls into the university president’s office. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer published the very first story published exposing this decade long practice of taking nude photographs of kids who had recently graduated from high schools.
This article exposed the blatant disregard that these universities allowed to willing happen to its students. Though the photographs were made for a research laboratory at Columbia University’s Medical School many of the young women were not told why they were being posed. The Columbia researchers were supposed to explain the research and let the women know their participation was strictly voluntary. Instead, they told the women to line up and let them assume it was mandatory.
The morning after the article was published a cabal of angry parents and attorneys stormed Sheldon’s lab and seized roughly 1500 photographs of nude women and burned them. In the late 1960’s word got out that pictures of naked Vassar women had been stolen and were circulating outside the academic world. More sensitive and responsible administrators ended the program and attempted to destroy the stores of naked student photos. But not all photos were destroyed.
Harvard, Yale, Vassar, and others followed suit and burned thousands of these purported “posture photos.” However, thousands were not burned and one of Sheldon’s disciples tried to get them back into a top-tier university for them to be studied but was shown the door every place he went until he ended up in the National Anthropological Archives in Washington, D.C. though these nudes of former Ivy Leaguers are only available to researchers and museum personnel.
Of the more than two dozen articles I read about this subject there was a decent number of these articles written by former students of both sexes who were subjugated to participating in this study. Of everything that I could find; there was not a single article or notation of anyone refusing. Additionally, there was not a single story where anyone was told their participation was mandatory; instead it was presented as a rite of passage. It shows that these students, who without question were among the most bright and intelligent students in the entire country, were still naïve kids. Parents entrusted these universities to educate and protect their children and this was the reward for their faith.
Another thing that became clear after I read a number of articles is the rate at which females were photographed fully nude was nearly 20 times more often than their male counterparts. Quite often the all female universities included a mandatory “posture” class that focused on personal and physical refinement. This class never appeared on class schedules nor was it accredited yet students could fail and have to “repeat. Sadly, another attribute that can be attributed to the all female universities was the rigor at which these young women were measured, weighed and photographed from multiple angles. Minimally these young women underwent this invasive study on a weekly basis throughout the 15 week semester. I could not find any account for the same brand of meticulousness at the all male universities.
I don’t think its unrealistic to think that students subjected to these regimented demands over body measurements must have led some to have unhealthy preoccupation with feelings of attractiveness and self-esteem which would have negatively impacted their well being.
These potential issues would have only been compounded for students with physical disabilities who were deemed incompatible with the eugenics movement’s goal of “good breeding.” Posture pictures also physically regulated female students so their access to higher education might not make them overly masculinized or independent. Thus, this photographic practice assisted in the training of generations of college women to accept, rather than challenge, existing patriarchal power structures and gender-based behavioral expectations.
What these images helped establish was the standard of beauty: New England, WASP / Protestant features. Beyond standards of beauty these studies assisted with perpetuating the superiority of not only the white but in particular the white European male.
WH Sheldon’s studies into what he referred as “somatotyping” was little more than rebranded eugenics. The entire study of eugenics is formulated on the writings of a brilliant polymath from the Victorian Era, named Francis Galton. Incidentally, Francis Galton was a cousin of Charles Darwin and though he was equal in brilliance – Galton’s theory on eugenics was scientifically inaccurate.
However, leaders and intellectuals on a worldwide scale didn’t give a shit about the scientific accuracy of eugenics, instead they seized upon the opportunity for which eugenics provided: disguising their bigotry and xenophobic attitudes behind the name of science and the greater good of mankind.
Though both the theory and eugenics originated in “Merrie Olde Englande” during the 1880s it remained a fringe movement until it came to the shores of the US during the early 20th century. To the general public, eugenicists worldwide claimed they were only trying to improve the stock of all people by improving heredity and erasing genetic impurities that overtime would eradicate so called, “social ills.” However, the truth was much more sinister because eugenics became the study of racial degeneration.
Here in the US in the early 20th century: scientific racism was born. The pseudoscience of eugenics was manipulated around the ideology that appropriated the methods and legitimacy of science to argue for the superiority of white European males. With the growing widespread acceptance of these ideologies a number of misappropriated revolutionary advances in medicine, anatomy and statistics, Darwin’s theory of evolution through the mechanism of natural selection and Gregor Mendel’s laws of inheritance.
The Mendelian inheritance was a proposal made by an Austrian monk named Gregor Mendel during the 1860s. During this period Mendel discovered during his experiments with cross pollinating pea plants that there were certain patterns for how traits are passed from parents to offspring.
Over the early part of the 20th century this discovery morphed into preventing societies “undesirables” from procreating. Eugenics and its warped theories turned the role of eugenicists during this period into fierce lobbyist who were able to push through legislation that legalized compulsory sterilization and immigration restriction on those deemed genetically unfit along with reaffirming existing anti-miscegenation laws.
Eugenics was funded by major US philanthropies. From 1916 to 1939, the Carnegie Institution of Washington did a bulk of the heavy lifting in regards to being a financier. A growing number of outside research committees deemed a majority of the Carnegie Institution of Washington’s work worthless in regards to its funding in the genetic sciences so they pulled their financial backing.
When this occurred the Rockefeller Institute took up subsidizing the perpetuation of eugenics through one of their organizational guises known as the Criminalistic Institute of the City of New York. However, 1939 was not The Rockefeller Institute’s foray into these activities. John D. Rockefeller Jr. who at this time was the head of the Rockefeller Foundation had a strong interest in eugenics – specifically population control.
As an understudy at Brown University, John D. Rockefeller Jr. learned of the theory of population control and in subsequent speeches as the the head of the Rockefeller Institute there are copies of several talks he gave concerning what he viewed as “the rapid population growth and immigration” as “a serious threat.”
At the end of World War 1 the Rockefeller Foundation helped rebuild the cultural and academic life of Germany. Over time the Rockefeller Foundation was funding studies into racial superiority eugenics throughout the 1920s and 30s at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institutes in Germany and the Ernst Rüdin’s Institute for Psychiatry in Munich. Both of these institutions were at the forefront regarding the study of eugenics. Additionally these two institutes were world renowned and respected in the science community and backed by Rockefeller’s funding they turned out a number of individual eugenics projects and publications.
Particularly after WW1 (post-1918), American and German eugenicists worked in tandem; reporting and championing the developments of the other country’s eugenic theories. In 1933, the year the Nazi party came into power, one of the first laws they passed was, “The Law for the Prevention of Hereditarily Defective Offspring” (aka the ‘sterilization law’). This law was based on Harry H. Laughlin’s book entitled “Eugenical Sterilization in the United States” published in 1922. In fact, Adolf Hitler and others within the Nazi regime publicly commended Harry H. Laughlin and his theory of eugenical sterilization which called for the exclusion of whole races from naturalization in general.
Due to the cartoonish proportion of evil associated with Hitler or the Nazi party, sometimes there is a tendency to dismiss their movement or any theories they endorsed as an outlier of a lunatic fringe.But for context I need to give you a brief biography on who exactly Harry H. Laughlin was exactly what kind of power he wielded in America at this time.
Laughlin was one of the leading members of the American Eugenics Society. An organization dedicated to passing legislation for the legalization of forced sterilization for those deemed “unfit” by “society’s” standards. Over time the AE Society was able to sway 16 states beginning with Indiana, Connecticut and California into passing legislation for allowing the state the right to forcefully sterilize undesirables. Who were undesirables? Anyone you did not like.
The first ordered sterilization occurred in the Commonwealth of Virginia with a woman named Carrie Buck. Ms. Buck was charged on the basis of being a “probable potential parent of socially inadequate offspring.” Harry H. Laughlin testified at her trial, though he never met Buck, saying in his deposition that she came from a “shiftless, ignorant, and from a worthless class of anti-social whites of the South.” Buck was later sterilized.
Harry H. Laughlin became the face of the American Eugenics Society. The weight of this organization was able to pass the legalization of forced sterilization in a third of states throughout the US. Laughlin was called to Congress to give his opinion on the Johnson-Reed Immigration Act where he expressed his concern over “flooding our shores with the feeble mindedness of Jews” and the “excessive insanity among immigrants from southern and eastern Europe.” His testimony helped sway the vote to get the Johnson-Reed Immigration Act passed which prevented immigration from Asia entirely. Additionally, this act placed strict quotas to severely limit the number of immigrants from Eastern and Southern Europe. A short time later Laughlin was appointed as an “expert in eugenics” on the US House’s Immigration and Naturalization Committee where he led the prevention of a large influx of Italian and Russian immigrants. Additionally, Laughlin spearheaded the passing of legislation that allowed the sterilization of repeat criminals as well as mental patients which continued without repeal until the 1970s after an estimated 70,000 had been sterilized.
In a case of bitter irony, Harry H. Laughlin who married at age 22 was incapable of having children and for all the power he wielded; Laughlin who was only in his early 50s had been forced into retirement over his hereditary seizures which had only increasingly worsened with age.
Now that you have a little background on Laughlin’s power and a look at the scope of what the study of eugenics was used for, let’s go back six years prior to Laughlin’s retirement in 1939.The year is 1933, in Germany, the newly elected Nazi Party have just passed The Law for the Prevention of Hereditarily Defective Offspring based on the writings of Harry H. Laughlin.(aka Sid Seizure) which leads to estimated sterilization of about 58,000 people in the first year and by the time this law reaches its six year anniversary an estimated 400,000 are forced to undergo sterilization..
By the 1930s, America and Germany were synonymous with seeing the pro-Nordic and pro-Aryan tradition as superior. The only discernible difference was Germany was much more vocal about their intention to create a master race. The US claimed they were only attempting to prevent the degeneration of the “old American stock.”
Hot on the heels of Germany’s 1933, The Law for the Prevention of Hereditarily Defective Offspring comes 1934’s “Law for the Prevention of Progeny with Hereditary Diseases.” This was less a law and more of a directive that said people with so-called hereditary illnesses had to be sterilized, regardless of any objection. This law also lengthened the list on what classified as hereditarily illness including open to interpretation things like “congenital feeble-mindedness.” Doesn’t that quote remind you of US House’s Immigration and Naturalization Committee member, Harry H. Laughlin’s congressional testimony where he expressed his concern over “flooding our shores with the feeble mindedness of Jews”?
Germany’s laundry list of mongoloids, midgets, simps, gimps, geeks, tards, tourettes and trannies also included people with chronic alcoholism required the enactment of 200 Genetic Health Courts to enforce these sterilizations. Each court came with a government funded team of lawyers and doctors who would subpoena medical records in order to choose candidates for sterilization. The Court proceedings were all done in secret and their outcomes were all but impossible to reverse.
In the fall of 1939, Hitler puts into action the Aktion T-4 program with a group of 50 volunteer physicians who had been authorized to carry out the murder / euthanasia of 5,000 congenitally deformed children who were either given lethal injections or rounded up and left to starve to death in remote compartmentalized areas of the hospital that were specifically designed to prevent any public viewing. Hitler then expanded the Aktion T-4 program to include adults who were taken to six specific isolated asylums that were chosen to carry out the killings. Afterwards, death certificates with falsified reasons for their sudden death were drawn and given to the families.
It is hard to hide a secret program that kills almost 70,000 people within two years of starting. In 1941, public outcry along with various church groups were able to raise enough objections to force the Aktion T-4 program to end and while this certainly slowed down the killings it never put an end to them. Instead doctors and nurses around the country continued to select and kill people and then coordinate their effort in covering up their actions.
You may be thinking: “That type of shit might have happened under the totalitarian authority of Nazi Germany but here in our democratic nation we have rights! You can’t just get away with forcing mass sterilizations.USA! USA! USA!”
Well, here is just what happened in a few states:
Alabama- 224 people who were sterilized.
California- 20,108 people were sterilized (highest number in the US).
Connecticut- 557 people who were sterilized (92% female).
Indiana- 2,500 people who were sterilized.
Michigan- 3,786 people who were sterilized.
North Carolina- 7,786 people who were sterilized.
Pennsylvania – 270 people who were sterilized.
Virginia- 7,325 people who were sterilized.
Washington- 685 people were sterilized (501 were female).
Adolph Hitler’s espousal of eugenics is what began to push the movement out of favor but while Germany took steps in acknowledging and commemorating the horrors of its past in terms of their compulsory sterilization the US has never acknowledged their atrocities committed in the name of eugenics.
In fact in a number of states there is still a paucity of how many or where sterilizations occurred. For instance, all of Pennsylvania’s 271 sterilizations occurred at the same institution, the Pennsylvania Training School for Feeble-Minded Children but there isn’t a single mention on their website or plaque acknowledging what occurred.
Because of the extremism of their racist ideology and crimes against humanity the Nazi Party comes to mind first as the face of eugenics or racial hygiene but it wasn’t the birthplace of the movement. Nor was it in England where Francis Galton and Charles Darwin whose work forms the basis of the entire eugenics movement. It was here in America beginning back in the 1880s under the guise of science and “health benefit” of improving the posture of students. Photography became a valuable tool for providing tangible visual proof of the characteristics that were desired as well as the undesirable human traits. People possessing positive eugenics characteristics were encouraged to breed while those possessing negative eugenics qualities were encouraged to abstain from breeding for the good of humanity. At its core these photos were empirical evidence of biological racism that exists to support both the distinct lines of racial superiority and inferiority which further serves to support preexisting contemporary beliefs on xenophobia, antisemitism, sexism, colonialism and imperialism.