INDIANA MAGAZINE OF HISTORY
He reorganized the Indianapolis Benevolent Society as theCharity Organization Society (COS) and combined its efforts with thoseof Center Township relief caseworkers in order to identify citizens per-ceived to be making poverty their profession. Notes from interviewsconducted and other public records gathered by these visitors of thepoor were ultimately collected in McCulloch’s family study, which wasintended to provide evidence of “a constellation of degenerate behav-iors—including alcoholism, pauperism, social dependency, shiftless-ness, nomadism, and ‘lack of moral control’” caused by inherited geneticdefects and exacerbated by current charitable practice.
The solution,McCulloch believed, was to “close up official out-door relief . . . checkprivate and indiscriminate benevolence, or charity, falsely so-called . . .[and] get hold of the children.”
McCulloch’s renowned career as a progressivist minister and char-ity reformer was cut short by his premature death, at age forty-eight, in1891. Although he had succeeded, by at least some estimates, in reduc-ing the number of Indianapolis citizens receiving public and privaterelief, he did not live to see the unanticipated impact of his Ishmaelstudy on eugenics, the emerging science of race improvement throughselective breeding.
His work, intended to reduce dependence on publicwelfare, continued for many years to be cited, with other family studies,as evidence of a need for legislative measuresto compel mandatoryster-ilization of “mental defectives” and criminals.
For McCulloch and
Oscar McCulloch Diary,January20, 1878, box 1, Oscar C. McCulloch Papers; McCulloch,“The Tribe of Ishmael: A Study in Social Degradation,” in Isabel C. Barrows, ed.,
Proceedings of the National Conference of Charities and Correction
(Boston, 1888), 154-59; Arthur Estabrook,“The Tribe of Ishmael,” 1922, series 2, box 1, folder 7, Arthur H. Estabrook Papers (UniversityArchives, M. E. Grenander Department of Special Collections and Archives, UniversityLibraries, University at Albany,State University of New York), 25 (hereafter referred to as ERONotes); Jacob Piatt Dunn,
Greater Indianapolis: The History, the Industries, the Institutions, andthe People of a City of Homes
,2vols. (Chicago, 1910), 1:606; Genevieve C. Weeks,
Oscar Carleton McCulloch, 1843–1891: Preacher and Practitioner of Applied Christianity
David Micklos and Elof Carlson, “Engineering American Society: The Lesson of Eugenics,”
Nature Reviews Genetics
,1(November 2000), 155.
McCulloch, “The Tribe of Ishmael,” 8.
ERO Notes, Introduction, 5. The ERO Notes include duplicate drafts of some sections thatrepeat page-numbering schemes; subheadings have been added to some citations for clarifica-tion.
See, in addition to publications by Arthur Estabrook cited elsewherein this paper,Charles B.Davenport, “Report of the Committee on Eugenics,”
American Breeders Association