The last location I photographed was easily the most eerie. Founded in 1888 and known by many names ranging from “Vineland Training School for Backward and Feeble-Minded Children” to simply “Vineland Training School,” it had a very different approach to treating institutionalized children. I have very conflicting feelings about their treatment. On one hand, this colony provided children floundering in the public school system a place to develop skills and occupy their mind. The patients (students?) ran a large farm. Peaches, corn, livestock–they tended to it all and were said to have great pride in their work. Having skills to live on after leaving the school was a huge improvement in the mental health care system for minors. The farm also helped irrigation studies and agricultural research for many universities.
But not all of the children were mentally handicapped– some were just ill-behaved or poor. They not only used these children for the farm, but the construction of the site’s many buildings–free labor provided by children, most of which could not even truly give consent. And there’s the matter of their most (in)famous leading psychologist, Henry H. Goddard. Coiner of the term “moron.” Like our old friend DeJarnette, he was a eugenicist. The United States government requested Goddard study the immigrants coming in through Ellis Island. He found that 80% of them were feeble-minded. This and his book The Kallikak Family: A Study in the Heredity of Feeble-Mindedness have been largely discredited. In his book he studied the family of one of the patients at Vineland and found that a majority of her predecessors had traits of those with mental handicaps and delinquency. Not only did he overlook many factors such as malnutrition, he falsified a majority of his information. He even altered photos to make the family members look more menacing. By the time this was found out, the book had already made its mark, furthering the popularity of compulsory sterilization in the United States. As I mentioned in my DeJarnette post, this movement inevitably lead to the sterilization of not only the mentally handicapped, but the poor, epileptic, deaf, blind, physically deformed, and criminal–most of which were black or Native American. Many of the students at the Training School were sterilized.
A quote from The Kallikak Family about the Training School:
“The colony offers a cheap, safe and happy home for these innocents, where they will be kept from pauperism, crime and disease, and from burdening society with their numerous defective offspring […] The clearing of land offered an outlet for the destructive tendencies of the boys, which are very marked when they are closely confined at school and in institutions or are permitted to roam the streets. Instead of breaking windows, stealing and destroying property, or setting fire to haystacks and buildings, these boys are happy to cut down bushes, pull up stumps and bum the brush heaps. What boy ever lived who is not willing to work all day to gather material for a bonfire?”
All printed 18 x 24″.
Every building had an open window or door that I could have used to gain entrance. I didn’t, of course–one building had obvious mold, one had floors completely caved in under the weight of what seemed to be many stoves and refrigerators.
But even worse was the room with children’s drawings still hanging on the wall. Another had baby cribs and cots…
Thanks for reading! <3