This is a guest post by Cassandra Clark, a PhD student at the University of Utah whose work focuses on how religious communities thought about religious discourse and race. Cassandra is the mother two lovely daughters – both of whom bear the names of Presidents!. She also attended the University of Northern Colorado where she earned a MA in history and teaches courses at the community college in Salt Lake.
Filed away in the archives of the Church History Library of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are two copies of a 1907 postcard with the by-line, “No Race Suicide in Utah!” The scene printed on the postcard depicts an old bearded gentleman, decked out in a black suit and top hat, carrying a baby on each arm with eight children following him. Each child is adorned in brightly colored dress, and several of them hold toys while two clutch balloon strings. The artist, identified as C.R. Miller, printed “No Race Suicide in Utah!” in all capital letters on one fourth of the top right hand corner of the card.
As I held this postcard in my hands, I realized that this one piece of material culture provided a physical representation of the conclusions I drew about Mormon involvement in the American eugenics movement. The eugenics movement, or the scientific program pioneered by Charles Darwin’s cousin, Sir Francis Galton, encompassed two main objectives. First, the promotion of “positive eugenics,” or the proliferation of the “white” race by emulating Victorian gender roles and large family sizes, and second, “negative eugenics,” or the sterilization of all people deemed “unfit” because of their lifestyles and economic status. For members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints living in the midst of the American West, eugenics became a vehicle that defined their identity as both devout members dedicated to upholding church doctrine, and a way to tie their community into national citizenry.
My initial research unveiled copious amounts of accessible materials relating to eugenics. I found evidence of eugenic teachings in LDS prescriptive literature, including the “Young Women’s Journal” and the “Relief Society Magazine.” I discovered a record of family traits completed by George Albert Smith in 1917. Smith sent the form to Charles Davenport, director of the Eugenics Record Office stationed at Cold Harbor Springs, New York, who proceeded to exchange letters with Smith discussing the results. I uncovered correspondence between key eugenic scientists stationed at the Eugenic Records Office and prominent members of Church hierarchy, including the president of the Utah Agricultural College, now known as Utah State University, John A. Widtsoe. I also discovered communication between church leaders and Widtsoe about interest in organizing a Utah-based eugenics society. A quick search on the “Utah Digital Newspapers” website uncovered an abundant amount of brief newspaper articles and advertisements for local eugenic classes and editorials relating to national and local eugenical news. I read the text for the Utah Sterilization Law (1925) and found references to court cases for people seeking to prevent sterilization. In summation, eugenics was an important part of northern Utah Mormon ideological thought in the early twentieth century, and this postcard provides tangible evidence of this conclusion.
How does this piece of material culture demonstrate the inundation of eugenical thinking in early twentieth-century Utah? Robert W. Rydell’s study of postcards sold at world’s fairs became “souvenirs of Imperialism” used to “propel images of race and empire to” to audiences beyond those in attendance at these fairs. While his piece analyzes postcards depicting “nonwhite” peoples, we can take something away in regards to the “No Race Suicide in Utah!” postcard. His explanation coincides with an argument offered later in the same volume of work dedicated to the interpretation of postcards. Howard Woody claims that postcard manufacturers produced cards that would appeal to local consumers. If a particular card did not sell, manufacturers quickly replaced it with an image that they believed would. Based on these ideas, the presence of this “No Race Suicide in Utah!” card indicates a demand for material culture that represented the psyche of Utah consumers. Not only did members of the church buy into eugenic teachings, they literally purchased products that advertised their support for the “positive eugenics” campaign supported by many national figures, including President Theodore Roosevelt.
In 1905, President Theodore Roosevelt delivered a speech to the National Congress of Mothers emphasizing the importance of raising a “brood” of children rather than focusing on improving their economic situations. Roosevelt warned that limiting family size would “decrease” the population of outstanding individuals to near “extinction” within the time span of two to three generations. He claimed that any “race” that chose to practice the “doctrine” of limiting family size selfishly committed “race suicide,” and proved that they were “unfit to exist.”
These words aligned with Mormon doctrinal teachings that stretched back to the mid nineteenth century. In 1857, George Q. Cannon published an article in The Western Standard that defended polygamy by explaining the benefits of large families. Cannon asserted that polygamy offered the chance for “improvement” for the “human species” who because of failure to observe the “natural laws” of better breeding practices, would eventually face the “inevitable consequence” of “race” degeneracy, “effeminacy” and “barrenness,” which he argued were already on the “increase.”  Cannon’s mid nineteenth-century words were indeed eugenical in nature, yet they pre-dated Galton’s 1883 coinage of the term “eugenics.” Thus, LDS leaders promoted “better breeding” before the scientific community adopted and studied it. This allowed twentieth-century leaders to claim rights to divine revelation that provided instruction for better living before scientists uncovered the “benefits.
As indicated by George Albert Smith and John A. Widstoe’s participation in eugenic studies, interest in this practice extended beyond a need to prove Mormon’s monopoly on direct revelation to God. Prominent church leader’s promotion of eugenic findings directed east coast eugenic scientists to turn their attention to this unique American West community with all the scientific data that this isolated and devote religious population offered. Scientists found that members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints had something to offer eugenics racial studies. At the same time, eugenics offered support to Mormon members’ faith-based doctrinal teachings. This postcard visually represents how eugenics permeated Mormon ideological thought in the early twentieth century, and its colorful scene illustrates the construction of a dual Mormon identity that placed members of the LDS church as both a “unique” people and “ideal” American citizens.
 C.R. Miller, “No Race Suicide in Utah!”, Call Number: 225118, c1907, The Church History Library of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
 Many scholars discuss the way that scientists interpreted Galton’s eugenical theories. Two of these include, Alexandra Stern, Eugenic Nation: Faults and Frontiers of Better Breeding in Modern America, (Berkeley: University of California Press), 2005, 10, and Paul Lambardo, Three Generations, No Imbeciles: Eugenics, the Supreme Court, and Buck v. Bell, (Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 2008), 7.
 Robert W. Rydell, “Souvenirs of Imperialism: World’s Fair Postcards” in Christraud M. Geary and Virginia-Lee Webb’s edited volume, Delivering Views: Distant Cultures in Early Postcards, (Washington D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1998), 47.
 Ibid., 29.
 Theodore Roosevelt, “On American Motherhood,” speech presented before the National Congress of Mothers in Washington D.C. on March 13, 1905. Accessed September 17, 2013, http://www.nationalcenter.org/TRooseveltMotherhood.html.
 George Q. Cannon, “The Improvement of Our Species” printed in The Western Standard, August 7, 1857,
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,Salt Lake City, Utah. This quote is often used in eugenic discussions. See, for example, http://bycommonconsent.com/2006/08/02/eugenics/