Coon on American race

Some excerpts from Carleton Coon on the racial types of Americans.

The Races of Europe (1939):
North America became, by the nineteenth century, the greatest Nordic reservoir in the world. But the century which saw the erection of this reservoir also witnessed the beginnings of its change in character; the tide of immigration brought with it members of all the other races of Europe. The people who came to America, from the time of the Pilgrim Fathers to the imposition of the laws restricting immigration, were selected; none were fully representative of the countries from which they came. In America they were subjected to environmental forces of a new and stimulating nature, so that changes in growth such as their ancestors had not felt for centuries produced strange, gangling creatures of their children. In America we have before our eyes the rapid action of race-building forces; if we wish to understand the principles which have motivated the racial history of the Old World, it behooves us to pay careful attention to the New. [pp. 651-652]

[Two Americans from the Photographic Supplement:]

FIG. 2 (3 views). A metrically similar New Englander from a Massachusetts coastal city, of Colonial Yankee lineage. He represents, a reƫmergence or survival within the New England stock of the same British Mediterranean element.

FIG. 4 (3 views). New Englander of Colonial British descent. This tall, slenderly built, ash-blond-haired Nordic is an extreme example of the Corded type which entered Britain first during the Bronze Age in conjunction with brachycephals, and later during the Iron Age as an element in the Nordic invading groups. Its presence in New England in 1938 can only be regarded as a complete reƫmergence.

[Personally, I think it would be hard to mistake the "Mediterranean" New Englander for anything but the British-descended American he is.]

Races: A study of the problems of race formation in man (1950; with Garn and Birdsell):
[From their list of "races of the world":]
4. Northwest European--Most of Scandinavia, much of the British Isles, Northern France, the Benelux countries, and northwest Germany is inhabited by a population characterized by medium to tall stature, medium build, brown hair, mixed or blue eyes, light skin, straight to wavy hair of moderate abundance, and facial features intermediate between the fine chiselling of the Nordic or Mediterranean and the broader, fleshier Alpine (Plate 2). As types in this population one finds Nordics, Mediterraneans, and stocky, large-headed, broad-faced, often hairy individuals who may have such paleanthropic characters as large teeth and heavy brow ridges. This third type apparently recapitulates in some degree the pre-agricultural population of this region. Western Irish, Scots, Norwegians from the central coast, Swedes from new Goteberg, and certain other local groups deviate srongly in the direction of this type.

The northwest European race is also found as the characteristic form of the major breeding unit in the United States and Canada, New Zealand, Australia, and white South Africa. The white American mean falls so close to it that no further designation is needed. [p.120]

Although [the Nordic] is common as a type, few populations in Europe or elsewhere can be called Nordic in the strict sense. Most which other authors have called Nordic fall into our Northwest European category. [pp. 129-131]

[Coon illustrates the "Northwest European" type with a photograph of himself.]

The Living Races of Man (1965):
The Racial Composition of the People of the United States

The history of the post-Columbian settlement of the United States being the bailiwick of professional historians, we may know less about it than that mythical person, the informed layman, to whom many excellent books on the subject have long been available. Our special interest is to trace the evidence of who came to our country whence and when; where the newcomers settled; to what extent they may have been selected by social and environmental forces before they left and after they arrived; and who mixed with whom.

The present population of the United States is composed principally of the descendants of three ethnic and racial elements: Europeans, Negroes, and American Indians, in order of numerical importance.

[. . .]

In the settlement of the United States the immigrants were not chose at random. Whole congregations migrated with their pastors to New England, and settled in sheltered coves and river mouths. Three centuries later, agents of New England textile mills recruited cheap labor from Sicilian villages, and most of the Albanians who came to work in shoe factories were members of the Orthodox minority from Korca. Middle-class artisans and skilled craftsmen predominated in early New England, and English aristocrats could be seen in the stately mansions of Virginia. The Sicilian laborers were humble and vigorous peasants, whereas among those who more recently have sought refuge from Hitler's police, there were some of our most gifted scholars and scientists.

Selection in migration operated from the beginning. In the early days of colonial settlement it was only natural that citizens of seafaring nations on the Atlantic shore of Europe should be the first to arrive in numbers. Of these nations, Spain and Portugal had business elsewhere. No glittering gold, silver, or heaps of emeralds met the northern explorers' eyes. The densely forested shores of North America were cold and forbidding and the Indians hostile. The British, French, and Dutch were the obvious candidates.

The settlement of the United States is usually divided into four periods: 1620-1790; 1790-1860; 1860-1924; and from 1923 to the ever-advancing present. The first date commemorates the landing of the Pilgrims, despite Jamestown's priority; the next two years are those of elaborate censuses; and 1924 is the date of the immigration law which limited the annual quota from any one country to 2 percent of its representation in 1890. During the first period the settlers came primarily from England and secondarily from Scotland and Scottish communities in Northern Ireland. Neither the Dutch in the Hudson Valley nor the Swedes and Finns in the lower Delaware were ever numerous. In general the English stayed near the coast, and the Scots, as might be expected, forged ahead into higher and more perilous terrain.

Most of this early immigrations occurred within the first few decades of the first period. During this time land travel remained slow and overseas contact intermittent. By 1790 the names of the heads of families are listed by counties and townships. In Massachusetts, one of the most solidly English states, names appear which are still listed in the 1965 telephone books of the same communities. There were then 989 families of Smiths, 340 of Whites, and 187 of Adamses. The Putnams numbered 80; the Eliots, variously spelled, 62; the Emersons 58. Among the top Boston Brahmin families of later periods, only 27 Forbeses, 16 Lowells, 9 Cabots, and one Saltonstall appear. The Gaelic contingent included 150 names beginning with Mc, 60 Kelleys, 8 Murphys, 6 O'Briens, and 3 Sullivans. In other states the proportions varied but the ingredients were, in most cases, the same.

The second period was dominated by the arrival of many Germans, Scandinavians, and Irish, along with more English. Because the English people themselves were a mixture of Celts, Germans, and Scandinavians, English history was only repeating itself in America. The genes remained the same.

After 1860 the pattern changed. Slavs, Russian and Polish Jews, both northern and southern Italians, Peloponnesian Greeks, and Lebanese began to join the stream, which grew into a torrent between 1890 and 1924, when it was suddenly dammed.

[. . .]

During the last two centuries, Americans of British descent, being the easiest to identify in Colonial records, have grown 3 1/2 inch taller than their Revolutionary ancestors, and proportionately heavier. By 1930 the rate of increase had begun to level off. G. T. Bowles surmised, to use his own word, that equilibrium might be reached between 1970 and 1980, at a mean stature for adult males of about six feet, or a little taller. That is as tall as any population measure to date. Bowles's apical decade, which will be a boon to shoe manufacturers, is nearly upon us.

[. . .]

The fourth question--how much "white blood" does a colored person need to pass for white--is difficult to answer because the act of passing is shrouded in secrecy.

[. . .]

The last question is hardest of all because anyone who passes, under the eagle-eyed scrutiny of American white people, is probably largely European genetically, as indicated by the fact that the so-called African blood type cDe is no commoner among white Americans than in many European populations. Glass and Li consider the genetic impact on the American population of passing, no matter how few or how many have achieved it, to have been negligible.

[pp. 301-307]

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