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Historical Note

From: The Jukes in 1915
Creator: Arthur H. Estabrook (author)
Date: 1916
Publisher: Carnegie Institution of Washington
Source: Available at selected libraries

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Richard L. Dugdale was born in Paris in 1841. His parents were English and came from an ancestry of much social distinction. When Dugdale was 7 years old his father suffered pecuniary reverses and returned to England. Despite careful inquiry, there is doubt as to what school Dugdale attended, but it is supposed that he went to Somerset School for about 3 years. In 1851 the family came to New York City, where Richard attended public school for several years. At the age of 14 he was employed by a sculptor, for whom he did very creditable work. He was very delicate in constitution and when he was 17 the family removed to a farm in Indiana with the hope of improving Richard's strength. Since two years on the farm effected no improvement in his physical condition, the malady being a serious heart trouble, the family returned to New York City. Within a year the father died, leaving a widow, Anna Dugdale, and three children, Agnes, Jane, and Richard. It is assumed that Agnes and Jane were older than Richard, as their names appear in the New York Directory for 1861 as proprietors of a linen shop, while Richard's name does not appear until 1864. They lived in several houses in Greenwich Village until 1871, when they moved into a house now standing at 4 Morton Street, near Bleecker Street. It was in this house that all the members of the family spent the remainder of their lives. Around the corner from 4 Morton Street, at 250 Bleecker Street, the two sisters had their linen shop. After returning to New York Dugdale entered business and in the evenings attended night classes of the Cooper Union, where he distinguished himself in the debating clubs. He became greatly interested in social science and keenly desired to devote himself to the scientific study of social phenomena. He afterwards said of this time:


"At twenty-three, I clearly saw that, even did I possess the most perfect technical training to enable me to analyze the complex questions involved, there was no institution or patron to defray the expenses of a continuous, calm, independent, and unconventional critical study of social phenomena. I, therefore, had to confront this practical question -- to earn the costs of an education which no college provided and amass sufficient fortune to purchase the privilege of independent subsequent enquiry. I met the dilemma by entering the career of merchant and manufacturer, because this combined the opportunity for study of a distinct class of social phenomena and the promise of earning means for future freedom of investigation. After ten years of this double work, I broke down in health, yet I continued business for two years more, until my physicians peremptorily ordered rest, physical and mental; and for four years I could neither earn nor learn."


It is to be regretted that Dugdale, with his sympathetic outlook upon and intelligent insight into social behavior, could not have been aided by such present-day institutions as the Eugenics Record Office, the Carnegie, Russell Sage, and other foundations.


How active and multifarious Mr. Dugdale's interest in social subjects was one can easily infer from an imperfect list of the bodies of which he was a zealous and important member. He was secretary of the Section on Sociology of the New York Association for the Advancement of Science and Arts, of the New York Social Science Society, and of the New York Sociological Club; treasurer of the New York Liberal Club; and vice-president of the Society for the Prevention of Street Accidents. He was later, for a time, secretary of the Civil Service Reform Association, and an active member of the American Social Science Association and of the American Public Health Association. He was also a member of the American Free Trade League, of the Chamber of Commerce, and of the American Institute.


He was interested in the amelioration of the condition of man. In 1868, at the age of 27, he became a member of the executive committee of the Prison Association of New York. The work of this association was two-fold: first, the bettering of the mental and physical condition of prisoners while in prison; secondly, practical help to them after discharge. Dugdale spent much time, energy, and money in this work. He made many visits to the different State prisons and jails of the State. He came into intimate touch and relations with prisoners of all sorts and kinds. He learned their stories and, as Mr. Shepard says, their "case against society, as well as the more obvious though perhaps no stronger case of society against them." That Dugdale was an active member of the Executive committee of the Prison Association is shown by the fact that he was present at practically every meeting of the executive committee from 1868 to 1880. He was secretary pro tempore many times and his writing in the minutes shows a nervous, quick hand. A facsimile of his writing and signature is shown here: (Not Available)


In July 1874 Dugdale was appointed a committee of one to inspect thirteen of the county jails of the State of New York. The corresponding secretary of the Prison Association, then Dr. Elisha Harris, had made a list of questions for each prisoner, which included items about the heredity, education, diseases, industrial training, moral and intellectual capacity, pauperism, and crime; and an estimate of the probable fate of the person questioned. With this as a guide to inquiry the tour of the county jails was made in the summer of 1874. "The Jukes" and a "Further Study of criminals" resulted. The author of "The Jukes" became so interested in this subject that practically all the expense of his investigation was borne by him. After the publication of the two studies on criminals, Dugdale read a paper on "Hereditary pauperism as illustrated in the Juke family" at the conference of charities held in connection with the general meeting of the American Social Science Association at Saratoga, New York, in September 1877. Mr. Dugdale then published several short essays in the Westminster Review, the Atlantic Monthly, and the North American Review. One of these, "The Origin of Crime in Society" (Atlantic Monthly, 48 and 49), traces the development of crime from savagery to civilization, discusses the factors which produce it, and reaches the conclusion that prison treatment does not cure crime. Among other things, Dugdale suggests that the true function of a prison is for the permanent retention of murderers and those committing violent crimes. Dugdale did much literary work for the organizations of which he was a member. Shepard, in "The Work of a Social Teacher," says that "his literary style was attractive, nervous, and vigorous." He had "a considerate deference to the opinion and studies of other men, and with a modest and continuous acknowledgment of the large extent and complex nature of the problems upon which he was engaged, always forbidding, as they did, narrow and dogmatic assertions."

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