“The past is a foreign country” (part 4): General John A. Logan and a once upon a time racial theory

“The past is a foreign country. They do things differently there.” (L.P. Hartley)

Many contemporary stories about General John A. Logan commented on his supposed “Indian visage:” black hair, high cheekbones, and dark complexion. In those days before DNA studies, however, it should have been obvious, one would think, that Native American heritage was impossible since John A. Logan’s most recent ancestry was well known as was the date when his immigrant ancestor came to the U.S. And, of course, that dark hair, high cheekbones, and dark complexions pop up in every ethnic group, not any singular “race.” However, there was a strange theory at the time that “the first child by a second marriage frequently resembles the deceased wife or husband.” John A. Logan was the first child of his father’s second marriage. We know today this theory is poppycock, but it was believed by many, including (as per the story below) at least one physician of the time.

A few cautions and comments:

  • First, just a reminder that General John A. Logan is not a member of our branch of the Logan family. It’s an interesting story about one of the most famous and accomplished Logans, but I didn’t want to confuse the issue.
  • The story below is fixated on “color”/ race so the newspaper reprinting source and time are important to keep in mind: Anderson, South Carolina, in 1887 during Reconstruction. However, these beliefs were common in America. The original story, after all, comes from the “Chicago Tribune.”
  • Myths about Native Americans and once-common racial terminology and beliefs are part of the newspaper article below.

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Source: The Intelligencer, Anderson, South Carolina, 13 January 1887, reprinted from the Chicago Tribune

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