From C. L. Bernays 25 February 1871
St Louis, Missouri, | 1104 Chambers Street.
Febr. 25th. 1871
In the 1st. volume of your admirable book on the descent of man (American edition, page 237. you speak of the slight but extraordinarily rapid change undergone by European settlers in the United States.1 To the various observations made in this respect I will add one of my own. The immigrants rarely buy ready made clothing, but they have it made to order whenever they can. They do so for various reasons. First, because ordered clothing is better made than that which is purchased in clothing houses. Second, because clothing business is mainly carried on by Jews and the immigrants have a stonger apprehension against dealing with Jews than the native population of Anglo Saxon origin. Third, because they can not be so well fitted in the clothing houses as the older settlers. Ready made clothing is almost exclusively manufactured in the Eastern States, where the Anglo-saxon old immigration predominates. This population generally is taller and thinner and has certainly longer legs and arms than the new comers from Europe. Whatever ready made clothing the new comers purchase in “clothing stores”, they are much too long for them in the sleeves and in the legs and even in the taille, (the waist).
There is no doubt in my mind, that the people of every race, gathering in this country, have a tendency to elongate or become taller and thinner I, however, do not attribute this circumstance to the climate, but to the ruling capacity of Americans in general, which is their will-power. The immediate tools of the will-power are the legs and arms of men. Whatever they plan, they have to execute it by the aid of their arms and legs. While in older nations, where reason and reflection predominate, the head gets larger, the legs and arms of will-peoples such, as the Americans, become longer. Americans do things first, and they commense by experimenting, and only afterwards they think the matter over. In the third generations the Germans, more than the French, ressemble the native born Americans of Anglosaxon origin and they become just as tall in most cases. In the first generation the difference is visible to every common observer. When the war broke out various regiments of German born in Germany were formed in this city.2 They received federal uniforms, made in Eastern manufactories according to the ordinary American sizes. They looked ridiculously absurd, because the uniforms did not fit one man in a hundred. Afterwards I saw various New England Regiments who had received the same sizes of clothing, and they were as fine looking troops as one could see, because their uniforms fitted them well.
I beg you to receive this note for what it is worth,— I am not a naturalist by profession, but an amateur student of your works, which gave such a wonderful turn to the modern Welt-Anschauung.3 I am of German origin, as the idiomatic expressions in this letter will show you, and use my leisure in keeping up with the progress of sciences. Could I be useful to you in any manner, I beg you to honor me by addressing me precise questions, which I will try to answer faithfully. I have reviewed your book in various newspapers4 and although a work like yours needs no recommendations, I nevertheless believe that my notions are for something in the rapid sale of upwards of 200 copies in this city during the first week after its appearance.
I am, Sir, with great respect and gratitude | your obedient servant | Chs. L. Bernays, Brevet Lt Colonel U.S. on the retired list.
Charles Darwin Esq. | England.
Older settlers in U. S. are taller and thinner than recent immigrants.
Please cite as
Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 7515,” accessed on 25 May 2016, http://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/DCP-LETT-7515