Although the eugenics movement in the United States flourished during the first quarter of the 20th Century, its roots lie in concerns over the cost of caring for "defective" persons, concerns that first became manifest in the 19th Century. The history of state-supported programs of involuntary sterilization indicates that this "surgical solution" persisted until the 1950s. A review of the archives of prominent eugenicists, the records of eugenic organizations, important legal cases, and state reports indicates that public support for the involuntary sterilization of insane and retarded persons was broad and sustained. During the early 1930s there was a dramatic increase in the number of sterilizations performed upon mildly retarded young women. This change in policy was a product of the Depression. Institutional officials were concerned that such women might bear children for whom they could not provide adequate parental care, and thus would put more demands on strained social services. There is little evidence to suggest that the excesses of the Nazi sterilization program (initiated in 1934) altered American programs. Data are presented here to show that a number of state-supported eugenic sterilization programs were quite active long after scientists had refuted the eugenic thesis.