This case study of mental retardation in Connecticut during 1818-1917 questions the existing model of interpretation. The discovery of mental retardation in Connecticut did not emanate from social fear overthose who were different, difficult, or dangerous. Nor did state government initiate the institutionalization of the feeble-minded. Instead, Dr.Henry M. Knight, who founded the private Connecticut School for Imbeciles in 1858, was motivated by antebellum religious benevolence. His altruism was additionally motivated by cultural concerns to shape behavior according to middle-class, Protestant norms. By the end of the century, his son and successor Dr. George H. Knight departed from his father's emphasis on education and assimilation to embrace eugenics and segregation of the mentally retarded. Connecticut's pioneering marital ban (1895) and sterilization law (1909) were, however, virtually ineffective. Instead, the state sponsored in 1917 a large-scale custodial facility that sought to isolate the feeble-minded, whom reformers now portrayed as a menace to society. In sum, the Knights show a clear departure in policy between the first and second generation of administrators.