Biology textbooks are everybody's business. In accepting the view that texts are created with specific social goals in mind, I examined 127 twentieth-century high school biology textbooks for representations of animal development. Paragraphs and visual representations were coded and placed in one of four scientific literacy categories: descriptive, investigative, nature of science, and human embryos, technology, and society (HETS). I then interpreted how embryos and fetuses have been socially constructed for students. I also examined the use of Haeckel's embryo drawings to support recapitulation and evolutionary theory. Textbooks revealed that publication of Haeckel's drawings was influenced by evolutionists and anti-evolutionists in the 1930s, 1960s, and the 1990s. Haeckel's embryos continue to persist in textbooks because they "safely" illustrate similarities between embryos and are rarely discussed in enough detail to understand comparative embryology's role in the support of evolution. Certain events coincided with changes in how embryos were presented: (a) the growth of the American Medical Association (AMA) and an increase in birth rates (1950s); (b) the Biological Sciences Curriculum Study (BSCS) and public acceptance of birth control methods (1960s); (c) Roe vs. Wade (1973); (d) in vitro fertilization and Lennart Nilsson's photographs (1970s); (e) prenatal technology and fetocentrism (1980s); and (f) genetic engineering and Science-Technology-Society (STS) curriculum (1980s and 1990s). By the end of the twentieth century, changing conceptions, research practices, and technologies all combined to transform the nature of biological development. Human embryos went from a highly descriptive, static, and private object to that of sometimes contentious public figure. I contend that an ignored source for helping move embryos into the public realm is schoolbooks. Throughout the 1900s, authors and publishers accomplished this by placing biology textbook embryos and fetuses in several different contexts--biological, technological, experimental, moral, social, and legal.