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Testing the Truth of Phrenology: Knowledge Experiments in Antebellum American Cultures of Science and Health

  • Carla Bittel (a1)

Abstract

In the first half of the nineteenth century, many Americans visited phrenological practitioners. Some clients were true believers, who consulted phrenology to choose an occupation, select a marriage partner and raise children. But, as this article demonstrates, many others consumed phrenology as an ‘experiment’, testing its validity as they engaged its practice. Consumers of ‘practical phrenology’ subjected themselves to examinations often to test the phrenologist and his practice against their own knowledge of themselves. They also tested whether phrenology was true, according to their own beliefs about race and gender. While historians have examined phrenology as a theory of the mind, we know less about its ‘users’ and how gender, race and class structured their engagement. Based on extensive archival research with letters and diaries, memoirs and marginalia, as well as phrenological readings, this study reveals how a continuum of belief existed around phrenology, from total advocacy to absolute denunciation, with lots of room for acceptance and rejection in between. Phrenologists’ notebooks and tools of salesmanship also show how an experimental environment emerged where phrenologists themselves embraced a culture of testing. In an era of what Katherine Pandora has described as ‘epistemological contests’, audiences confronted new museums, performances and theatres of natural knowledge and judged their validity. This was also true for phrenology, which benefited from a culture of contested authority. As this article reveals, curiosity, experimentation and even scepticism among users actually helped keep phrenology alive for decades.

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Corresponding author

*Email address for correspondence: Carla.Bittel@lmu.edu

Footnotes

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I would like to thank the editors at Medical History and anonymous reviewers at the journal for their helpful feedback. I am grateful to participants in the workshop ‘Phrenology, Anthropometry, and Craniology: Historical and Global Perspectives’ and to its organisers, Stephen Casper, Julia Rodriguez and Courtney Thompson; thanks also to Clarkson University and the David A. Walsh Arts and Sciences Seminar Fund. My sincere appreciation goes to those who read and commented on this piece: Emily K. Abel, Charlotte Borst, Janet Farrell Brodie, Lisa Forman Cody, Sharla Fett, Kimberly Hamlin, Daniel Martinico and Alice Wexler. Fenneke Sysling also shared insights and an important source. Thanks also to Nishan Silva and Nicholas Forshaw for their assistance, and to Russell Johnson and the UCLA History and Special Collections for the Sciences. Research for this article was supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Stipends and Loyola Marymount University.

Footnotes

References

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1. Phoebe George Bradford, Diaries of Phoebe George Bradford, 1832–9, W. Emerson Wilson (ed.) (Wilmington, DE: Historical Society of Delaware, 1976), 73.

2. Although the practitioner–client dynamic needs further examination, important analysis can be found in Michael M. Sokal, ‘Practical phrenology as psychological counseling in the 19th-century United States’, in C. D. Green et al. (eds), The Transformation of Psychology: Influences of 19th-Century Philosophy, Technology, and Natural Science (Washington, DC: American Psychological Association, 2001), 21–44.

3. There is an expanding literature on knowledge transfer, circulation and diffusion, especially in the global context. On the transit and transfer of phrenological knowledge specifically, see James Poskett, ‘Phrenology, Correspondence, and the Global Politics of Reform, 1815–48’, The Historical Journal, 60, 1, (2016), 409–42; Fenneke Sysling, ‘Science and Self-Assessment: Phrenological Charts 1840–1940’, British Journal for the History of Science, 51, 2 (2018), 261–80; John van Wyhe, ‘The diffusion of phrenology through public lecturing’, in Aileen Fyfe and Bernard Lightman (eds), Science in the Marketplace: Nineteenth-Century Sites and Experiences (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007), 60–96.

4. Roger Cooter, The Cultural Meaning of Popular Science: Phrenology and the Organization of Consent in Nineteenth-Century Britain (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984); Sherrie Lynne Lyons, Species, Serpents, Spirits, and Skulls: Science at the Margins in the Victorian Age (Albany: SUNY Press, 2009); Steven Shapin, ‘The Politics of Observation: Cerebral Anatomy and Social Interests in the Edinburgh Phrenology Disputes’, The Sociological Review, 27, 1 (1979), 139–78; Steven Shapin, ‘Phrenological Knowledge and the Social Structure of Early Nineteenth-Century Edinburgh’, Annals of Science, 32, 3 (1975), 219–43; John van Wyhe, Phrenology and the Origins of Victorian Scientific Naturalism (Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing, Ltd., 2004).

5. On phrenology in the United States, see Carla Bittel, ‘Woman, Know Thyself: Producing and Using Phrenological Knowledge in 19th-Century America’, Centaurus, 55, 2 (2013), 104–30; Charles Colbert, A Measure of Perfection: Phrenology and the Fine Arts in America (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1997); John Dunn Davies, Phrenology: Fad and Science: A 19th-Century American Crusade (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1955); Allan S. Horlick, ‘Phrenology and the Social Education of Young Men’, History of Education Quarterly, 11, 1 (1971), 23–38; Cynthia Eagle Russett, Sexual Science: The Victorian Construction of Womanhood (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1989); Sokal, op. cit. (note 2); Madeleine B. Stern, Heads & Headlines: The Phrenological Fowlers (Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 1971); Daniel Patrick Thurs, Science Talk: Changing Notions of Science in American Popular Culture (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2007; Christopher G. White, ‘Minds Intensely Unsettled: Phrenology, Experience, and the American Pursuit of Spiritual Assurance, 1830–80’, Religion and American Culture: A Journal of Interpretation, 16, 2 (2006), 227–61.

6. Susan Branson, ‘Phrenology and the Science of Race in Antebellum America’, Early American Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal, 15, 1 (2017), 164–93; Ann Fabian, The Skull Collectors: Race, Science, and America’s Unburied Dead (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2010); Stephen Jay Gould, ‘American polygeny and craniometry before Darwin: Blacks and Indians as separate, inferior species’, in Sandra Harding (ed.), The ‘Racial’ Economy of Science: Toward a Democratic Future (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1993), 84–115; John S. Haller, ‘Concepts of Race Inferiority in Nineteenth-Century Anthropology’, Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences, 25, 1 (1970), 40–51; Cynthia S. Hamilton, “‘Am I Not a Man and a Brother?” Phrenology and Anti-Slavery’, Slavery & Abolition, 29, 2 (2008), 173–87; James Poskett, ‘National Types: The Transatlantic Publication and Reception of Crania Americana (1839)’, History of Science, 53, 3 (2015), 264–95.

7. ‘Users’ here refers to individuals and social groups that put phrenology to use in different ways. I am applying the literature from the history and sociology of technology to better understand how actors shaped and negotiated knowledge and practices. See Ronald Kline and Trevor Pinch, ‘Users as Agents of Technological Change: The Social Construction of the Automobile in the Rural United States’, Technology and Culture, 37, 4 (1996), 763–95; Nelly Oudshoorn and Trevor Pinch (eds), How Users Matter: The Co-Construction of Users and Technology (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2003); Trevor J. Pinch and Wiebe E. Bijker, ‘The Social Construction of Facts and Artefacts: Or How the Sociology of Science and the Sociology of Technology Might Benefit Each Other’, Social Studies of Science, 14, 3 (1984), 399–441.

8. Sokal, op. cit. (note 2), 43.

9. On modes of healing in this period, see Elaine G. Breslaw, Lotions, Potions, Pills, and Magic: Health Care in Early America (New York: New York University Press, 2012); Janet Farrell Brodie, Contraception and Abortion in Nineteenth-Century America (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1994); Susan E. Cayleff, Wash and Be Healed: The Water-Cure Movement and Women’s Health (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1987); Regina Markell Morantz-Sanchez, Sympathy & Science: Women Physicians in American Medicine (New York: Oxford University Press, 1985); John Harley Warner, The Therapeutic Perspective: Medical Practice, Knowledge, and Identity in America, 1820–85 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1986).

10. On patients and questions of authority in medicine, see L. Stephen Jacyna and Stephen T. Casper (eds), The Neurological Patient in History (Rochester, NY: University of Rochester Press, 2012); Dorothy Porter and Roy Porter, Patient’s Progress: Doctors and Doctoring in Eighteenth-Century England (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1989); Catherine L. Thompson, Patient Expectations: How Economics, Religion, and Malpractice Shaped Therapeutics in Early America (Amherst, MA: University of Massachusetts Press, 2015); Warner, op. cit. (note 9).

11. Elizabeth Green Musselman, Nervous Conditions: Science and the Body Politic in Early Industrial Britain (Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 2006); Christopher Lawrence, ‘The nervous system and society in the Scottish Enlightenment’, in Barry Barnes and Steven Shapin (eds), Natural Order: Historical Studies of Scientific Culture (Beverly Hills: Sage Publications, 1979), 19–40; Roger Smith, Inhibition: History and Meaning in the Sciences of Mind and Brain (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1992).

12. For example, see Cooter, op. cit. (note 4), chapter 6.

13. Katherine Pandora, ‘Popular Science in National and Transnational Perspective: Suggestions from the American Context’, Isis, 100, 2 (2009), 346–58: 350. On colonial origins of resistance to knowledge hierarchies, see Susan Scott Parrish, American Curiosity: Cultures of Natural History in the Colonial British Atlantic World (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2006).

14. Ibid.See also James W. Cook, The Arts of Deception: Playing with Fraud in the Age of Barnum (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2001).

15. John van Wyhe argues that phrenology involved ‘personal competition for status and authority’ between individuals (as opposed to social groups) but focuses on phrenology’s famous advocates and theorists, rather than ordinary users. See Van Wyhe, op. cit. (note 4), 12; John van Wyhe, ‘Was Phrenology a Reform Science? Towards a New Generalization for Phrenology’, History of Science, 42, 3 (2004), 313–31.

16. Bittel, op. cit. (note 5); Russett, op. cit. (note 5).

17. On race and phrenology, see Andrew Bank, ‘Of “Native Skulls” and “Noble Caucasians”: Phrenology in Colonial South Africa’, Journal of Southern African Studies, 22, 3 (1996), 387–403; Neil Davie, ‘Mapping the racial other: phrenology, race and colonial discourse in Britain, c.1810–50’, published in French as ‘Garder la race en tête: phrénologie, race et discours colonial en Grande-Bretagne, c.1810–50’, in Michel Prum (ed.), Racialisations Dans l’aire Anglophone (Paris: L’Harmattan, 2012), 17–49; Fabian, op. cit. (note 6); Gould, op. cit. (note 6); Haller, op. cit. (note 6); Poskett, op. cit. (note 6); Poskett, op. cit. (note 3); William Ragan Stanton, The Leopard’s Spots: Scientific Attitudes toward Race in America, 1815–59 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1960); Nancy Leys Stepan, ‘Race and Gender: the Role of Analogy in Science’, Isis, 77, 2 (1986), 261–77.

18. On shifting modes of reform, see Davies, op. cit. (note 5), 172–4; Sokal, op. cit. (note 2), 42. Sokal argues that the shift from antebellum reform to late nineteenth-century reform, or the transition from individual improvement to broader social change via the state, explains the decline of phrenology.

19. Cook, op. cit. (note 14), 6, 16. Cook describes how P.T. Barnum invited audiences to judge ambiguous displays for themselves, and argues that this aided his success. Phrenologists shared this cultural script of ‘decide for yourself’ and also thrived on audience uncertainty.

20. Cook, op. cit. (note 14); Neil Harris, Humbug: The Art of P.T. Barnum, (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1981); Katherine Pandora, ‘The permissive precincts of Barnum’s and Goodrich’s museums of miscellaneity: lessons in knowing nature for new learners’, in Carin Berkowitz and Bernard Lightman (eds), Science Museums in Transition: Cultures of Display in Nineteenth-Century Britain and America (Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2017), 36–64; Benjamin Reiss, The Showman and the Slave: Race, Death, and Memory in Barnum’s America (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2010).

21. Barnum’s American Museum was at the corner of Broadway and Ann Street, and the Phrenological Cabinet was at 129 and 131 Nassau Street. See an advertisement for the Phrenological Cabinet in Phineas T. Barnum, Barnum’s American Museum Illustrated (New York: William Van Norden and Frank Leslie, 1850).

22. On fears of deception and the culture of authenticity in the nineteenth century, see Karen Halttunen, Confidence Men and Painted Women: A Study of Middle-Class Culture in America, 1830–70 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1982).

23. For analysis of phrenology on trial in criminal courts, see Courtney Elizabeth Thompson, ‘Criminal Minds: Medicine, Law, and the Phrenological Impulse in America, 1830–90’(unpublished PhD thesis: Yale University, 2015).

24. Elizabeth B. Keeney, The Botanizers: Amateur Scientists in Nineteenth-Century America (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1992); R. Laurence Moore, ‘Spiritualism and Science: Reflections on the First Decade of the Spirit Rappings’, American Quarterly, 24, 4 (1972), 474–500.

25. Thurs, op. cit. (note 5), 48–9.

26. Sally Gregory Kohlstedt, ‘Parlors, Primers, and Public Schooling: Education for Science in Nineteenth-Century America’, Isis, 81, 3 (1990), 424–45.

27. Christine von Oertzen et al., ‘Finding Science in Surprising Places: Gender and the Geography of Scientific Knowledge. Introduction to “Beyond the Academy: Histories of Gender and Knowledge”’, Centaurus, 55, 2 (2013), 73–80; Donald L. Opitz et al. (eds), Domesticity in the Making of Modern Science (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2016); Katherine Pandora and Karen A. Rader, ’Science in the Everyday World: Why Perspectives from the History of Science Matter’, Isis, 99, 2 (2008), 350–64.

28. On speculation and sites of ‘miscellaneity’, see Pandora, op. cit. (note 20).

29. Alison Winter, Mesmerized: Powers of Mind in Victorian Britain (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998), 1, 4.

30. My research is greatly influenced by histories of paper technologies, which include: Ann Blair, ‘Humanist Methods in Natural Philosophy: The Commonplace Book’, Journal of the History of Ideas, 53, 4 (1992), 541–51; Anke te Heesen, ‘The notebook: a paper technology’, in Bruno Latour and Peter Weibel (eds), Making Things Public: Atmospheres of Democracy (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2005), 582–9; Volker Hess and J. Andrew Mendelsohn, ‘Case and Series: Medical Knowledge and Paper Technology, 1600–1900’, History of Science, 48, 3/4 (2010), 287–314; Lauren Kassell, ‘Casebooks in Early Modern England: Medicine, Astrology, and Written Records’, Bulletin of the History of Medicine, 88, 4 (2014), 595–625; Seth Rockman, ‘Introduction to the Forum: The Paper Technologies of Capitalism’, Technology and Culture, 58, 2 (2017), 487–505. See also Carla Bittel, Elaine Leong and Christine von Oertzen (eds), Working with Paper: Gendered Practices in the History of Knowledge (Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press, forthcoming).

31. On phrenological charts, see also Sysling, op. cit. (note 3).

32. O.S. Fowler and L.N. Fowler, New Illustrated Self-Instructor in Phrenology and Physiology: With over One Hundred Engravings; Together with the Chart and Character of [Blank Line] as Marked by [Blank Line] (New York: Fowler and Wells, 1859), 81; O.S. Fowler, Fowler’s Practical Phrenology; Giving a Concise Elementary View of Phrenology, 1st edn (Philadelphia: O.S. Fowler, 1840).

33. Natalia Molina, ‘Understanding Race as a Relational Concept’, Modern American History, 1, 1 (2018), 101–5.

34. Sokal, op. cit. (note 2), 41. Michael Sokal argues that subjects’ physical movements and responses during examinations guided the phrenological reading and that reactions directed the practitioner in one way or another.

35. On phrenology and vocational guidance, see Horlick, op. cit. (note 5).

36. A.N. to Brother and Sister, n.d., Ms. Coll. 504.075, History and Special Collections for the Sciences, UCLA Library Special Collections.

37. Phrenological Report, James Lawrence Dusenbery Diary and Clipping (1841–2), 114–5, #2561-z, Southern Historical Collection, the Louis Round Wilson Special Collections Library, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Dusenbery’s analysis appears to be copied into his diary, but it is of a slightly different hand, and signed ‘Woodward’, suggesting he could have traced it from the original analysis, or that Woodward or his assistant wrote it into his notebook.

38. Augusta to Phebe A. Holder, 18 January 1850, Ms. Coll. no. 504.049, History and Special Collections for the Sciences, UCLA Library Special Collections, emphasis added.

39. Sark to Lizzie, 18 May 1841, Ms. Coll. 504.052, History and Special Collections for the Sciences, UCLA Library Special Collections, emphasis original.

40. Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Eighty Years and More: Reminiscences, 1815–97 (Boston: Northeastern University Press, 1993), 138–9.

41. Robert H. Collyer, Manual of Phrenology, or the Physiology of the Human Brain, Embracing a Full Description of the Phrenological Organs, Their Exact Locations, and the Peculiarities of Character Produced by Their Various Degrees of Development and Combination, 3rd edn (Cincinnati, OH: Alexander Flash, 1838). See the Kirtland copy at the Cleveland Health Sciences Library, Case Western University; another copy was consulted at the Department of Archives and Special Collections, William H. Hannon Library, Loyola Marymount University, BF870.C64 1838.

42. Ibid., 100, 76, 82.

43. Ibid., 74.

44. Ibid., 107.

45. Ibid., 94.

46. Ibid., 105.

47. Joseph Wood, ‘My Phrenology and How the Phrenologists Differ on It’, tipped into O.S. Fowler and L.N. Fowler, New Illustrated Self-Instructor in Phrenology and Physiology (New York: Fowler and Wells, 1852), BF870.F69 1850, Department of Archives and Special Collections, William H. Hannon Library, Loyola Marymount University.

48. Phrenological Test or Five Charts of the Same Faculties by as Many Distinguished Professors (Cincinnati, OH: printed by A. Pugh, 1851). I am grateful to Fenneke Sysling for this reference.

49. Ibid., 2, title page.

50. Ibid., 13, 12.

51. Molina, op. cit. (note 33).

52. Carin Berkowitz and Bernard Lightman, ‘Introduction’, Science Museums in Transition: Cultures of Display in Nineteenth-Century Britain and America (Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2017), 1–10.

53. ‘Article III: Remarks on Phrenological Specimens, Cabinet, Etc.’, American Phrenological Journal, 2, 5 (1840), 213.

54. William A. Allison to Stockton Bates, 18 June 1865, GLC03523.23.42, The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History.

55. A.F. Brooks to E. Battey, 20 June 1862, Ms. Coll. No. 504. 051, History and Special Collections for the Sciences, UCLA Library Special Collections.

56. Harriet Low Hillard, My Mother’s Journal: A Young Lady’s Diary of Five Years Spent in Manila, Macao, and the Cape of Good Hope from 1829–34, Katharine Hillard (ed.) (Boston: G.H. Ellis, 1900), 19. In Hillard’s diary, see several examples from September 1833, during her visit to Manila.

57. Ibid., 276–7.

58. Marginalia undated. This copy can be found in the Alderman Library at University of Virginia (BF870 .C635 1838) and came to my attention via the Book Traces project. See George Combe, A System of Phrenology, 5th American (Boston: Marsh, Capen & Lyon, 1838), Alderman Library, University of Virginia; Julia Victoria Schrank, ‘Book Find: Phrenology, a Seemingly Silly Vintage Science with Dangerous Consequences – Book Traces @ UVA’ (n.d.), https://booktraces.library.virginia.edu/book-find-phrenology-a-seemingly-silly-vintage-science-with-dangerous-consequences.

59. Ibid.,126, 130, 229.

60. Though partially obstructed, the first word penned in the margin appears to be ‘What!!’, followed by the denigrating assertion ‘Did he ever see a negro!’ Ibid., 198.

61. Hamilton, op. cit. (note 6); Peter McCandless, ‘Mesmerism and Phrenology in Antebellum Charleston: “Enough of the Marvellous”’, The Journal of Southern History, 58, 2 (1992), 212.

62. Hamilton, op. cit. (note 6); Britt Rusert, ‘The Science of Freedom: Counterarchives of Racial Science on the Antebellum Stage’, African American Review, 45, 3 (2012), 291–308.

63. Dorothy Porter Wesley and Constance Porter Uzelac (eds), William Cooper Nell, Nineteenth-Century African American Abolitionist, Historian, Integrationist: Selected Writings from 1832–74 (Baltimore: Black Classic Press, 2002), 97, 209.

64. See, for example, ‘Equality of Mankind’, The Liberator, 22, 16 (16 April 1852), 64. The original letter was published in the American Phrenological Journaland forwarded to The Liberator by ‘S.W.’, likely Samuel Wells. The letter was authored by an activist offended by its article ‘The Five Principal Races of Man’, which referenced Caucasian superiority. He threatened to withdraw his support for the Journal, if it continued to ‘lend its powerful influence to strengthen colorphobia, and thus to support and perpetuate slavery’. Also, African American abolitionist James McCune Smith used phrenology in order to undermine it. His series of literary portraits, ‘Heads of Colored People’, reversed the racial typing of African Americans with favourable sketches of their lives and occupations. James McCune Smith, The Works of James McCune Smith: Black Intellectual and Abolitionist (New York: Oxford University Press, 2006), 187–241.

65. Frederick Douglass, The Claims of the Negro, Ethnologically Considered: An Address before the Literary Societies of Western Reserve College, at Commencement, 12 July, 1854, (Rochester: Lee, Mann & Co., 1854), 20–1. Douglass also said Morton’s ‘contempt for negroes, is ever conspicuous’.

66. Ibid., 21.

67. On reading Combe, see James A. Secord, Visions of Science: Books and Readers at the Dawn of the Victorian Age (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2014), chapter 6; Van Wyhe, op. cit. (note 4).

68. Frederick Douglass, The Life and Times of Frederick Douglass (Hartford, CT: Park Publishing Co, 1882), 299–300.

69. George Combe to Lucretia Mott, Edinburgh, 7 June 1846, MS 7390, F 16 Letter Book (copies of letters in reply), December 1844–February 1847, George Combe Papers, National Library of Scotland.

70. Douglass, op. cit. (note 68), 299–300. Douglass had an ‘intense desire’ to meet Combe and found ‘much satisfaction’ in their visit.

71. George Combe, in particular, framed phrenology as a science of ‘experiment and observation’. Combe, A System of Phrenology, 3rd edn (Edinburgh: John Anderson, 1830), 9.

72. Scholars have broadened our notion of the laboratory, to reveal experimentalism and data collection outside academies of science. On institutions as laboratories, see the 2014 History of Science Society meeting panel, ‘The Institution as Laboratory: Captive Bodies and the Production of Scientific Knowledge’, with papers from Christina Ramos, Courtney Thompson, K.A. Woytonik, Monique Dufour and Andrew Hogan. On gendered users and producers of knowledge outside the academy, see Von Oertzen et al., op. cit. (note 27). On the antebellum stage as site of experimentation, see Rusert, op. cit. (note 61).

73. ‘Article XXIII: Rules for Finding the Organs’, American Phrenological Journal, 11, 4 (1849), 116.

74. Bradford, op. cit. (note 1), 73.

75. Ibid., 76.

76. Henry B. Gibbons Diary, Volume I, 3 July 1843, Henry B. Gibbons Papers, No. 404, Research Library of the Fenimore Art Museum, Cooperstown, NY.

77. Gibbons Diary, Volume I, 13 October 1843, Henry B. Gibbons Papers, No. 404, Research Library of the Fenimore Art Museum, Cooperstown, NY.

78. Warner, op. cit. (note 9), 15.

79. Marrius Cady Testimony, 30 March 1846, 404/12, Henry B. Gibbons Papers, No. 404, Research Library of the Fenimore Art Museum, Cooperstown, NY.

80. Testimony of Samuel B. Kidder, 10 February 1841, Jonathan P. Webster Papers, Box 3, Oskar Diethelm Library, DeWitt Wallace Institute for the History of Psychiatry, Weill Cornell Medical College.

81. Joint Testimony for Buell and Gibbons, 26 November, 1844, 404/12, Henry B. Gibbons Papers, No. 404, Research Library of the Fenimore Art Museum, Cooperstown, NY.

82. Ziba Babbitt and David Darling to J.P. Webster, 25 September 1840, emphasis original; Ziba Babbitt and David Darling Testimony, 26 September 1840, Box 3, Jonathan P. Webster Papers, Oskar Diethelm Library, DeWitt Wallace Institute for the History of Psychiatry, Weill Cornell Medical College.

83. For Mark Twain’s phrenological experiments, see Alan Gribben, ‘Mark Twain, Phrenology and the “Temperaments”: A Study of Pseudoscientific Influence’, American Quarterly, 24, 1 (1972), 45–68.

84. Robert H. Abzug, Passionate Liberator: Theodore Dwight Weld and the Dilemma of Reform (New York: Oxford University Press, 1980), 157–60.

85. Angelina Emily Grimké Weld to Jane Smith, 4 February 1837, in Catherine H. Birney, The Grimké Sisters: Sarah and Angelina Grimké, The First American Women Advocates of Abolition and Woman’s Rights (Boston: Lee and Shepard, 1885), 163.

86. John van Wyhe, James De Ville (1777–1846), History of Phrenology on the Web, http://www.historyofphrenology.org.uk/deville.html.

87. Harriet Martineau and Maria Weston Chapman, Harriet Martineau’s Autobiography (Boston: J.R. Osgood and Company, 1877), 294–8.

88. Ibid., 294.

89. Harriet Martineau to George Combe, 24 September 1841, 7261, F 58, George Combe Papers, National Library of Scotland. Also cited in Cooter, op. cit. (note 4), 339, note 57.

90. Cooter, op. cit. (note 4), 121, 196–7, 339, note 57; Harriet Martineau, Letters on Mesmerism, 2nd edn (London: Edward Moxon, 1845); Alison Winter, ‘Harriet Martineau and the Reform of the Invalid in Victorian England’, The Historical Journal, 38, 3 (1995), 597–616.

91. Jonathan P. Webster Papers, Lecture Notice, unmarked, Box 1, Folder 14, emphasis added. Oskar Diethelm Library, DeWitt Wallace Institute for the History of Psychiatry, Weill Cornell Medical College.

92. J.P. Webster, ‘Phrenology Applied’, c. 1840, Ephemera Ads 0471. Courtesy of the American Antiquarian Society.

93. Stephen T. Casper and Delia Gavrus (eds), The History of the Brain and Mind Sciences: Technique, Technology, Therapy (Rochester, NY: University of Rochester Press, 2017); Edwin Clarke and L.S. Jacyna, Nineteenth-Century Origins of Neuroscientific Concepts (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1987); Katja Guenther, Localization and Its Discontents: A Genealogy of Psychoanalysis and the Neuro Disciplines (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2015); Thompson, op. cit. (note 23).

94. Sokal, op. cit. (note 2); Sysling, op. cit. (note 3).

I would like to thank the editors at Medical History and anonymous reviewers at the journal for their helpful feedback. I am grateful to participants in the workshop ‘Phrenology, Anthropometry, and Craniology: Historical and Global Perspectives’ and to its organisers, Stephen Casper, Julia Rodriguez and Courtney Thompson; thanks also to Clarkson University and the David A. Walsh Arts and Sciences Seminar Fund. My sincere appreciation goes to those who read and commented on this piece: Emily K. Abel, Charlotte Borst, Janet Farrell Brodie, Lisa Forman Cody, Sharla Fett, Kimberly Hamlin, Daniel Martinico and Alice Wexler. Fenneke Sysling also shared insights and an important source. Thanks also to Nishan Silva and Nicholas Forshaw for their assistance, and to Russell Johnson and the UCLA History and Special Collections for the Sciences. Research for this article was supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Stipends and Loyola Marymount University.

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