Object Record

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Catalog Number 01.C.82
Object Name Plate, Printing
Title Fowler's Phrenological Head Printing Plate
Artist Unknown
Date mid-19th c.
Description Printing plate advertising "Fowler's Phrenological Head."
Label This printing block was used to make advertisements for Orson Squire Fowler, a well-known 19th-century phrenologist. At the time, phrenology was a widespread pseudoscience. Phrenologists claimed that the size and shape of a person's head, and the bumps on its surface, revealed personality and character. As this ad notes, "PHRENOLOGY furnishes it in showing...how strong, how weak each mental faculty, every physical organ, and how to cultivate and restrain all. Its results are RELIABLE because SCIENTIFIC." Both Fowler and his brother, Lorenzo Niles Fowler, popularized the use of three-dimensional phrenological heads that depicted different regions of the brain and their corresponding traits. They postulated that such traits could be strengthened or weakened through mental exercises. The Fowler brothers studied the heads of celebrities such as Mormon leader Brigham Young, pioneering nurse Clara Barton, and poet Walt Whitman. Orson Fowler opened a Phrenological Museum in Philadelphia in 1839 and published a journal on the subject. He later moved his museum to New York City, where it rivaled P. T. Barnum's in popularity. Fowler also lectured around the country, gave public character readings, and advised people on improving their marriages and raising healthy children (mentioned here as areas of expertise). Since this advertisement cites Fowler's 50 years of experience, it probably dates from the late 19th century.
Material Zinc (copper-faced)
Dimensions W-4.25 L-11.5 inches
Credit line American Philosophical Society
Search Terms 19th century
nineteenth century