If you had lived in a time and place where phrenology was a popularly accepted science, would you have been considered a paragon of virtue or would the lumps on your head cast you as a jealous, avaricious lout?

It's both fascinating and disturbing to look through the diagrams from old phrenology texts. These come from Vaught’s Practical Character Reader, published by Louis Allen Vaught in 1902. Although phrenology was at the height of its popularity during the first half of the 19th century, it enjoyed a bit of resurgence in the early 20th century, thanks in part to attempts to develop a criminal anthropology and misinterpretations of evolutionary theory. There are more than a few hints of ethnic preferences in these diagrams.


The Public Domain Review has more diagrams from Vaught’s Practical Character Reader, but Google Books has the entire book available online, with instructions on how to identify an honest face and a deceitful ear.

From the preface:

The purpose of this book is to acquaint all with the elements of human nature and enable them to read these elements in all men, women and children in all countries. At least fifty thousand careful examinations have been made to prove the truthfulness of the nature and location of these elements. More than a million observations have been made to confirm the examinations. Therefore, it is given the world to be depended upon. Taken in its entirety it is absolutely reliable. Its facts can be completely demonstrated by all who will take the unprejudiced pains to do so. It is ready for use. It is practical. Use it.

Anyone care to take a crack at applying phrenology to Vaught? There's a picture of him on the cover of his book.


Phrenology Diagrams from Vaught’s Practical Character Reader (1902) [The Public Domain Review via The Presurfer]

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