Four: A ca. 1840 snuff box impressed with skulls and "Cranologie de Docteur Gall" on lid, reverse pressed with phrenological legend, English porcelain seal in the form of a phrenology head, phrenology medal on stand, and a glass paperweight bearing an impressed phrenology head
Snuff box: 3 1/2" dia.
Now considered quack medicine, phrenology - the study of personality traits by examining the shape of, and bumps on, the head - was once thought of as a legitimate science and tool for understanding human behavior and abilities. Franz Josef Gall (1758 – 1828), a neuroanatomist, physiologist and pioneer in the study of the localization of mental functions in the brain, is considered the theory’s founder and was certainly its great proponent. Phrenology was notably used to advance racist assumptions about the inferiority of people not of European descent. Phrenologists were prolific and popular throughout the 19th century, found in storefronts and offices, and it is interesting to note that the Hallmark Corporation, a bastion of the mainstream today, retained a phrenologist on staff to examine its employees until 1932.