Boston Phrenological Society Collection, 1800-1848. WAM 01209.005—

Dublin Core


Boston Phrenological Society Collection, 1800-1848. WAM 01209.005—


Boston Phrenological Society


The Boston Phrenological Society was formed in 1832 after the death of the prominent phrenologist Johann Gaspar Spurzheim (1776-1832). The society was founded by Nahum Capen (1804-1886) on the day of Spurzheim's funeral and popularized phrenology across the United States. The group began publishing a quarterly journal, The Annals of Phrenology, in 1833. This journal published detailed rebuttals to skeptics of phrenology, case descriptions and personal anecdotes, and a defense of the relevancy of phrenology to fields like social welfare and mission work. The society collected busts, cast, skulls, and drawings through solicitations to readers of the journal. This collection was purchased by John Collins Warren (1778-1856) in 1847, at which time the Society dissolved, and moved to Harvard Medical School.

This collection contains 31 phrenology casts originally owned by the Boston Phrenological Society. Most of the casts in this collection are of complete heads and some are of skulls. These casts were collected by the Society between 1832 and 1847. Many of the casts in this collection were originally owned by Johann Gaspar Spurzheim.


The items in this collection originally belonged to the Boston Phrenological Society. Dr. John Collins Warren purchased the Boston Phrenological Society's collection in 1847 after the Society’s dissolution. In 1849, Dr. Warren took physical custody of the collection and temporarily transferred it to the ‘Mastodon Rooms’ on Chestnut Street before moving the collection to its intended permanent location in the new medical school building on North Grove Street.

Collection Items

View all 31 items

Collection Tree