Correspondence to John Collins Warren (1778-1856) regarding the Boston Phrenological Society cabinet

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Correspondence to John Collins Warren (1778-1856) regarding the Boston Phrenological Society cabinet


Spurzheim, J. G. (Johann Gaspar), 1776-1832
Warren, John Collins, 1778-1856
Boston Phrenological Society
Roberton, John, 1776-1840


Correspondence were in the back of John Collins Warren, II's, Original Draft of The Collection of the Boston Phrenological Society: A Retrospect. These letters relate to the Boston Phrenological Society in its final days of being an organization. Correspondence #3 and #4 refer to the Boston Phrenological collection including the crania of Johann Gaspar Spurzheim. The letter dated September 1849, mentions John Collins Warren I being the buyer of the Boston Phrenological Society collection. Warren I will have the collection for a rental period where he will later return it upon request from the Boston Phrenological Society. The other letter dated February 4, 1850 acknowledges the craniums of Dr. Spurzheim and Dr. John Roberton will be returned to the Phrenological Society, but not the rest of the collection due to its condition.


Correspondence regarding the collection of the Boston Phrenological Society.


Boston Phrenological Society

Date Created

1849 September; 1850 February 04


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Is Part Of

Countway Medicine Rare Books, 1.Mw.1921.W




2 correspondence (4 pages)









Letter #1 – Boston June 25, 49

For J. C. Warren
Dear Sir
You made a proposition, last year, to take the Cabinet of the Boston Phrenological Society.
Some difficulties which then existed to the acceptance of your proposition, are now recommend; I should be pleased to know whether you are now disposed to take the Cabinet upon the terms

[Page 2]

then proposed
Very truly yours
S. G. Howe

Letter #2 – Boston June 27 49

Dear Sir,
The debt of the Phrenological Society as about 125$.
The Cabinet was stowed away in an Attic chamber many years ago, and is, I presume, in a tolerably good state of preservation, though I have not examined it. I hardly know how to find a catalogue.

According to the best of my recollection there are about 25 skulls [of which Dr. Spurzheim’s is one] and between three and four hundred casts.

The Cabinet would be easily sold to some of the, soi-disant phrenologists, who peddle their wares about the country, for more than the sum named above, but the Society is not disposed to sell it. Whoever takes it however, will probably hold possession, for the Society has been long dormant that it is not likely to revive.
Very truly yours,
S. G. Howe

White Letter #3 – Boston September 1849

Boston September 1849.
This hereby agreed between S. G. Howe, and Samuel Downen Jr. Representing the Boston Phrenological Society, on the first part, and that the Cabinet and collection of the said Society, shall be given into the possession of said J. C. Warren, in trust, for the said Society, upon the following [?]; [?]; said J. C. Warren shall pay one hundred and fifty dollars, into the hands of the Treasurer of the Society. He shall agree to pressure the Cabinet and collection, and let it be accessible at reasonable times to the members of the Society. He shall agree to deliver back the Cabinet and Collection, in good condition, to the Society on its Agents, if it should be called from at any time within five years from their date; six months notice being given to him; and the sum of one hundred and fifty dollars repaid to him.

[Back] Contract – Dr. Howe Skulls etc. of Phrenological Society

Blue Letter #4 – Boston Feb 4th 1850

Boston February 4th, 1850.
I hereby acknowledge to have received from the Boston Phrenological Society, through the hands of Dr. S. G. How, the cranium and brain of the late Dr. Spurzheim and the cranium of the late Dr. Roberton, as a part of the Collection of Said Society lately received by me; and I agree to return the said crania of Drs Spurzheim and Roberton and brain of Dr. Spurzheim, but not the rest of the collection, which is subject to different conditions, whenever the said crania and brain shall be applied for and reclaimed by the authority of the said Phrenological Society. The second purchased errand on the 9th time 2 “received” substituted

Dr Spurzheims Cranium Feb 4 1850 Bost. Phren. Society receipt
The second purchased errand on the 9th time 2 “received” substituted

Letter #5 - Dr. Holmes February 28. 1850

Montgomery Place February 28th
My dear Sir,
Tomorrow, Friday, at my usual hour (1 o'clock) I shall give a lecture to the Class upon the subject of Phrnology. I mention it in compliance with a suggestion of your own but by no means to do more than assure you that I shall be happy to see you if convenient, and ask no reason

for your absense if otherwise.
I can truly say that this limited time and attention, which the hurry so apt to attend the close of lectures has allowed me, render it very dificult in approaching the subject at all, and especially so in the presence of one who, however lenient in his judgement, could hardly avoid seeing the imperfections which must attend my brief glane at the subject.
I am, My dear Sir
Yours very respectfully
O W Holmes




Boston Phrenological Society, “Correspondence to John Collins Warren (1778-1856) regarding the Boston Phrenological Society cabinet,” OnView, accessed June 21, 2024,

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