Early 19th c. Porcelain Phrenology Stamp/Pipe Stamper c.1820



​A 19th-century English porcelain letter seal in the form of a phrenological head. ​The areas of the skull numerically demarcated with the key surrounding the neck. Gilt accent around the neck and mounted on a brass base.

A rare English porcelain phrenology head pipe tamper or seal with information of the "Science" written in fine script. The modelling and quality of the piece is exceptional. Phrenology was a science of character divination, faculty psychology, theory of brain and what the 19th-century phrenologists called "the only true science of mind." Phrenology came from the theories of the idiosyncratic Viennese physician Franz Joseph Gall (1758-1828).

  • CREATOR L.N. Fowler, London, UK.
  • CONDITION Good. Wear consistent with age and use. Chip on the right side of the nose.
  • DIMENSIONS H 3.5 in. W 1.25 in. D 12.5 in.


The phrenology head seen here provided a three-dimensional reference guide to direct the reading of a subject’s skull. It was marketed by L. N. Fowler & Co., the phrenological enterprise of the American brothers Lorenzo Niles Fowler (1811-1896) and Orson S. Fowler (1809-1887). The Fowlers first took to the road in 1834, lecturing for free and examining heads for a fee. In the next year they opened an office in New York City, where they operated a phrenological museum and library, the publishing house of L.N Fowler & Co., and a lecture booking bureau. Their American Phrenological Journal and Life Illustrated, which lasted until 1911, soon emerged as the leading phrenological publication.

Phrenology appeared on the American scene in 1832 when Johann Kaspar Spurzheim (1776-1832) arrived in New York to begin a speaking tour. His popular lectures presented the teachings of Viennese physician Franz-Joseph Gall (1758-1828), who proposed the concept of localized brain function. According to Gall, the different functions of the brain, such as memory, language, emotion, the ability to recognize faces, perform calculations, and appreciate music, were situated in specific sites or “organs” of the brain. Gall contended that each “organ” of the brain would hypertrophy (grow) or atrophy (shrink) with use, and that these changes would be perceptible on the surface contour of the skull. Consequently, one could assess different abilities and personality traits by “reading” the surface bumps on the skull. Gall never approved of the term phrenology; he called his system organology and later simply the physiology of the brain. Spurzheim, however, used the term phrenology and it stuck.

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