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~ contributed by Nicole Orchosky based on her Capstone project for completion of the Museums & Archives Studies certificate. Know Thyself serves as an intro to an online exhibition Nicole has also prepared.

Toward the end of the 1700s, a young Franz Joseph Gall sat in a schoolroom and glanced around at his fellow classmates. Gall caught on to a trend that fascinated him–he noticed that the students with excellent memorization skills often had prominent eyes and large foreheads. This discovery led Gall to hypothesize that the physical structure of one’s head may correspond to one’s personality traits in consistent and predictable ways. As Gall grew older he began to lecture on the subject, he expanded his theory into the science of phrenology, which quickly gained traction in Europe before spreading overseas to America by way of Gall’s own student Johann Kaspar Spurzheim [1]. 

Franz Joseph Gall, credited as the creator of phrenology.
Image credit: Smithsonian Institution Archives, Smithsonian Institution. “Smithsonian Learning Lab Resource: Franz Joseph Gall 1758-1828).” Smithsonian Learning Lab, Smithsonian Center for Learning and Digital Access, 25 Nov. 2016.

Phrenology, now considered pseudoscience, was widely popular in the 19th century among the general public as a way to make sense of human behavior. Middle class Americans were drawn to phrenology as one may be drawn to the predictions of astrological horoscope. They took comfort in the notion that something as unpredictable and subjective as the human psyche could now be quantified by a series of cranial measurements. The skull was divided into regions called “organs,” and the physical measurement of an organ would determine if you exhibited more or less of the personality trait corresponding to that organ. Gall theorized that the more developed the trait, the larger the organ, and the larger a protrusion it formed in the skull [1].

Phrenological bust from Fowler and Wells’ Phrenological Cabinet showing the “organs” of the brain and labelled with corresponding characteristics. Visit the National Museum of Psychology to see a phrenological bust up close.
Image credit: National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution. “Smithsonian Learning Lab Resource: Phrenology, By L. N. Fowler.” Smithsonian Learning Lab. 29 Jan. 2020. Smithsonian Center for Learning and Digital Access. 06 Dec. 2020.

As soon as brothers Orson and Lorenzo Fowler learned of the theory from visiting lecturer Spurzheim, they turned Phrenology into their life’s passion and joined with fellow phrenological enthusiast Samuel R. Wells to establish America’s most prominent phrenological hub, The Phrenological Cabinet in New York City [2]. The storefront functioned as a museum, medical office, and publishing house all in one. Busts, both real and replica skulls, and phrenological diagrams and literature were displayed and sold here. Anyone could walk in and have their own skull measured and examined to gain a better sense of self as well as discover ways in which they could correct their negative behaviors. Magazines like The Phrenological Journal and Life Illustrated were published and distributed here, including writings by the Fowlers themselves, who spent much of their time lecturing about their theories all over the country.

Samuel R. Wells, Charlotte Fowler Wells, and Lorenzo N. Fowler stand in the doorway of S.R. Wells & Co., The Phrenological Cabinet, with two other men.
Image credit: Fowler and Wells families papers, #97. Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections, Cornell University Library.

While the Fowlers gallivanted around America on lengthy lecture tours, who was left to take care of the family business? Samuel R. Wells oversaw the publishing side of The Phrenological Cabinet, but it was primarily the three men’s wives who took on the managerial and sometimes medical responsibilities within the office. Phrenology allowed women a sense of autonomy by allowing them a better understanding of their own mind and body, and for many women phrenology was a socially acceptable entry point to begin to seek out scientific knowledge.  Abigail Fowler-Chumos, wife of Orson Fowler, became “Orson’s business manager, property manager, publisher, and phrenologist-in-training” [3]. Charlotte Fowler Wells, wife of Samuel Wells and sister to the Fowlers, “was the firm’s longstanding and highly respected business manager” and was even known as the “Mother of Phrenology” [3]. Lydia Fowler Wells, wife of Lorenzo Fowler, “was the second woman to receive an M.D. in the USA, after [British] Elizabeth Blackwell,” making her the first American woman to receive an M.D. [4]. When it came to the business of phrenology, middle-class American women were not only the number one consumers; they ran the show. 

Lydia Folger Fowler, M. D, was the first American female doctor of medicine. She was also the first female professor at an American medical college.
Image credit: “The Late Mrs. Lydia F. Fowler, M. D.” Wheaton College, c. 1880. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Lydia_Folger_Fowler.jpg#metadata

During the Civil War, women stepped up to run their households in their husbands’ absences. Women were not about to let go of their newfound autonomy during the following Gilded Age, and phrenology was one of the earliest scientific fields in which women could practice and participate. You would be surprised to learn how progressive the Fowlers were as they “combined the business of phrenology with the work of reform, linking the science to temperance, dress reform, diet reform, water-cure and women’s rights” [4]. 

You can learn more about phrenology and women’s role in the field in the “Know Thyself” virtual exhibition.

Thirteen complete issues of The Phrenological Journal and Life Illustrated are now available as digital editions of the Ludy T. Benjamin, Jr. Popular Psychology Magazine Collection.

Sources Used:

  1. Morse, Minna Scherlinder. “Facing a Bumpy History,” Smithsonian Magazine, 1997 Oct. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/facing-a-bumpy-history-144497373/
  2. “Orson S. Fowler,” The Phrenological Journal and Life Illustrated, Vol. 84-85, pp. 196-198. 
  3. Lilleleht, Erica. “‘Assuming the Privilege’ of Bridging Divides,” History of Psychology, vol. 18, no. 4, 2015, pp. 414-432.
  4. Bittel, Carla. “Woman, Know Thyself: Producing and Using Phrenological Knowledge in 19th-Century America,” Centaurus, 19 April 2014, pp. 104-130.

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In 1968, Joe South sang “Oh the games people play now.  Every night and every day now.  Never meaning what they say now.  Never saying what they mean.” The Sixties was a vibrant and volatile decade, often called a decade of ‘promise and heartbreak.’  It featured a greatly expanded public interest in psychology, with popular psychology manifested in a host of new magazines, books, movies, and television shows that focused on the fascination with human behavior.  The decade also ushered in a new generation of psychological games: board games and party games.  These games promised to reveal hidden personality traits, to help players get in touch with their “true selves,” to expose prejudices, to enhance empathy, and to reward psychological strategies in solving problems.  There was the “Group Therapy” game, released in 1969 that helped players “open up, get in touch, feel free.”  And there was “Insight” which appeared in 1967, a game intended to reveal a person’s personality.

At the Cummings Center for the History of Psychology at the University of Akron, one of our jobs is to preserve the historical records of psychology for scholars and others who want to understand psychology in all of its forms.  To that end we are working to build a collection of these psychological games.  One of our blogs in January 2015 described three psychology games from the 1970s and asked for individuals who might own those games to consider donating them to the Center.  Alas we have not received any of those.  From a search of ebay listings over the past several years we know that at least 50 psychology games have been marketed in the past century, and the actual number may be much higher than that.  The oldest psychology game we have identified is a game that features palm reading that was released in 1919.  We have this game in our collection (see photo).  But this is the ONLY such game, thus it is a very small “collection” to say the least.

hand

Psychology of the Hand, 1919

Here are a few of the other games out there that we hope to acquire:

 

Person-Alysis is a game from 1957 that uses inkblots similar to those in the Rorschach Test to reveal a person’s personality.  There are perhaps a dozen games on the market that use inkblots in this way.

personalysis

Person-Alysis, 1957

There is the Woman & Man game from 1971 that explores gender differences in a board game that allows men and women to stay in their gender roles or to switch so that “men can learn what it is like to be a ‘mere female,’ to compete in a world that caters to men.  And women will get a taste of male supremacy, and compete in the sweet certainty that the world is made in a male image.”

womanman

Woman & Man (1971)

And there is Psychologizer from 1987 “for the people watcher in all of us.”

psychologizer

Psychologizer, 1987

So perhaps you are preparing to clean out your attic or just reduce some clutter.  If your cleaning leads you to discover such games, we would welcome them as additions.

Or, if you’re interested in making a charitable donation, some psychology games are available for purchase on ebay. You can have them sent directly to us at Cummings Center for the History of Psychology, The University of Akron, 73 S. College Street, Akron, Ohio, 44325-4302. You can contact us at ahap@uakron.edu.

Here is a list of psychology games we have identified.

  • 1919    Psychology of the Hand
  • 1937    50 Million Faces
  • 1942    Profiles
  • 1957    Guys and Gals
  • 1957    Person Alysis
  • 1957    React-O
  • 1967    Insight
  • 1969    Group Therapy
  • 1969    The Robot Game
  • 1970    Body Talk
  • 1970    Blacks and Whites
  • 1970    The Cities Game
  • 1971    Perception
  • 1971    Psych Out
  • 1971    Society Today
  • 1971    Woman Man
  • 1972    The Feel Wheel
  • 1972    The Ungame
  • 1976    Roll-a-Role
  • 1976    Social Security
  • 1978    Bonkers
  • 1979    Gone Bananas
  • 1981    Assert with Love
  • 1986    Stress Attack
  • 1986    Therapy – The Game
  • 1987    Ink Blotz
  • 1987    Psychologizer
  • 1987    PSI – Psychology, Slander, Intuition
  • 1990    True Colors
  • 1993    Imagine
  • 1998    Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus
  • 1998    Rorshock
  • 2000    Think Blot
  • 2004    Dr. Playwell’s Anger Control Games
  • 2004    Psychobox – A Box of Psychological Games
  • 2012    Psych-a-Doodle
  • 2012    Psychopoly
  • 2013    Therapy Flashcards
  • 2015    Better Me
  • 2015    Doodle Therapy
  • (no date) Mindfulness Matters
  • (no date) Mixed Emotions

 

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Contributed by Rhonda Rinehart.

Chances are if you had a question, Little Blue Books had an answer.  Actually, many answers.  On any topic.  For everyone, everywhere.  Little Blue Books were your local library.  They were the 1920s version of Wikipedia.  And they kept the post office in business.  At 5-10 cents a pop, Little Blue Books weren’t free but they were cheap, and they could be shipped to any address in the world for nothing.  Always 3 ½” x 5 ½”, these tiny tomes of paper and staples were easily transportable, whether you were delivering them or reading them.

Emanuel Haldeman-Julius hoped to find a place, even if a small one, in the annals of literary history.  More specifically (and more colorfully), he said this:

At the close of the 20th Century some flea-bitten,

sun-bleached, fly-specked, rat-gnawed,

dandruff- sprinkled professor of literature

is going to write a five-volume history of the books

of our century. In it a chapter will be devoted to

publishers and editors of books, and in that chapter

perhaps a footnote will be given to me.

With apologies to professors of literature, Haldeman-Julius did indeed carve out a place of his own among the publishing world.  What was once an earnest (and successful) endeavor to provide affordable and accessible reading to the entire world population (for real!) has now become a collector’s delight.

Early advertisement for Little Blue Books

 

In the areas of psychology, psychiatry and self-help, Little Blue Books offered a surprisingly large selection of titles that ranged from topics like autosuggestion to testing to animal behavior.  Fairly cutting-edge stuff for the general public of the early 20th century.

Some of the Little Blue Books on psychoanalysis, a gift of Ludy T. Benjamin, Jr.

 

The small collection of 34 Little Blue Books donated to the Center by Ludy T. Benjamin, Jr., contains several titles on psychoanalysis in the ever-popular “know thyself” format.  Courtesy of the Haldeman-Julius publishing company, you can learn how to psychoanalyze yourself, and you can read along as a popular author psychoanalyzes himself and the entire United States.

Psychoanalyzing yourself

Psychoanalyzing yourself

 

But what’s even more fun than psychoanalyzing yourself (at least for this archivist) is making a connection from something as broad and far-reaching as the nearly two thousand Little Blue Books titles to something very specific located right here in the archives at the Cummings Center.

New Experiments in Animal Psychology (Little Blue Book No. 693) features work from all the well-worn and heavy-hitting names of those early pioneers of animal psychology – Thorndike, Yerkes, Watson, Witmer – and then suddenly hits the reader with an illustration on page 19 (something quite rare in Little Blue Books) – a depiction of Ivan Pavlov’s famed drooling dog experiment, demonstrating classical conditioning.

Illustration in Little Blue Book No. 693 of  Pavlov’s Conditioned Reflex Apparatus monitoring animal responses to stimuli

 

Now comes the good part.  The Center’s collection of objects and artifacts has a very small replica of the set-up that Pavlov used in his experiments to measure a dog’s salivary response to certain stimuli like food or later, the sound of a metronome or a buzzer.  Like a miniature laboratory, this cute and portable likeness of the real thing was used for teaching about those conditioned responses without the mess of a drooling dog in the classroom.

Simulated chamber with dog model used to simulate conditioning experiments

 

And that’s what is so fun about working, studying, and researching here at the Center.  There are those moments that happen when a connection is made and you light up and say, “Yes!  I’ve seen that before” or “This was on TV last night!”  Even if you don’t have a background in psychology (I’m raising my hand here), there are so many objects, so much media, and mountains of written and published works that relate to everyday life to be found at the Center – you will not only be able to psychoanalyze yourself, you’ll be able to recognize the science behind a drooling dog.

Search the finding aid for more information.  Please contact us to view these Little Blue Books.

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– contributed by guest blogger Dr. Ludy T. Benjamin, Jr.

The Cummings Center for the History of Psychology has a large collection of some of the most important apparatus and objects related to psychological science and practice covering the past 150 years.  There are brass chronoscopes from the 1800s that measured reaction time in one-thousandths of a second.  There are a variety of rat mazes, tachistoscopes, and Skinner boxes.  The “shock” machine used by Stanley Milgram in his famous obedience studies is in the Center’s collections as are a Bobo doll from Albert Bandura’s research, guard uniforms from Philip Zimbardo’s Stanford prison study, a surrogate monkey head from Harry Harlow’s studies of love in monkeys, and one of B. F. Skinner’s air cribs.  The Center is always looking to add to its collections, including items that were of questionable scientific value.  One such item is the Psycho-Phone pictured below.

ben1

 

Similar in principle to audio devices today that play messages during a person’s sleep, for example, alleging sleep learning, the Psycho-Phone was the invention of Alois Benjamin Saliger (1880-1969) who patented his machine in 1932 as an “Automatic Time-Controlled Suggestion Machine.”  The device was essentially an Edison-style phonograph with a timer that played the contents from a wax cylinder during the period of sleep.  Saliger believed that the messages delivered during sleep would enter a person’s unconscious and have a powerful influence on the individual’s behavior.

 

The device was first advertised in the June 1927 issue of the popular psychology magazine, “Psychology: Health, Happiness, Success.”

ben2

The machine was quite expensive, selling for $235 in 1929.  That would be the equivalent of $3,250 in 2017.  It came with several wax cylinders, each with messages relating to a different theme; one was labeled “Prosperity”, another “Life Extension,” and a third “Mating.”  Eventually Saliger expanded the record library to more than a dozen titles, even one in Spanish.  According to a story in The New Yorker in 1933, the message on the Mating recording included the following statements: “I desire a mate.  I radiate love.  I have a fascinating and attractive personality.  My conversation is interesting.  My company is delightful.  I have a strong sex appeal.”  Saliger was convinced of the effectiveness of the Psycho-Phone noting that 50 of his customers reported finding a mate.  He did not say how many of the Mating recordings had been sold.

Saliger ran monthly advertisements in the popular psychology magazines of the late 1920s touting the remarkable benefits of his Psycho-Phone.  Here is another of his ads.

ben3

In looking for expert endorsers of his machine, Saliger might have chosen someone other than Dr. Quackenbos, whose name would not conjure up images of a charlatan.

ben4

By 1933, Saliger claimed that he had sold more than 2,500 of the Psycho-Phones.  If such a number is even close to being accurate, a number of these devices should still exist today.  But despite our best efforts, we have not been able to find one to add to our collections at the Center.  If you have one of these or know of the location of a Psycho-Phone we would appreciate your contacting the Center at ahap@uakron.edu.  If you would like to donate one to the Center as a charitable gift, it would be most appreciated.

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contributed by Jodi Kearns

Can a board game save your life?

The Ludy T. Benjamin, Jr. Popular Psychology Magazine Collection is a gift that keeps on giving. While digitizing the collection, I noticed order forms with vague descriptions and testimonials for three therapeutic games by the Kimm Company on the back covers of some 1977 and 1978 issues of Human Behavior.

The Ungame (for ages 8 to 108) with its tagline “Tell it like it is” suggests that by playing, you can give your friends a better understanding about who you are. “Can a game save a life? Prevent a bad marriage? Bring a father and son closer together?” Well, the publishers do not promise these results in every case, but claim to have received “cards, letters and even phone calls on a daily basis which prove The Ungame can and has improved the quality of life for thousands of people.” Do favors and give compliments and say what you really feel.

The Ungame Advertisement 1970s

Roll-a-Role (for ages 8 to 108) claims to be “A Life-Changing Experience!” that is entertaining, enlightening, non-competitive, and non-threatening. It’s a game of communication, dramatization, and improvisation by becoming new people and acting out situations rolled by the dice prompts and a talk topic.

Roll-a-Role Advertisement 1970s

Social Security (for ages 6 to 106) is about “getting along with people” by sharing opinions, hopes, humor, and dreams. Its disclaimer indicates no affiliation to a government program, but that playing the game offers a tax-free path to being socially secure. Players can visit places on the board like the Dynamite Solutions Juice Bar and the Feelings Fruitstand. Play this game for a “revelation in expression.”

Social Security Advertisement 1970s

Social Security Advertisement 1970s

People who have recently played these 1970s therapy games rank them between 1½ and 2½ stars out of 10 on boardgamegeek.com. You can’t win ‘em all, (so I guess it’s appropriate that these games of therapy are designed to have no losers.)

The CCHP would be pleased to archive your copies of these Kimm Company games. Kimm Company was a Division of Manson Western Corporation in Los Angeles, California. Please contact us at ahap@uakron.edu to initiate the donation process.

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