by Mary Miles, PhD
“Phrenology is prospering with a mighty rush,” Orson Fowler, publisher of the American Phrenological Journal, declared in 1849; “it is effectually shaping the public mind.” Fowler had reason to boast. His publishing firm of Fowlers and Wells was a clearing-house for information on some of the most prevalent public interests of Americans in the nineteenth century. They popularized phrenology, a system of character analysis built around the belief that intrinsic personality traits are revealed in the physical shape and appearance of the head, and hydropathy, a doctrine that promoted the healing powers of water. Fowlers and Wells used print material to advance these reform movements. They sold over 90,000 copies of The Phrenological Almanac in 1846. During 1850, they circulated The American Phrenological Journal to 30,000 subscribers. In 1852, they printed 50,000 copies of The Water-Cure Journal and hoped to garner 100,000 yearly subscribers by 1860. They sold books about phrenology and the water-cure by the dozens. What factors enabled the Fowlers to wield such influence in American culture?
Orson and Lorenzo Fowler, their sister Charlotte, and her husband, Samuel Wells, were all born between 1809 and 1820, and grew up in western New York State. Growing up in the “burned over district” the Fowler siblings and Wells developed a deep appreciation for the power of religion and reform to transform society. As children playing in a newly settled landscape etched by dramatic gorges, cresting waterfalls, and deep lakes, the young Fowlers and Wells explored a region whose geographic and demographic conditions nourished a wide range of unorthodox religious and reform movements. This striking countryside was mirrored in the imaginations of the Mormons, Spiritualists and Mesmerists who moved across it. Upwardly mobile, Protestant families in the Northeast, such as the Fowlers and Wells, were in the vanguard of a newly emerging reform ethic in America. By the mid-nineteenth century, Americans were eradicating the perceived barrier between practical and spiritual pursuits by attacking social and political problems with religious passion. Their religious beliefs compelled them to believe that the worldly arenas of politics, society, and economics had sacred significance.
The young Fowlers and Wells emerged from this background to enter the publishing world in the midst of dramatic changes in printing and reading practices. Americans had always recognized the power of text. Protestants enshrined the Word at the intersection between the individual believer and God. Revolutionaries rallied support through political pamphlets and founders engraved their government structures in documents. Patriots in the new nation depended upon words -- Biblical axioms or historic lessons -- to inculcate the virtue that they believed was essential in a republican citizenry. Virtuous reading material was sure to dominate the limited libraries in most homes where Bibles, almanacs, and perhaps some historic texts became worn with use over the years. In the early national period, the book business was small and localized, limited to expensive, imported texts. The relative expense and scarcity of books meant that reading was a controlled, orderly activity as Americans scrutinized their limited volumes in search of moral lessons.
This situation changed radically during the second quarter of the nineteenth century. New principles in press building, type-casting and papermaking originated in Europe and were adopted and elaborated upon in America. Expanding printing operations used the mechanized press rather than the hand press and employed stereotyping and electrotyping to make better plates. Mills began using wood pulp rather than cloth to make greater quantities of paper. Once printed materials were completed, better roads, shipping routes, and railways provided an improved network for transporting them. The market for texts expanded as an increase in elementary schools and town libraries fueled literacy. Between 1825 and 1850, the number of libraries tripled, and lyceums flourished in nearly every center of population. This combination of accessible books and face to face interactions with authors wetted American appetites for reading.
When they moved to New York City to establish their publishing firm, the Fowlers and Wells positioned themselves at the core of this burgeoning print industry. By the beginning of the nineteenth century, New York had become the most populated city in the United States. Its waterways to the interior gave its transportation network a commanding superiority over that of other cities. Between 1820 and 1852, 345 publishers opened in New York, while only 198 emerged in Philadelphia, the second largest printing center. Large publishing firms such as Harpers, Putmans and Scribners, originated in New York during this time.
As commodities, texts became part of the consumer culture that transformed American life by the early nineteenth century. Industrialization and expanding systems of trade displaced local production and limited markets. Production moved from the home to centralized workspaces, pulling families into gendered separate spheres. Merchants and shippers increased the degrees of separation between buyer and seller, uniting Americans across distances while cloaking their exchanges in anonymity. These rapid changes made Americans anxious as they foraged among the new commodities in search of ways to define themselves and represent that identity to others.
In the context of this new economy, the nature of reading changed radically. No longer dependant upon European imports, Americans generated an independent literary culture. Texts became disposable as pioneering newspaper publishers, such as Pulitzer and Bennett, brought new scandals, gossip and crime reports to citizens each day. Mass produced novels and serial stories crowded Bibles on bookshelves as readers made space for works by authors of questionable backgrounds and motives. No longer a mark of self-discipline, reading became a form of entertainment that threatened to spark imagination and rile passions. Critics warned that corruption and temptation loomed behind each sensational tale of degeneracy or fictive invention of subversive behavior that exposed Americans to vices that may have been beyond their ken in daily life. The critical moralist worried that the seductive pleasures of excessive reading, like too much sex, could drive readers insane. The new world of fiction and sensational reporting appeared fraught with disruptive potential.
Novel writers navigated this terrain by framing tales of seduction in moral lessons, insisting that the depravity or licentiousness that appealed to the imagination would inevitably lead to misfortune for their fictional envoys. Newspaper publishers insisted that, far from encouraging degenerate behavior, their stories armed readers with information about crime and vice, enabling them to avoid potential dangers. Negotiating between a notion that the press served the public interest through overt moral indoctrination and the view that open access to information empowered individual Americans to make virtuous decisions on their own, publishers pursued their own interests as well by developing profitable business strategies.
The Fowlers and Wells entered the publishing world in the midst of these debates. These discussions about reading were part of larger efforts to continually reconfigure fluctuating understandings of the American character in the face of rapid social changes. In an era when traditional markers of identity were scattered by economic shifts, a gradually cohering middle class struggled to define its parameters. This group identified itself not only by employment, social status, and consumption, but through adherence to a distinctively American middle class ethos premised upon individualism, self-help, democratic participation, and liberal economics. The new and unexplored potentials of the mass press presented opportunities to articulate this evolving national ethos. Fowlers and Wells met these opportunities with excitement and imagination. They embraced the new printing capabilities and courted the expanding audience, playing with the different uses of mass communication.
As zealous social reformers, the Fowlers and Wells promoted phrenology and the water-cure as forms of self-help that would improve society as well. They challenged prevailing attitudes on issues such as medicine, religion and gender. Advertising alternative medical practices and spiritualist seances, Fowlers and Wells prompted readers to question the authority of professional doctors and institutionalized clergy. Asserting that their journals would provide “ordinary people” with tools for self-improvement, they employed the rhetoric of democracy and equality to frame their arguments. Relying on the notion of the “Self-made man” Fowlers and Wells believed that the way to level the American playing field was to teach individuals to improve themselves. Like other reformers operating among the northeastern antebellum elite, the Fowlers and Wells radically challenged authority and convention, but just as vehemently imposed their own visions of a moral order rooted in individual autonomy and social mobility in an unregulated economy.
Because they were running a business as well as a cause, the Fowler’s proselytizing efforts aggressively used marketing techniques. They turned ideas about phrenology and the water-cure into palpable, printed commodities which they could sell for profit. While selling their books, the Fowlers and Wells taught readers to look for self-improvement and social reform amidst commodities. They trained readers to expect text that was colloquial, easy to read, and repetitive, while constantly whetting their appetites for more books and newer materials. The Fowlers used their journals to cultivate loyalty and establish community bonds. While the Fowlers encouraged individualism among readers, they also used aggressive techniques of persuasion to pull them into a pattern of reading and consuming that shaped mass commercial culture.
Their proselytizing and marketing agendas wrote Fowlers and Wells publishers into the tensions and contradictions inscribed at the heart of a coalescing American middle class ethos: How can authors champion democracy and equality when access to their words is limited by the economic constraints of a profit driven economy? Can social reform be pursued through programs of self-help and improvement? How can advice literature meant to inspire individual initiative and challenges to orthodoxy avoid becoming an authority itself? At what point do persuasive advertising techniques become aggressive manipulation? Will the mass commercial press become a liberating influence in the lives of American individuals or an impetus towards conformity? Do visions of self-help and self-made men foster genuine social mobility and change or simply bolster the groups whose notions already dominate national discussions? These questions shape our interpretations of the Fowlers’ and Wells’s contributions to the patterns that connect reading, self-help and consumerism in the American ethos.
The Fowlers’ First Passion: Americanizing Phrenology
The Fowlers entry into reform opened when Orson Fowler discovered the European science of phrenology and looked for ways to promote it in America. As a seminary student at Amherst college, Fowler found the vocation which would lure him away from his preparations for the ministry and draw his brother, sister, and brother-in-law into a family publishing business. In 1832, Orson attended a lecture on phrenology given by the European physician, Johan Spurzheim, who was touring America. Spurzheim described a system developed by physician Franz Gall in eighteenth century Vienna, in which the brain was divided into separate organs that governed different personality traits. Spurzheim believed that a phrenological physician could ascertain the strength of these different organs by a careful examination of the skull. Most Americans who encountered phrenology during the 1830s did so by attending lectures by Spurzheim, or fellow European physician, George Combe. Although a wide variety of Americans attended the lectures because they were interested in science, the talks were directed towards doctors and professors. Spurzheim and Combe’s main goal was not to teach ordinary Americans how to use or practice phrenology, but to convince the medical community to embrace the new system.
During the 1830s, reading was secondary to lecturing as a conduit for Americans to learn about phrenology. George Combe wrote most of the expensive, imported books that did circulate. His works were described as “long, sober and argumentative.” His style was “moralising and didactic.” Combe’s defenses of phrenology usually resembled “the format of a problem in geometry,” building a “proof” through given evidence and examples. Combe’s best-seller in England, The Constitution of Man (1828), was a dense tome, unbroken by pictures, scholarly in tone, and devoid of amusing anecdotes. Like their lecturers, the books on phrenology which the British sent to America were not meant to teach individuals how to improve themselves or reform society; they were intended to advance the cause of science.
The Fowlers were the first and most successful of the Americans who transformed this vision of phrenology. While Combe and Spurzheim wanted phrenology to sweep the world through the corridors of academia, the Fowlers sought to advance the discipline among the general populace. The Fowlers popularized phrenology. Within its doctrines, they found a philosophy that seemed to suggest that God’s plan for each individual was encoded into his or her skull. For the Fowlers, phrenology offered an unlimited potential for reform, since an individual could nurture good tendencies and take steps to control negative traits. Most significantly, the Fowlers believed that phrenology was practical. They devised theories whereby phrenology could be used as a guide in making career choices or finding appropriate mates. They did not want to keep control of phrenological examinations in the hands of physicians, but aimed to teach individual Americans how to use the science to “know themselves” and better society.
The innovative nature of the Fowlers’ approach is highlighted by their predecessors’ reaction to popular phrenologists in both England and America. In 1836, George Combe, who pointedly avoided the Fowlers on his future visits to America, denounced Phrenological “Quacks.” He criticized them for examining heads “indiscriminately,” where examination may be of “no use to science.” Even worse, Combe railed, “there are individuals who make it their business to …receive pay…at so much per head!” This commodification of phrenology, according to Combe, turned “a dignified science into …legerdemain.”
For the Fowlers, it was just this type of commodification which was vital to the success of their movement. After abandoning their evangelical careers to proselytize for phrenology in the early 1830s, the brothers were faced with the question of how to support themselves while furthering their cause. How could they transform the set of ideas that comprised phrenology into tangible units to be bought and sold for profit? The brothers began by giving lectures and charging audience members twelve and a half cents for character analysis and a phrenological chart. Consumers were drawn to these events by the lure of persuasive speech. The spoken word united listeners in a temporary community held together by shared interest in phrenology. The lectures were also good entertainment.
According to Fowler family biographer, Madeline Stern, the phrenological lecturers had much to offer their audiences. Lorenzo explained the basic tenets of phrenology in “his succinct, matter-of-fact style” while Orson “elaborated eloquently and enthusiastically on its grandiose possibilities.” At the end of each discourse, the public was invited to a demonstration of phrenology applied to volunteer subjects. Skeptics in particular were encouraged to “test” the accuracy of the Fowlers’ analysis. The brothers applied their hands to the subject’s scalp, becoming familiar with the shape of the skull and looking for distances between various “organs.” These examinations were opportunities for dramatic displays of showmanship. As the Folwers felt heads, they also talked, narrating as they ascertained the strength of different organs. For example, a loquacious man was like “a full jug, turned upside down, with the stopper out.” At one public meeting, Orson recoiled when he touched the head of his subject, exclaiming “No Conscientiousness! Not a bit! No Approbativeness! No feeling of shame!” The man was subsequently found to have been arrested for the manslaughter of a female slave. To defy critics, sometimes the brothers even performed demonstrations blind-folded, emphasizing even more pointedly the tactile nature of their practice.
The experience of attending phrenological demonstrations engaged a variety of senses. Impressive oration captivated the ears, while the Fowlers’ gentle examinations of scalps aroused the sense of touch. Lectures were interactive events, where skeptics in the audience would scheme to “trip up” the Fowlers and the speakers would address questions and criticisms. When Orson Fowler began publishing the Phrenological Journal in 1937, he was faced with the challenge of translating this experience into an equally engaging format when limited to a single sense, vision. How would the Fowlers, who could discuss phrenology with zeal, and effectively demonstrate its validity to live audiences, transform their ideas into printed commodities?
Making Ideas Visual: The American Phrenological Journal
As editors, the Fowlers and Wells saw instruction as the main goal of their journal. Their aim was to “teach mankind how to curb and direct their passions, and to stimulate their virtues into ripeness.” In 1848, Orson Fowler informed his readers that “each volume will analyze the phrenological character of one or more persons distinguished for something” -- i. e. famous people such as Thomas Cole, Edgar Allan Poe, or James Audubon. “This will teach the science in the most effectual manner possible,” Fowler determined. “It will be exactly what amateurs need,” he assured readers.
To achieve this end, the Fowlers strove to make phrenology into a skill that was easy to learn through printed materials. One of their most effective techniques was the delineation of Gall’s complicated “science,” which had required careful, live examinations, into a practice that could be exercised simply by looking at a photograph. In their books and journals, the Fowlers focused on how characteristics manifested themselves in blatant appearance traits. These traits were so apparent that they could be captured by simple ink drawings and reproduced by stereotyped printing presses.
For example, a drawing of a tired looking, balding, heavy-set man was described as representing the “phlegmatic temperament.” The authors explained that “this temperament is one of comparative dullness, inactivity and debility.” Unfortunately, people of this temperament “rarely accomplish much.” In comparison, a pretty young woman, dressed in a low cut dress, sitting with her fingers gently grazing her cheek as she stared playfully into the distance, represented the sanguine temperament. People with sanguine temperaments exhibit “A fullness of life, with something of levity and thoughtlessness rather than of strength and steadiness.” People of the sanguine temperament, incidentally the only one in this particular section represented by a woman, “are pleasant companions, but are better fitted to accompany, or follow and execute, than to lead and command.”
Sections on “animal phrenology” helped readers practice their visual assessments of character. For example, beneath a head-shot of a fox that seems to be gazing slyly out at readers, the authors explained that “the fox is the embodiment of selfishness and treachery.” The fox “cannot be accused of mental dullness, or intellectual inferiority, but he has so little pride and nobleness, and so much finesse, that he degrades himself by acts of meanness, which a lion or a respectable dog would despise.” After readers learned the specific character traits of an animal, they could look for people who resembled that species and assume that they shared similar personalities.
By demonstrating this fast, visual method of analysis the journal made phrenology fun and easy for readers to do themselves. This “democratized” phrenology because everyone could easily tell the difference between a soulful human face looking out at them with the loyalty of a dog, and a shifty appearance that reminded them of a fox. It made reading the journal as entertaining as attending lectures. Profiles of famous people had the appeal of gossip. Flipping through the journal was amusing and interesting because the mind was engaged in guessing at the character descriptions beneath each image. The seemingly endless repetition of the same basic points, applied to similar pictures, slowly trained the eye of the average reader to look for “character traits” in real people as well.
Pictures, stories and instructions made the ideas of phrenology easy to understand. Fowlers and Wells made these ideas even more accessible by presenting them in a format that readers could survey at a glance. Journal pages were attractively arranged, with borders dividing the various sections and clear headings describing each segment. Articles were not dense, but short and pointed. The main ideas were clearly spelled out for readers. Fowlers and Wells taught them to expect this. “An unalienable right of any reader, on first opening any book, is to know its subject matter, and the proposed manner of treating it; the proper place for stating which is in its introduction,” Orson Fowler explained at the beginning of On Science. Clear introductions and headings made it possible for readers to skim journals and books quickly to get the main ideas. One reader explained that when he first received a new issue of the journal, he began by “dipping into it here and there, by way of tasting and flavoring, before I sit down to make a meal of it.”
Readers of the Fowlers’ journals found broad generalizations and clear opinions rather than encountering the complex arguments and explanations that had comprised the volumes by Combe and Spurzheim. A Glasgow publication noted that the Fowlers were “intensely American in their style,” and based their writing entirely upon the “Yankee go-a-head principle.” These American characteristics included:
Many inaccuracies…coincidences taken for causations…hasty generalizations are assumed as established laws, and much that is at present only guess-work, however shrewd, in the higher fields of phrenological speculation, are at once, sang foid, laid down as most established and determinate doctrine…many announcements of the most starling nature…as cannot but…excite the risible faculties of even the most confirmed disciples of phrenology.
Although they criticized these traits, British phrenologists noted that this style propelled phrenology to a position of prominence in America, while it “languished” in their own country. “In America,” wrote John Epps, a member of the Edinburg Phrenological Society, “you seem to have more intensity, more prominence and this keeps the matter more actively before the public mind.”
Proselytizing: Self-Help as Social Reform
In their journals and books, Fowlers and Wells presented phrenology as more than an amusing pastime – it formed the basis of a detailed formula for self-improvement. They wanted readers to learn to do phrenology themselves so that they could make more informed decisions about their vocations and improve their positions in life. In The Illustrated Self-Instructor in Phrenology, Orson Fowler spelled out these goals:
Self knowledge…shows us our natural talents, capabilities, virtues, vices, strong and weak points, liabilities to err, etc. And thereby point out, unmistakably, those occupations and spheres in which we can and cannot succeed and shine; and develops the laws and conditions of human and personal virtue and moral perfection….It is, therefore, the quintessence of all knowledge; places its possessor upon the very acme of enjoyment and perfection; and bestows the highest powers and richest treasures mortals can possess.
The Fowlers and Wells aimed to promote social mobility and the rehabilitation of delinquent behavior by providing the potentially upwardly mobile with tools for self-betterment. To highlight this cause, the Fowlers paraded their efforts to make their advice available to a broad range of consumers and came up with a number of new and innovative ways to cut the costs of their materials. In 1851, they lowered the cost of their phrenological journal by increasing the size of the periodical to mail it at cheaper newspaper rates, instead of the higher price for books. Fowlers and Wells noted that the former postage taxes had deterred thousands of persons from becoming subscribers and announced that the new form would save subscribers, “some five or six thousand dollars a year – a saving of no little consequence for those who earn their money by the sweat of their brow.” To serve these working people, the Fowlers offered short books and pamphlets for as little as twelve and a half cents.
For readers on their way up the social ladder, the Fowlers proffered advice on how to operate successfully in the white collar world. They promoted reading as a form of instruction in middle class culture. They advertised a series of “How To” books on topics such as how to behave at a party, at church, in travelling, or at a place of amusement. Other offerings included a guide to correct personal habits, instructions on how to talk in public meetings, how to address the legislature, and how to conduct business in the store or counting room.
Stories from a wide range of people indicate that readers did embrace phrenology as a self-help method. In 1867, William Blakie wrote to Fowler and Wells asking whether he would make a better oil man or lawyer. Samuel Wells advised Blakie to “stick to the law,” because he had all the faculties for a professional life. Based on this advice, Blakie “declined an offer that does not come along but once or twice in a lifetime, and one too which would have suited me in almost every respect.” Another reader, Fostor Blodgett, took phrenology so seriously that he asked Sam Wells to send copies of an issue containing his favorable character analysis to the homes of every member of the United States Congress. As phrenology gained in popularity, stories circulated of women changing their hairstyles to accentuate positive prhenological features, and employers who demanded to see phrenological charts from potential employees.
Walt Whitman provides an example of a phrenological reader who put the Fowlers’ self-help advice into action. One of Orson Fowler’s major techniques for fighting vice was to “shout inwardly” against temptation. In outlining a remedy for the widespread vice of masturbation, Fowler advocated talking to one’s self in capital letters: “TOTAL ABSTINENCE IS LIFE….INDULGENCE IS TRIPLE DEATH! RESOLUTION – DETERMINATION TO STOP NOW AND FOREVER – is your starting point.” Whitman mirrored this strategy when writing about his struggles over homosexuality. In his diary Whitman wrote: “TO GIVE UP ABSOLUTELY and for good, from the present hour this FEVERISH FLUCTUATING, useless, UNDIGNIFIED PURSUIT…LET THERE FROM THIS HOUR BE NO FALTERING, NO GETTING at all henceforth.” Whitman even blamed this inner turmoil on an over-developed phrenological organ of adhesiveness. “Depress the adhesive nature,” he wrote, “It is in excess – making life a torment, Ah this diseased, feverish, disproportionate adhesiveness.”
“Celebrity endorsements,” such as those from Whitman, kept phrenology prominent in the public eye through the 1860s. Phrenology remained central to the Fowlers’ formula for self-improvement as well and stayed in the foreground of the visions of social reform. They did, however, pursue a number of other crusades along the way, including alternative medicine, dietary programs, and spiritualism. The Fowlers and Wells became particularly invested in the water-cure movement and translated many of their self-help techniques into the unorthodox medical advice carried in their Water Cure Journal. The themes that resonated through the phrenological movement – individualism, self-help, personal liberty – permeated water-cure publications as well.
Medical and Social Reform: The Water-Cure Journal and Women
In 1848, water-cure practitioner and lecturer, Joel Shew, asked Fowlers and Wells to take over publication of The Water-Cure Journal. Lorenzo Fowler was a Vice-President of the American Hydropathy Association, and Fowlers and Wells had already been promoting the water-cure in their Phrenological Journal, so they must have been happy to assume responsibility for the journal. Within a year, Fowlers and Wells increased the circulation of their new journal from 1000 to twenty thousand. Like Phrenology, hydropathy presented the Fowlers with the challenge of drawing on a practice to produce printed material. During the 1840s many Americans practiced the Water-cure by visiting spas where their ailments were treated with a combination of baths, showers, drinks and “wet-sheet wraps,” in conjunction with a regulated diet and exercise program. Some Americans adapted this regimen to home practice by simply drinking a lot of water and bathing.
Fowlers and Wells translated these experiences to printed matter by collecting stories from people who had been cured by hydrotherapy. For example, a water-cure practitioner described a woman who had “used tea, coffee and meat, and had taken quantities of medicine. She required the water-cure treatment in order to be “fit to bear children.” When the woman went into labor, she called for the hydropathic doctor and calmly sent her husband out of her bedroom. Fifteen minutes later she had a “beautiful baby boy.” When her husband returned he declared, “My God woman, is this the effect of the water treatment? Do proclaim it to the world!” As his wife shed tears of joy, she could “hardly credit her senses, she had suffered so little pain.”
Instructions on how to procure a water-cure practitioner, find a spa, or practice the cure at home generated more printed material. Every journal issue included extensive listings and advertisements for water-cure spas and practitioners. In addition, the Journal and other publications printed instructions on how to do the water-cure at home. Procedures included the hot foot bath, the cold foot bath, the salt foot bath, and the wet sheet wrap – all of which were pretty self-explanatory, but described nonetheless. The plunge bath, useful for circulatory problems, was somewhat less obvious. It instructed readers to “jump into cold water and out as soon as possible then exercise.” The journal also included a correspondence section, where readers could ask for advice about specific health problems.
During the mid-nineteenth century, the world of medicine was contested terrain. Conventional, or allopathic, medicine struggled to maintain its dominant position over sectarian healing systems, such as hydropathy and homeopathy. Fowlers and Wells, who strongly supported the sectarians, devised several methods of using their publications to participate in this debate. When Fowlers and Wells printed information about the water-cure and other health reforms, they were attempting to place the tools for healing in the hands of individuals rather than in the clutches of the conventional medical community. They brought potential healing methods into the home, where they could be practiced under individual, or family, control. They also brought allopathic medicine under public scrutiny.
The very idea of distributing information and instructions about medicine to a large, general audience was a new and controversial concept in the 1850s. Even avid health reformers such as Sylvester Graham urged the Fowlers and Wells to exercise special care when deciding what information to include in their water-cure publications. He warned the Fowlers not to print conflicting opinions or information in a journal that would be used as a medical guide. According to Graham, a diversity of opinions would not be a problem “if the journal were to be read only by those whose intelligence and discrimination rendered them competent to judge for themselves as to the truth or error of what they read.” But Graham believed that the general masses of people reading the journal would interpret the information in it differently: “the journal is intended to be a sort of …oracle in all matters pertaining to life, health, disease, and designed to be read, for the most part, by those who go to it with a relying faith to receive instruction rather than with a scientific intelligence.” Graham insisted that the large majority of readers needed a “competent editorial authority to which they can safely turn.”
In 1852, the idea of distributing medical information to the general populace was considered to be so threatening that Joel Shew opened his guide for parents with a refutation of that viewpoint. “It has been objected,” he wrote, “that the people are not benefited by the publication of popular works on the subject of health.” He noted that this objection most often came from physicians, who worried that common people would attempt to treat themselves rather than call doctors, or question doctors’ authority when they did see physicians. Shew countered by asking “how often, in the present state of knowledge, does it happen that a child sickens, and, before the parents are aware of it, the patient has passed to a dangerous state.” Although the physicians were called, it was too late to save the child. “How much better then,” Shew argued, “would it have been for both parents and physicians if they had possessed the knowledge which would have caused them to seek medical aid at a proper time.” Shew explained that the contemporary lack of knowledge was problematic for doctors as well, who could be unfairly blamed for failing to cure illnesses that knowledgeable people would recognize as deadly serious. Shew concluded: “The plain truth then is, that the more we disseminate knowledge on the subject of health the better for all concerned. We need not be afraid that any one will learn too much. The more the public know concerning the laws of life, the more will the labors of the truly enlightened and benevolent physician be appreciated.”
In addition to supplying readers with information on alternative medicine, sectarian doctors also used the pages of Fowlers and Wells publications to wage an overt, public war on their enemies, the allopathic physicians. One contributor outlined a plan whereby he would use the Water-Cure Journal as a tool to monitor the behavior of allopathic doctors. He began with a challenge to his opponents in a column directed, “TO ALLOPATHIC PHYSICIANS:”
I now ask your respectable attention to some of the means in use by me which makes my practice so successful. For I claim that it is successful beyond all parallel when compared with yours. Far and near do persons come to me and get health, on whom your most skillful practitioners have essayed their skill in vain. It is of no use in you to deny it.
This writer then described his plans to use the journal to draw public attention and criticism to allopathic practices. “You are persons of so much consequence in the public mind that you need watching,” he wrote. The writer argued that physicians had achieved such a position of authority in American culture that they had “ceased to be watched.” The author noted that he had written articles in former issues of the journal to “call public attention to the falseness of your philosophy and the murderousness of your practices.” In this column, he solicited the “readers of the Journal to ask you for an explanation of them from your stand-point of observation and reflection.”
Another technique which Fowlers and Wells used to attack the allopathic medical authorities was printing “conversion narratives.” They frequently printed letters and accounts from allopathic doctors who had seen the light and converted to hydropathy. In 1857, the journal reported that “a score or two of allopathic physicians have written us that, by means of the teachings in the Water-Cure Journal, the scales have fallen from their eyes, so that they are now able to see the errors and absurdities of the whole drug system in all its naked deformity.” One doctor wrote: “I have been a practitioner of medicine of the “old school” for five years; have administered drugs enough to freight a steamer, and have drawn blood enough to float her. But my patients, I find, are worse off after I cure them than they were before. Their constitutions are ruined!” This doctor “fully resolved to introduce your new system of treating diseases more in accordance with the laws of nature.”
A letter from Paul Howe, the Fowlers’ cousin who was seeking converts for phrenology and hydropathy in his small community of Prattsburg, New York, dramatically illustrates that the Water-Cure Journal did have the capacity to transform the way readers approached their health care. In 1850, he expressed amazement with “the results of the water cure works which have been read in this community within the space of a single year.” At first, the water-cure works were looked upon with “suspicious distrust by the knowing ones, while those who were ever ready to embrace each new fledged humbug of the age were the happy recipients of its blessings,” Howe wrote. But in Prattsburg, “truth was mighty and prevailed,” according to Howe. He explained that suffering townspeople often turned to the alternative medical system in response to the failures or dangers of allopathic treatments:
A few trials of the simple elements to dethrone the monster disease were eloquent in praise of its virtue. Those who sat in the scoffers seat were e’re long seen with towel, brush and tub, ready to perform such adulations as might restore their drugged and diseased systems. A complete revolution has been worked in very many families…even fevers which have been alarmingly fatal over the past three years and have consigned scores of victims to the grave under the best allopathic treatment…have been treated hydropathically with astonishing efficiency.
The Fowlers were convinced that by disseminating the “truth” about the water-cure they would evoke this sort of populist response and revolutionary turn away from medical orthodoxy. The democratic distribution of information and open access to the public press were central to their strategies.
Also crucial to the Fowlers’ proselytizing techniques was their attention to women. As avid consumers, readers and family health care providers, women were particularly significant participants in the Fowlers’ medical reform efforts. As child-bearers, women came into frequent contact with the medical community and stood to gain much from information and knowledge about health care. Dr. R. T. Trall used the pages of the Water-Cure Journal to crusade for reforms in midwifery. “Under the popular medical orders of the day,” he wrote, “pregnant females are regarded as invalid, and are bled, paregoric’d, magnesia’d, stimulated, mineralized and poisoned.” He argued that the “false system of medicine, and constant interference with and disturbance of the natural course of things have converted the act of parturition into a day of perils.” By critiquing the conventional treatment of childbirth, Trall and other writers encouraged women to question traditional medical authorities and make active choices about their own health care.
Fowlers and Wells extended their campaign for reform in women’s health care to urge women to take more active roles in other areas of public life. Fowlers and Wells actively cultivated a female audience and encouraged women to assume more influential positions in the public sphere. They used phrenological arguments to draw women into professional life. “Time was when woman turned her wheel, plied her needle, sung her lullaby and her task was done,” Orson Fowler wrote. “Time is when her intellectual powers require her to be called forth and inactivity on her part is as fatal to the development of the race as to her own achievement.” Both journals consistently drew attention to women who were active in the professions, including their own family members, such as Lydia Fowler, a physician, Jessie Fowler, a lawyer, and Charlotte Fowler Wells, a businesswoman.
As a family, the Fowlers and Wells supported female members who dared to challenge traditional gender expectations. For example, Charlotte Wells was a practicing phrenologist along with her brothers and husband, and she wrote, lectured and conducted business. She operated in a world where these activities were pathbreaking. “There will of course be a diversity of opinion…to a woman’s exercising the right of free speech,” Charlotte’s cousin, Paul Howe cautioned when he invited her to lecture in Prattsburg in 1850. But he encouraged her and offered his support. “Your reputation in the world, as well as my influence in the community will secure a welcome,” Howe reassured his cousin. Charlotte’s achievements served as a widely circulated example to other women. In 1876, Susan B. Anthony wrote to Charlotte, requesting that she submit a statement about herself for Johnson’s Universal Encyclopedia. “I want to make sure that you go in the book,” Anthony prompted. She explained to Charlotte that this was “not altogether for your own sake, but for the credit and honor of womanhood.”
For people hoping to bring women’s voices into public discourse, Fowlers and Wells’ journals offered a space in which to do so. In letters, women reformers emphasized that the mere presence of women in the printed pages of the journal enhanced their public role. In 1867, Reverend Pheobe Hanaford wrote enthusiastically of her excitement upon hearing that Fowler and Wells planned to publish pictures of “lady ministers.” She wanted to see female preachers mentioned in print as well as male preachers to increase public awareness of women’s effectiveness as church leaders. When this happens, Hanaford assured Mr. Wells in her letter, “these women will do all we can to sell that number of the Journal among our people and friends.”
While the Fowlers strove to define more active functions for women in the public sphere, many of their arguments relied on the same essentialist theories that limited women’s roles in the first place. The Fowlers argued that women possessed innate qualities, such as “vivid perceptions of right,” and “fervent aspirings after good,” which predisposed them to lead moral crusades. In phrenology, women also had strong faculties of philoprogenitiveness, the instinctive desire to “care for weak and helpless offspring,” which made them strong parents.” Of course, the notion that phrenology taught readers to alter supposedly innate characteristics tempered the Fowlers essentialism.
As forums for national debates about issues from gender to medicine, Fowlers and Wells publications became organs for budding reform movements and advanced notions about democracy, individual autonomy, and self-help. Fowlers and Wells also articulated a distinctively American sort of morality, premised upon a reverence for Godly order but a disdain for institutional authority, a regard for fairness but the highest respect for individuals who could overcome obstacles and successfully maneuver through a laissez-faire market system. But the Fowlers did more than articulate an ethos, they also established the patterns of reading and consuming that came to characterize the American middle class.
Marketing and Proselytizing
Through their marketing strategies, Fowlers and Wells translated the patterns of consumption to the practices of reading. Readers learned to treat books and journals as commodities, rapidly acquiring the information before wondering what to buy next. As socially mobile readers turned to commodities to define their social positions, the Fowlers and Wells eagerly directed them towards materials that combined self-help, reading and consumption in a distinctly American formula.
Fowlers and Wells sparked desire for books as objects. Their emphasis was on the possession of a quantity of books rather than on the quality of the reading material. “These lively publications were meant to be displayed,” notes one historian. Each book or journal issue inevitably concluded with a listing of Fowler and Wells products, and advertisements for recent publications, ever enticing readers to crave more printed materials, even as they closed the last page of the work they had just finished. The publishers strategically arranged their books in sets or series to promote collecting.
For wealthier consumers who might want fancier books that they could “show off,” the “Water-Cure Library,” sold for five dollars. Fowlers and Wells offered an entire range of products at prices in between these two extremes, to meet the desires of consumers from different economic positions. This meant that the economically disadvantaged could have access to ideas about phrenology and water-cure, while financially secure consumers could indulge in a more comprehensive purchasing experience by subscribing to the journal, pursuing more and better products, and collecting a wide selection of materials.
In addition to promoting quantity in buying, Fowlers and Wells taught their readers to value newness in their purchases. In 1851, Fowlers and Wells expanded the size of their phrenological journal, not only to save postage money, but to make it look similar to a newspaper, the most “up-to-date” type of publication. In their introduction to this new design the editors announced that they had utilized the most recent innovations in printing and formatting to give readers a technologically advanced product. In 1850, Fowlers and Wells bragged to readers of the Water-Cure Journal that “our types are new, our paper good and printing well done…as anyone would admit.” The publishers also published new titles at a breakneck pace. In the introduction to one volume, Orson Fowler told readers that he would have preferred more time to proof-read his work, but “its subject matter is deemed too important to allow minor defects to withhold it from the public.” This formula announcing an urgent informational need to rush publication pressured readers to buy.
The Fowlers marketing techniques transformed the nature of reading as well as purchasing, stirring consumers to adopt a more active, participatory approach. Readers were encouraged to interact with the texts by responding to ideas and posing questions through correspondence. Readers could send their photographs to the Fowlers’ office, then eagerly wait to see their character analysis, identified only by initials, in a future issue of the Phrenological Journal. They could also send questions to the Fowlers, and look for the answers in a “Dear Abby” style column. The Water-Cure Journal included a section that addressed readers’ questions about specific health concerns. Readers could also write descriptions of their own experiences with the water-cure and send them to the journal for publication. Seeing their own words in the mass media must have been tremendously exciting to readers who were accustomed to finding only the ideas of public authorities and famous figures in print. No longer intimidated by the authority of printed words, readers gained a new appreciation for their own roles in the generation of printed notions.
The Fowlers were particularly interested in using reader input to link westward expansion to their own pioneering reforms. The Water-Cure Journal proudly reported that the “go-ahead disposition” of the settlers enabled Fowlers and Wells reforms to “take deeper root” in the territories and “produce fruit more rapidly and more abundantly” than in the east. When any of the Fowlers’ and Wells’ acquaintances traveled out West, they were always encouraged to bring back materials for the journal. Writing from a trip through the Northwest, Bronson Howard assured Wells that he was on the lookout for interesting material to bring back for the journal. After A.M. Mixer traveled through Utah, she sent the Fowlers an account of the Mormon settlement in Salt Lake City.
Readers could augment their reading and writing through other activities. Avid consumers learned to view reading as only one aspect of an entire experience which could be purchased within the phrenological and water-cure movements. Every issue of the Phrenological Journal listed a series of events and lectures which readers could attend. Both journals included advertisements for the Fowler’s Phrenological Institute, in New York City, which offered seminars and classes. The truly dedicated could even attain employment with Fowlers and Wells. In both journals, the publishers solicited for new book agents and salespeople.
Whether as professionals or amateurs, readers were encouraged to seek new subscribers for the Journal. “Every individual who is interested in human progress and in the advancement of science, is earnestly invited to aid in extending the circulation of this Journal everywhere throughout the land,” editors exhorted readers of the Phrenological Journal. This served the dual purpose of drawing in new subscribers and inspiring loyalty in current subscribers. The act of bringing someone else “into the fold” would naturally make the proselytizer feel that he or she had a stake in the movement.
By fostering reading clubs, Fowlers and Wells cultivated more new subscribers and built blocks of loyal customers. They offered special discounts to clubs who ordered sets of ten or twenty subscriptions. In December 1850, they reminded readers that “clubs of new and old subscribers should now be formed in every neighborhood throughout the land for the coming year.” The editors hoped that these clubs would serve as conversion tools as current readers encouraged friends to join a group and begin reading the journal. “We are happy to acknowledge the receipt of many ‘NEW CLUBS OF SUBSCRIBERS’ for 1851,” the editors announced. “It proves that our friends are awake – that they are commencing in earnest for the new volume, and, what is still more cheering, many NEW NAMES come in with the old, the tried and the true,” they concluded. Clubs brought in new members and kept old ones active by giving them social ties and obligations which were related to the journal.
The experience of reading books and journals gave readers a sense of connection and involvement. The Fowlers adapted their style to make thousands of anonymous readers feel that they had a personal correspondence with the editors. In many segments of the Phrenological Journal, especially the yearly prospectus which outlined plans for the coming year’s issues, the editors used the first person to speak directly to their readers. This defined the editors as personalities, not just objective reporters. They addressed the readers themselves as “friends.” In a section headed, “to our readers,” the editors wrote that “it is very desirable that all our old friends who intend to journey with us the coming year, should renew their subscriptions as soon as may be convenient.” In books, such as Orson Fowler’s, On Science, authors addressed themselves to individual readers: “Their author bids every reader a personal, individual GOOD-BYE. May we meet again HEREAFTER if not here, GOD BLESS YOU ALL INDIVIDUALLY.” The editors cultivated the idea that the Phrenological Journal itself was like a friend and mentor. “Young men,” they wrote in their prospectus for 1851, “will find the Journal a friend and foster-father, to encourage them in virtue, shield them from vice, and to prepare them for usefulness and success in life.” 
Letters from readers later in the century demonstrate that these efforts to cultivate loyalty in the 1850s produced a readership that remained devoted through decades. In 1882, Belle Van Haden wrote to Charlotte Wells: “although a stranger to you, you seem a very dear and intimate friends to me, for I have read the Phrenological Journal so long – having been a regular subscriber for more than eight years – it seems I feel that I belong to the household of a great family.” Readers also felt an attachment to the journal itself. In 1887, Abigail Duniway wrote from Portland, Oregon to inform Charlotte Wells that she still saw “the dear old Journal once in a while.” A Reverend from South Carolina also wrote during the 1880s to say that the journal was “a pleasure and a comfort” to him as he was “waiting the call of the master.”
As consumers of Fowlers and Wells commodities, readers came to believe that some of life’s most intangible pleasures could be bought. They could attain self-improvement by subscribing to the journal and practicing the techniques they learned. Readers could gain a sense of mission and social purpose by peddling the journal to others. They could establish bonds of friendship and community among people that they had never met. They could exchange ideas and words without leaving their home. These were powerful draws which lured readers into the Fowler’s printed world, and enabled them to feel that by the simple act of reading a book or journal, they were participating in a movement of great relevance.
Legacies: The Consumption of Self-Help
Navigating protean cultural tides in 1849, Orson Fowler wrote that he hoped to shape the “mental current” of the nation, and guide its “rushing waters into the right channel.” Through their innovative proselytizing and marketing strategies, the Fowlers and Wells certainly did direct the flow of ideas as they circulated through the newly expanded print culture. In their cheap and rapid distribution of new ideas and their editorial forums for debate, the Fowlers and Wells contributed to the transformation of public discussion in the mass media, opening up avenues of influence for wider ranges of participants. Ultimately, the movements that the Fowlers championed – phrenology and the water-cure – crested shortly after the Civil War, although they trickled into later notions of psychiatry and alternative medicine. The most enduring legacy of the Fowlers, however, streams not from the particular reforms that they advocated, but from the connections that they forged to link religion, psychology, and self-help with reading and consumption.
The Fowlers and Wells employed the rhetoric of religion and morality to discuss self-improvement and alternative healing. They traced religious patterns of conversion and salvation in their discussions of medical reform. The Fowlers imparted religious significance to self-improvement as well. They were not the first to propose that the moral good of society could be advanced through self-improvement. From the time when Ben Franklin argued that virtuous behavior could lead to social and economic prosperity, self-interest and the public good have been linked in the American mind. The Fowlers would not be the last to suggest that the pursuit of self-interest served spiritual or moral ends. From the latter part of the nineteenth century to the dawn of the twenty-first, “positive thinkers” have capitalized on this notion.
In positing self-help at the core of their social reform agenda, however, the Fowlers and Wells confronted boundaries that have continued to limit the social usefulness of much of American self-help ideology. Fowlers and Wells proposed that self-improvement would foster increased social mobility as individuals developed the skills and personas that would propel them up social and economic ladders. This democratizing potential, however, was premised upon the notion that the individual’s ability to ascend in the economic sphere was a product of his or her willpower, unconstrained by outside forces. It rested upon the assumption that the improved individual had access to avenues of advancement. The democratic nature of phrenology was limited as well, by its alignment with physiognomy, a pseudo-science that reinforced racial hierarchies. Ultimately, phrenological self-help catered to a white, middle class audience.
Within this audience, the Fowlers and Wells shaped an enduring pattern of consumerism and self-help. Reading the Fowlers’ journals, nineteenth century Americans learned that self-improvement was a consuming project as they subscribed to journals and purchased books. Self-help could be bought. The Fowlers’ audiences turned away from traditional authorities when they looked to the gurus of popular culture for advice. No more poring over Greek classics to find wisdom, readers found self-help FORMULAS announcing themselves in CAPITAL LETTERS from the easy to skim pages of the Fowlers’ journals. While readers depended on this advice, they also came to see it as “lighter.” Written in the “Yankee go ahead style,” Fowlers and Wells commodities seemed to be in limitless supply. Readers learned to read fast, value newness, desire quantity, and always, always, crave more.
When the Fowlers and Wells translated popular psychology and alternative medicine into neatly packaged formulas, carried by commodities, they set the tone that has been echoed by authors from Dale Carnegie to Deepak Chopra. The Fowlers would be welcome guests on the Oprah Winfrey Show to discuss their books clubs and self-improvement strategies – to say nothing of their analysis of celebrities. The Fowlers and Wells rallied a cohort among the northeastern educated elite who shared common interests in unconventional reform. Yet, in their pursuit of the unorthodox, the group became homogenous. The Fowlers would be no more surprised to find a reader who shared all of their interests – from vegetarianism to spiritualism – than a professor at Berkeley or Cornell, walking across their campus in the nineteen sixties, would be to encounter a colleague who shared their fascination with both Buddhism and the medicinal uses of marijuana. Alternative visions of self-help became mass culture.
As consumers of “pop-psychology” seek to improve the condition of their bank accounts as well as their characters, they share a common assumption with producers of self-help commodities: self-improvement and the moral good it might imply are seamlessly intertwined with the pursuit of self-interest. The Fowlers and Wells proselytized and marketed with identical enthusiasm, viewing their reform agenda and their commercial enterprise as two sides of the same coin. They were able to move, in one sentence, between passion for their cause and hunger for money. “Come on then, prepared to defend the cause to which you have consecrated your life,” Paul Howe wrote to his Fowler cousins, inviting them to speak in his town. He concluded that “you will have an influence that will renovate and reform, and you will doubtless fill your purse with the god and silver of this goodly place.”
About the author: Mary Miles, PhD received her History PhD from Cornell, where she learned to both appreciate the natural beauty of the Finger Lakes region and how to interpret the intriguing documents and ideas discovered when exploring Fowlers and Wells publishing archives. She is a Senior Lecturer at Penn State and continues to enjoy teaching students the history of phrenology in her courses.
 John Davies, Phrenology, Fad and Science, A 19th Century American Crusade (New Haven, 1955), and Harry Weiss and Howard Kemble, The Great American Water Cure Craze (Trenton, 1967). These authors demonstrate the sweeping but ephemeral popularity of both movements. The cirulation statistics are from Madeleine Stern, Heads and Headlines, The Phrenological Fowlers (Norman, 1971), and Susan Cayleff, Wash and Be Healed, The Water-Cure Movment and Women’s Health (Philadelphia, 1987). The quotes are from a letter from Orson Fowler to his cousin Paul Howe, November 10, 1949, The Fowler and Wells Family Papers at Cornell University library.
 Whitney Cross, The Burned-over District, The Social and Intellectual History of Enthusiastic Religion in Western New York, 1800-1850 (Ithaca, 1950), quote from p. 3. Madeleine Stern, Heads and Headlines, The Phrenological Fowlers ( Norman, 1971) ch. 1.
 Stern, p. ix., ch. 1, Robert Abzug, Cosmos Crumbling: American Reform and the Religious Imagination (Oxford: 1994) ch. 1.
 Cathy Davidson, Revolution and the Word: the Rise of the Novel in America (Oxford, 1986).
 Lawrence Wroth and Rollo Silver, “Book Production and Distribution from the American Revolution to the War between the States,” in Hellmut Lehmann-Haupt, The Book in America, A History of the Making and Selling of Books in the United States (New York, 1952) pp. 71-90.
 Madison, pp. 23-24.
 Charles Madison, Book Publishing In America (New York, 1966) p. 15; Wroth and Silver, p. 120; Eugene Exman, The Brothers Harper, A Unique Publishing Partnership and its impact upon the cultural life of America from 1817-1853 (New York, 1965) pp. 1-11.
 Arthur Wrobel, “Phrenology as Political Science,” in his Pseudo-Science and society in Nineteenth-Century America (Lexington, 1987) p. 123-125; Thomas Leahey and Grace Leahey, Psychology’s Occult Doubles: Psychology and the Problem of Pseudoscience (Chicago: 1983) pp. 45-91.
 David diGiustino, Conquest of the Mind: Phrenology and Victorian Social Thought (Totowa, New Jersey: 1975) pp. 26-27.
 Leahey, p. 64.
 Stern, p. 16-18.
 The American Phrenological Journal, January, 1851, p. 2; January, 1948, p. 14.
 The American Phrenological Journal, January, 1851, p. 33.
 The American Phrenological Journal, January, 1851, p. 32.
Orson Fowler, On Science (New York: 1873). John Neal to S. Wells, September 28, 1866, Fowler and Wells Family Papers.
 Quoted by John Davies, Phrenology, Fad and Science, a 19th-Century American Crusade, New Haven, 1955, p. 63.
 Henry Robertson to S. Wells, May 18, 1861; John Epps to S. Wells, 1858, Fowler and Wells family papers.
 Orson Fowler, The Illustrated Self-Instructor in Phrenology (New York: 1847) p. 10.
 The American Phrenological Journal, January 1851, p. 1.
 See The Water-Cure Journal, January, 1858.
 William Blackie, 1867; Fostor Blodgett, September 25, 1871.
 David Reynolds, Walt Whitman’s America (New York: 1995) pp. 249-250.
 Stern, p. 51.
 “To prospective mothers,” The Water-Cure Journal, December, 1957, p. 55.
 For descriptions of water-cure experiences in the mid-nineteenth century, see John Orton’s Letters and the Gross and Snow Family Papers at the Cornell University Archives.
 Jane Donegan, Hydropathic Highway to Health, Women and Water-Cure in Antebellum America (New york, 1986); Susan Cayleff, Wash and Be Healed, The Water-Cure Movment and Women’s Health (Temple, 1987).
 Sylvester Graham to Fowlers and Wells Publishing, 1951, Fowlers and Wells family papers.
 Joel Shew, Children: Their Hydropathic Management in Health and Disease (New York, Fowlers and Wells, 1952) p. viii. – ix.
 “To Allopathic Physicians,” The Water-Cure Journal, April, 1857, p. 5.
 “The Scales Falling,” The Water-Cure Journal, April, 1857, p. 121.
 Paul Howe to C. Wells, 1850, Fowler and Wells family papers.
 “Allopathic Midwifery,” The Water-Cure Journal, April 1850, p. 121.
 Paul Howe to C. Wells, 1850, Fowler and Wells family papers.
 Rev. Pheobe Hanaford to S. Wells, (March 7, 1867); Susan B. Anthony to C. Wells, (April 22, 1876) Fowler Family Papers.
 Lorenzo Fowler, On Marriage.
 Fowler, Self Cuture, p. vii.
 Bronson Howard to S. Wells, 1866; A. M. Mixer to S. Wells, Sept. 23, 1873. Fowler and Wells papers.
 The American Phrenological Journal, December 1850, p. 386.
 The American Phrenological Journal, December 1850, p. 388.
 The American Phrenological Journal, December 1850, p. 388.
 The American Phrenological Journal, Janueary 1851, p. 2.; Orson Fowler, On Science, pp. 11, 1200.
 Prospectus for The American Phrenological Journal, January 1851.
 Belle Van Hadden to Charlotte Wells, February 8, 1882, Fowler and Wells Family Papers.
 Abigail Duniway to Charlotte Wells, April 12, 1887; Rev. JB Haskell, to Charlotte Wells, January 26, 1885.
 Paul Howe to Charlotte Wells, 1850.