The Psycograph

bobmccoypsycograph bobmccoyphreno

The Museum's most popular device was the Psycograph, an antique phrenology machine. Phrenology, created by Austrian physician Franz Joseph Gall, was the 'in theory' of the 19th century for determining personality. According to phrenology, different parts of the brain were "organs" controlling various character traits. If your head is bigger in an area, you have more of that trait. But if it's flat, there's nothing in there!

The Psycograph was patented in 1905 by Henry Lavery of Superior WI.
His first machine with 1,900 parts didn't work!

Above: Original Patent for The Psycograph by Henry Lavery

Psychograph illustration (4K)psycograph

Woman and phrenologist, ca. 1932 A quarter century later, still building phrenology machines, Mr. Lavery recruited Mr. Frank P. White as an investor and began doing business as the Psycograph Company in the Builders Exchange, Minneapolis MN. Curator McCoy and woman in psychograph

The psycographs were a novelty device featured in department stores and theatre lobbies during the Great Depression . The Psycograph Company operated from 1929-1937.

Left: Phrenology in the 1990's at the Museum of Questionable Devices. Above right: Woman and phrenologist from Psycograph advertisement, ca. 1932.


"You Ought to Have Your Head Examined"

That's our motto! Over the years at our Riverplace and St. Anthony Main locations, several hundren thousand museum visitors got their heads 'examined' in Henry Lavery's antique phrenology machines.

(To view more photos of the museum at its Riverplace and St. Anthony Main locations CLICK HERE!)


The head piece, which looks like a metal basket measures the head at 32 points per a five-point scale ranging from "Deficient" to "Very Superior."

The data is sent to a printing mechanism which block prints individualized "readings" on a paper tape telling all about ones personality.

Everyone who received a Psycograph reading was also given a vocational chart to help choose the right career path. Examples of which we have posted HERE.


Phrenology segment from "Quackery Gallery":


Next: History of Phrenology and the Psycograph.

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Phrenology busts
The two photos of Michelle Carlson & Dennis Lewandowski having their heads examined are by Laura Koehn and are used with permission.
All other photos Copyright ©
last updated 6/10/2015