Bump Parties: Popular Phrenology: 1905, 1907

love bump party


Cynthia Grey

A bump party is about the latest of the summer fads.

Among the attractions of Coney Island is a “bump the bumps.” It is along the line of “shoot the chutes.” It is enough to cause a mild excitement even in hot weather.

But when it comes to a bump party given by a college professor, the most languid sits up to take notice.

When it is further announced that the college professor’s bump party is a love bump party, there isn’t a man or woman, married or single who isn’t eager to investigate.

The scientific name for the party is “anthropological matrimonial party,” but love bump party means to us far more and stands for the same thing.

It is said that Professor Fredrick Starr of Chicago University has distinguished himself by inviting the engaged and unengaged students of his classes to attend an “anthropological” party.

We are told that he has promised to tell the engaged, by examining the bumps on their heads, whether or not they have chosen wisely. He will also discover the particular one for any of the unengaged.

The professor evidently has faith, but what a risk he is running.

Imagine the lover’s state of mind when his sweetheart, because of a mere bump, is handed over to a rival suitor.

Picture, if you can, the despair of the maiden who hates red hair, when she is passed onto a freckled faced individual whom she despises, jest because of a little bump that never shows under her pompadour.

Think of the little blond’s consternation when the lover, at whom she has made eyes for six months and who has just proposed, is snatched from her and awarded to the enchanting brunette whose scalp lies smooth above her ears.

Things will be doing at the professor’s party.

It is a brave professor who dares to come between lovers.

The other members of the faculty seem to have Professor Starr’s safety at heart. It is said they have forbidden the students to attend his party. It shows how deep is their regard for him.

Some of the students have declared their intentions of going in spite of the faculty’s orders to the contrary!

Thus, when we are young, do we rush recklessly to our own undoing.

But who cares? Cupid isn’t even flustered by the professor’s party. it is true, and Cupid knows it is true, that as long as the world stands, lovers will marry whom they please—the anthropological discoveries of the professor notwithstanding. The Spokane [WA] Press 5 August 1905: p. 4


Fad in Entertainments Where Club Women Have Head Readings

“Bump” parties are a new form of entertainment adopted by women’s clubs this seasons that bids fair to rival whist and bridge—that is, if all are as successful as the one given the other afternoon by the press committee of the Rainy Day club in the home of Mrs. Thomas H. Whitney, 411 West End avenue, New York.

“Bump” parties are entertaining, even exciting. The diversion is created by a woman phrenologist, who takes herself seriously, says the New York Herald. If husbands of members of the Rainy Day club are importuned to build houses regardless of cost, so that the mistress may have an opportunity to decorate the interior and prove her artistic temperament, they need not be surprised, for it will only be another evidence of the effect of the “bump” party.

“One “Daisy” of uncertain age was warned not to marry by the phrenologist. “Don’t you marry; don’t even consider it until you are really ready,” she was told. “for it would be a pity for you to make a mistake and wed too soon or get the wrong man.”

Another prominent member was startled by hearing the reader say after carefully rubbing the “bumps” on her head. “You have robbed some one, and if there had been a twin I should feel sorry for it.” This same woman was told to write, even if she awakened in the middle of the night, for the phrenologist knew by the size of the lumps that the woman had genius with her pen, and so she must hold herself constantly in readiness for any inspiration.

“You are cold and reticent,” said the reader to another woman. “and it took your husband years to make an impression.”

“Six,” declared the subject amid shouts of laughter from the other members.

“You are still inclined to keep your own counsel,” continued the phrenologist. “for you tell your husband only such things as you think best for him to know.”

In the midst of one flattering reading the subject grew red and quite confused and finally announced that the “bump,” being felt, was not a real one, but a piece of padding that kept up her pompadour. There is but one undesirable feature to such entertainments, and that is that the most elaborate coiffures are disarranged by the hands of the phrenologist as she works over a “bump” of affection or tries to find a lump of genius or a point of locality, and sidecombs and jeweled ornaments are sacrificed.  The Evening Statesman [Walla Walla, WA] 7 January 1907: p 8  

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Phrenology is, of course, the “science” based on the study of the human skull. The originator of phrenology, Franz Joseph Gall, believed that the brain was comprised of 27 individual organs that determined personality and regulated different emotions. The skull was believed to bulge over the more highly developed parts of the brain, leading to the famous “bumps,” which revealed the propensities of the subject. Hence bumps of “amativeness” and “philoprogenitiveness.”Phrenology was largely discredited by the 1840s, but had a slight resurgence at the beginning of the 20th century, particularly in connection with criminal anthropology. The “love bump” party professor, Frederick Starr [1858-1933] was a distinguished academic and anthropologist at the University of Chicago, as well as a popular lecturer. His outspoken and eccentric opinions on an immense variety of subjects—the truth about Belgian atrocities in the Congo” (flogging did not hurt the natives), the secret to long life (a sunny disposition), that women were  inferior to men (and should cease to pretend otherwise), and “the American people are becoming Indians and will eventually revert to the aboriginal type.”—frequently appeared in the newspapers. It does not surprise Mrs Daffodil that a man capable of such crankish pronouncements was interested in phrenology. One expects that the portions of his brain for “tact” and “empathy” were somewhat underdeveloped.

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find more fashion hints, fads and fancies, and the bump of amiability.

1 thought on “Bump Parties: Popular Phrenology: 1905, 1907

  1. Pingback: Labiology, or Reading Character by the Lips: 1894 | Mrs Daffodil Digresses

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