Tag Archives: character reading

Casts of Hands a Christmas Fad: 1896

Sculpture. Cast of the right hand of Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847). Hand resting on an oval base. In glass topped case with tortoiseshell frame. Plaster, cast, height, plaster, 6.5, cm, width, plaster, 14 cm, length, plaster, 24 cm, before 1903. 18th-early 19th century. English.

Christmas Fad Among Eastern Women.

A novelty which will take the place of the framed photograph or other personal gift as a Christmas remembrance for intimate friends and admirers, is a plaster cast which is an exact reproduction of the hand of the giver. Such a gift from his sweetheart would certainly be highly prized by the fond lover, for though the clasp of this image of the real is, as it were, but second-hand, it is at least a reminder of blissful first hand pressures of the past.

This new fad, however, has more than a merely romantic interest. The admirers of clever politicians, eloquent preachers and successful writers are vying with one another for the possession of facsimiles of the hands of their favorites. Casts of the hand of President-elect McKinley are very much in demand, and Mr. Bryan still stretches out his hand in effigy over the heads of his admirers.

Alabaster hand with rose. Former eBay listing.

The casts are by no means the same thing as those lily white affairs of marble which were popular among prominent actresses a few years ago, and which the sculptor was instructed to make as smooth and beautiful as possible. Even when the original hand was beautiful, the sculptor’s art failed to give an exact portrayal of all its points. Beauty and symmetry were there, and they were fair to look upon, but the little lines that mean so much, were absent. It was as if a cast had been made of a gloved hand.

To make a reproduction which will be an exact likeness, including imperfections as well as points of beauty, it is necessary that the hand be used as a mold upon which the plaster is actually cast. Then the slightest mark—even a scratch—will be faithfully repeated in the paste that tells no tales but true ones.
This idea was conceived by an interesting young woman of New York, who looks upon the newly inaugurated custom, not as a fad, but as an educational practice calculated to hold up to public view the frailties, as well as the virtues of our public men and women.

She has already secured facsimiles of the hands of Chauncey M. Depew, ex-Speaker Crisp, Banker Henry Clews and Rev. T. DeWitt Talmadge, besides those of prominent politicians, and is now at work upon the hands of distinguished literary personages.

The hands are, she says, in a very large degree, the index of the will and other mental faculties. They reveal the temperament and the traits of character as readily as the face, to one who can master them, although the latter is popularly supposed to be the leading expression of character. She contends that the hand being connected with the moto-center of the will, is an executor of the will and must bear the expression of the nerve thoughts; whereas the eye, lip and other features formerly relied upon for the reading of character are made by her subordinate to the hand.

When asked to put in her own words the story of this new fad, she said: “The modeling of the hand is not altogether a new idea. It has long been a beautiful custom in England and France to take the cast of the first born. The cast was reserved until the marriage of the child, when it was presented as a wedding gift and saved as a sort of heirloom to be handed down from generation to generation. That was a mere matter of sentiment, but later the scientific value of such casts has become known, and it is upon those lines that I am working.”

“It is similar then to palmistry?”

“By no means. The hand is the key to the soul. A beautiful hand by no means indicates the possession of a beautiful or ideal character. This cast which you see on the table is delicate with smooth, tightly drawn skin, tapering fingers, narrow finger nails, symmetrically formed and thin in the palm. A beautiful hand, you say, but let me tell you the characteristics portrayed. She is fickle, loveless, willful, usually has her own way, and will tease until she tires a person out to get what she wants, and she is very likely to discard it. No regard for the welfare, or the desires and pleasures of others bothers her. The tightly drawn skin shows a lack of sensitiveness and the straight thumb, with no upward curve, shows a lack of generosity. She is not domestic, and altogether there is little of worth in that hand. The slender, tapering fingers which are very thin at the end and have narrow nails, indicate that she will never stick long to any one person or object. She is lazy or indolent, at least; is selfish, and will easily develop consumption.

1. Henry Clews 2. Chauncey Depew 3. Horace Greely 4. Rev. T. De Witt Talmage

“The hand of Chauncey M. Depew, as you see by this cast,” she continued, holding up for the writer’s inspection a large, strong-looking hand, “with its stout wrist, outwardly curved thumb, thick and hollow palm, long, strong fingers, broad nails and with loose skin on the back is very strong. He is not curious, but very energetic. Domestic and fond of his family, he is very affectionate, as shown by the thick, hollow palm. The thumb and the loose skin show a remarkable generosity. Though not averse to fame he is very sensitive, and a mean criticism will hurt him deeply. He is extremely quick of perception and decides instantaneously. While he is irritated by trifles, he bears great matters with perfect calmness. The long, strong fingers show remarkable energy and activity of thought. His hand indicates a total lack of selfishness and I think he would do his utmost to assist a worthy person or cause. The pose in which the hand is taken is perfectly natural and as much is own as the color of his eyes. He will not die suddenly, but just wear out. The outward course of the thumb also indicates a quality which I might term unreserved.

“The cast of Henry Clews’ hand is not open like Dr. Depew’s, but closed with the forefinger extended. Dr. Depew gives what he has freely, but Mr. Clews, as the hand pose indicates will keep what he has to himself. Mr. Clews’ hand shows great business ability, secretiveness in a sense and a strong will. The hand of the late ex-Speaker Crisp cast a short time before his death while in Washington, was blue in tint, showing that he would succumb to a sudden stroke, probably of heart failure brought about by undue excitement. The fingers are rather short and fat, indicating the shortness of his body. The palms are thick, the wrist strong, and it is altogether a good hand.

“This short, fat hand, which is the fac-simile of that of a popular actress is usually accompanied by a double chin. The possessor of such a hand is jolly and good tempered, and holds decided opinions, which she is not averse to stating, regardless of her hearers.”

Many bachelor quarters in New York now contain such casts of hands, and also of feet showing the ankle, doing duty as paper weights. The left hand is usually chosen, as it is generally more perfectly formed.

San Francisco [CA] Chronicle 6 December 1896: p. 2

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mrs Daffodil has previously mentioned the “summer fad,” of young ladies casting their faces in plaster to give as souvenirs to their beaux, some of whom, Mrs Daffodil grieves to say, had whole galleries of plaster beauties on the walls of their bachelor quarters. She does not imagine that plaster hands given as Christmas presents will be any more reverently received and imagines the careless gentleman stubbing out his cigarettes in the upturned, flower-like plaster hand of the Loved One.

It is curious how plaster casting, normally thought of in the context of the drawing class, was transformed into a method of character reading, although the interesting young woman’s subjects were so well-known that she certainly had enough information on their personalities to draw conclusions without recourse to plaster hands.

A few years earlier, it was the foot that was used for character analysis.

The newest fad taken up by the ladies in New York is character reading from the feet. There are regular foot reading women, who make a livelihood out of their strange calling. The proper way is to have a plaster cast taken of the foot, and sent to the chiropodist who writes out the character. Nelson [NZ] Evening Mail, 29 March 1890: p. 2

Then we have the young gentlemen of Paris (the plasterers of Paris?) who found a practical use for their plastered figures:

The superchic young men in Paris (according to an imaginative correspondent), not content with mere boot lasts, have plaster casts made of their legs from the waist down, with the object of keeping both their trousers, their knee-breeches, and even their under-wear in proper shape. One youth, with more money than brains, has an entire room of his residence devoted to the reception of some sixty pairs of plaster-of-Paris counterparts of his legs, and nothing is more peculiar than the spectacle presented by this army of fully clothed limbs standing about without any trunk and head. The Argonaut [San Francisco CA] 10 July 1893

Mrs Daffodil rather shudders to think what a character reader would make of those Parisian plasters.

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdote

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.

Labiology, or Reading Character by the Lips: 1894

studying lips


They Tell a Story of the Character of Their Owner

Lips That are Loving; Lips That are Selfish; Lips That Promise Happiness; and Lips That Revel in Mischief.

Mr. Bachelor, when you and the dearest girl in the world stood under the ensnaring dimness of the front hallway and indulged in frequent mellifluous osculatory movements annually made permissible by the tender white berries, did you once think that those two smiling, ruby lips might reveal to you in an unspoken language the story of the ingrained affections or peculiar idiosyncrasies of your most devoted inamorata—did you?

To be sure, there is something new under the sun. And the beneficent fates revealed to me the clew of a neoteric, most interesting science, certain to find favor within the sacred precincts of uppertendom.

Strolling down State Street yesterday afternoon, says the Chicago Times man, I overheard a pretty maiden confidentially say to her girl companion:

“Really, it’s more fun. Jack initiated me into its mysteries last evening, and if the hard times continue I propose to start an establishment of my own—a labiological retreat, as it were—and teach eligible bachelors the ‘art,’” which assertion was followed by an irresistible burst of such genuine laughter that instanter the resolve possessed me to clandestinely hear the secret of this novel fad.

So in the train of the youthful pair I followed, and heard an interested interrogation and the enthusiastic reply:

“It’s the study of the lips, you know. Jack heard from a friend down east of the latest social innovation called labiology, or reading character by the lips, and last evening he examined my lips—which he pronounced perfect, the flatterer—and then told me how I might study the lips of—of my prospective Benedick, you know, and find out if he would make an ideal partner for life. There is science in it, and it’s so interesting, really. In the first place—“

And in the second place a wave of humanity separated me from my fair informer. But I could not help thinking—labiology, lip language, that sounds interesting. Can it really be built on fact and not fancy? Continuing my walk I began studying the lips of the passerby. Many a belle and beau realize to their chagrin what a rarity is a perfect nose, but never before had it occurred to me how few perfect lips were to be seen. It was simply a revelation. Either the lips are too thick or too thin; some looking like a square cut in the face—a mere porthole for food and an export hole for talk—while others appeared weak and infantile. And again, Dame nature had made the lips too severe, angular, contemptuous, bitter, hard, or too mild, characterless, insipid. And so on through the entire lip category.
But could there be method in all this madness of outline? For the sake of the innumerable host considering seriously a life voyage on the uncertain sea of matrimony, I resolved to thoroughly investigate the probity or falsity of this so-called labial science. So to the cosmopolitan Masonic Temple I wandered, where suave professionals of every variety flourish, and there found a versatile scientist, one of whose favorite themes was physiognomy, who entertainingly revealed the secrets of this new study of the lips.

affectation lips

Well, the two fleshy folds surrounding the orifice of the mouth—or, in less technical terms, the lips—are ineffaceably impressed with the marks of character, and may be read with the same ease and interest that the latest book is devoured if one but be initiated into the mysteries of this lip language. These, for instance, are the infallible signs for youths to study if they would shun an infelicitous mésalliance and find the road to perfect happiness and ideal connubial bliss: If the lips of your lady love border a large and generous mouth you may rest assured that she is warm-hearted and affectionate and as a wife would be gentle, loving, and truthful…

proud lips

A small mouth with tightly drawn lips indicate great self-control with occasional burst of affection and ill temper—not a bad combination, as occasional clouds often make the connubial sunshine all the brighter.

Rather a desirable outline is formed in lips that develop their fullness sin the center, which is a sign of refined and exclusive love.

laughing lips

In These There Is Mischief.

If the termination of the lips threw upward a curved line this would indicate a love of fun and mischief. Beware of such lips, young man, which often pucker up to attract and invite and suddenly assume a solemn and forbidding aspect to the discomfiture of the prospective kisser. These lips, however, will ever be pure and faithful and the happy owner will make an ideal helpmate.

murderer's lips

When the under lip protrudes beyond the upper, which feature so distinguishes the condemned murderer Prendergast, an unregulated affection and love without resolution is denoted.

If the upper lip is long it indicates firmness and resolution—that is when all the features are harmoniously developed, as we sometimes find a long upper lip the result of a pug nose. A short upper lip, on the other hand, is indicative of irresolution.

Colorless lips portray a coldness of disposition, and in proportion as the lips approach in color the poetic ruby may warmth and glow of love be expected. Dry and parched lips show that the possessor is stirred by mingled emotions of fear and apprehension, but if the lips be softly tender, it is an evidence that they are wetted with the ambrosial dew of love.

Again, if the lips are constantly held open, in a manner sometimes seen on the profile of the newcomer from Arkansas, want of energy and tact is portrayed. When the lips are tightly closed disposition to cunning and secrecy are the characteristics of the unfortunate possessor.

So marriage is no longer a failure if labiology be studied by prospective hymeneal applicants, thus avoiding repentance at leisure, for these are facts built upon the principles of physiognomy.

the girl to tie to lips

If, then, you would know the signs of perfect lips, artistically, physiognomically, and physiologically considered—lips most likely to make life happy with gay laughter and bright repartee, or to whisper words of encouragement when the inevitable clouds of misfortunate overshadow—in a word, lips mostly likely to bring sunshine into the life of the one who could claim the inalienable and exclusive osculatory right, would be those which, in ruby color, moderate fullness of development, and slight compression, would sweetly and smilingly indicate the warmth, genuineness, purity, and faithfulness of perfect love.

This newcomer in the field of science promises to be received with open arms by the younger generations and to carry off the palm for uniqueness and popularity. Indeed it is safe to predict that amorous devotees will assiduously search for its scientific secrets, especially Sunday evenings, when the conditions and positions are peculiarly favorable. What sacrifices our dear young people will make for the sake of science! But I trust their researches will not be disappointing and that sweethearts, by following the dictates of labiological principles, will wed, find a veritable Elysium, and, in the phraseology of nursery tales—live happily ever after. 

The Worthington [MN] Advance 15 March 1894: p. 3

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mrs Daffodil has written before on idiosyncratic methods of reading personal character, such as phrenology, nose-, and fingernail-reading. She thinks it all tosh, but it amuses the young people.

“Prendergast” was Eugene Patrick Prendergast a “crazy paper carrier” who shot Chicago Mayor, Carter Harrison, to death in his own house 28 October 1893. Prendergast claimed that the Mayor had promised to make him a corporation counsel, but had reneged on his promise. Prendergast was admitted to Harrison’s house by a servant, walked directly up to the Mayor, who had come into the hall to see who was asking for him, and fired four shots at him. Three bullets hit the Mayor, who died in ten minutes.  

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,”where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes.