Monday, July 29, 2013


News of Yore 1905: Homer Davenport gets his Head Examined

Mr. Homer C. Davenport, the Celebrated Cartoonist -- A Character Sketch -- From a Personal Examination

by J.A. Fowler

(originally published in the The Phrenological Journal, Vol. 118 #5, May 1905)

Allan's note: This utterly ridiculous, yet very amusing, character sketch of the famed cartoonist Homer Davenport, is based on an interpretation of the bumps and dimensions of his head (the guiding tenet of the 'science' of phrenology). Of course the writer of this examination is acquainted with Davenport, who he examined during a speaking engagement at the American Institute of Phrenology. However, one cannot doubt that the writer's conclusions are based solely on noggin dimensions, and were not influenced in the least by listening to the fellow talk about himself at length. Heavens no. 

Few men in his line of work have awakened more universal interest in themselves and their art than the subject of this sketch. He has touched public life at so many points that his work has been watched by all classes of the community, and in political life both of the leading parties have stood under the fire of his magic touch.

The work of the cartoonist at every crisis is an important one: by the stroke of his pen, by his comprehension of any situation, and by his ready wit, he can give color to events, and change the atmosphere of affairs considerably. This was largely the cause of the popularity of Thomas A. Nast, and it is also the case with Homer Davenport.

He has devoted himself to the vital welfare of humanity. We might even say, in certain respects Society is his debtor. There are times when the humorist does more to change the pulse of a patient than even the medicine given by some doctors, for it is often good cheer that is necessary to start the circulation; sometimes a sparkle of wit at the outset of a lecture will put an audience in good humor for the whole evening, and very often a fine cartoon on the front page of a daily paper will do more to educate the public than a solid, serious editorial on the inside page.

Considering the varied kinds of ability found in the world, one can readily see that when parents are awakened to the true value of the minds of their children, they will be ready to develop them properly from an economic stand­ point if for no other reason. By seeing talent inherited they will also be anxious to encourage in themselves what they wish to see reproduced in their children. Phrenology will then be studied in its proper light; in fact, a great future lies before it.

In the case of Mr. Homer Davenport, his mother wished to bring into the world a fine cartoonist and a lover of animals, and she therefore prepared herself in every possible way to rightly impress her unborn child. She unfor­tunately died when Homer was a little boy, but had the satisfaction to feel that some day he would be a fine cartoonist, for he early developed the desire to sketch and paint animals, very often spending thirteen hours a day on the white painted wooden floor, sketch­ing outlines which (when the little hand held firm and steady) she believed would tell their story in no un­certain way.


Mr. Davenport has been endowed by nature with an excellent constitution, and with it he has been able to do more work, carry out more plans, and adjust himself to newer conditions than the average man. His weight of body is a hundred and ninety pounds, his height is six feet one and a half inches, and
his brain circumference is twenty-three and a quarter by fourteen and a quar­ter inches in height and length, while his caliper measurements of width and length of head are five and seven­ eighth and seven and one half inches respectively. These measurements present to us a man of unusual power of physique and mental expertness; therefore he is able to manufacture thought very rapidly, and show availability of talent, without apparently exhausting his strength or wasting vital energy.

It has been stated with truth that the pen is mightier than the sword, and when the right kind of brain guides the pen or pencil, we certainly have an exemplification of this wise saying. While the sword destroys and separates, the pen unites various classes of the community, and great is the responsi­bility of the person who is able to wield his pen with force and intelligence on behalf of the masses.

As will be seen in Mr. Davenport's pictures, his brain is about equally dis­tributed between his forehead, which is broad and comprehensive, and his long posterior lobe. The former indicates intellectual grasp of mind, from a common-sense point of view, while the latter shows large Philoprogenitiveness, or love of animals, and no one who has seen his beautiful collection of animals on hie New Jersey farm will doubt his attachment and appreciation for them.

Uniting, as he does, a large framework with healthy vital organs, he is able to use his brain to a much better advantage than as if he were limited in bodily structure and physical form. His brain calls for a large supply of oxygen, to nourish it and keep it in a healthy condition. This he can do without much effort, for he delights in outdoor exercise, and his Motive Temperament seeks activity of a varied character.

He lives largely in his practical, sci­entific mind, which registers ideas and observations, and philosophises about things when there is a particular call to do so, but he is more generally governed by his keen observations than by his desire to scheme and plan out things in a vague way.

He is a man of action and a student of human nature, and this is to be seen from the height of the forehead at the point where the hair falls back, above the temples, and over the top of the head. Versatility of mind is one of his finest characteristics, and he can adjust him­self to so many phases of work that if he is interrupted from carrying out the line of thought with which he has commenced the day, he can go back to it and complete his task from where he left off. Many men wear out when called upon to do work under the heat and pressure of daily tasks, but Mr. Davenport is able to crowd a good deal of effort into a short space of time.

One cannot correctly judge of a man's work by the time he puts into it, for some men work at high pressure, some at low, and often the former accomplish more than the latter, though they may be less hours in doing their work.

From the crown of the head we gather that Mr. Davenport possesses a very independent spirit, as well as an ambitious character, but he is not dig­nified in manner, artificial in his ways, or aristocratic in his ideas. He believes in giving every one fair play, and opportunity to use his or her talents, rather than to hold the latter for a few select ones. Personal pride does not enter into his thought so much as ambition to excel in what he undertakes to do. He would rather have a person appreciate his motive for action than to be complimented or flattered in a popular way. Zeal and enthusiasm are strong characteristics of his, and he certainly shows them when working out his plane.

Men show their energies in accord­ance with their most salient characteristics; thus Mr. Davenport's energy shows itself (1} through his perceptive faculties, (2) through his ingenious qualities and constructive ability, (3) through his individuality of mind and originality of talent.

Breadth across the temples gives him power to conceive new ideas, build up and create new possibilities, and capacity to grapple with a new situation. An idea is never lost upon him, for he is able to work it out in many ways. . His is not a perfectly symmetrical head, and it is not usual for any specialist to possess an evenly balanced contour of head.

A man who is gifted in certain directions very seldom shows evenness of mind and character in all things alike. He is almost sure to have some angles, defects, shortcomings, and weaknesses. The round, even head is not the one that achieves the highest mark of excellence in any one direction, though people possessing such a head are easy to get along with, and are not, as a rule, buffeted about by the antagonisms, the jealousies, and ridicule of the world.

The originality of mind in Mr. Davenport shows itself through his imitative, ingenious, and adaptable talent, as well as through his keen sense of wit, courage of conviction, and power of criticism.

Memory of forms and outlines is a remarkable gift with him, and anything that has struck his eye as peculiar or uncommon he is able to carry with him and reproduce when a favorable occasion arises.

Economy of time and labor are easier to him than economy in ordinary financial affairs. He would make a better financier for someone else than for himself. He cares less for money for its own sake than what it can be applied to.

From his mother he must have in­herited his strong sympathetic nature, and it is hard for him to turn a deaf ear to those who appeal to him for help and assistance. This element in his na­ture enables him to get in touch with all classes of people, while his Human Nature reveals to him, in a marvelous way, the undercurrent of character: the motives, molds, and dispositions of the upper and lower strata of life and char­acter.

Were he a mechanic or engineer, he would be at the helm, where he could oversee and manage affairs, rather than be where he had to be at the beck and call of others, for his Constructiveness shows originality, and men would want his ideas because of their uniqueness. He could give ideas to the mechanic who had no ideas of his own, yet was able to carry out what he was directed to do.

The outline of the upper portion of his head shows that he likes a person to be frank and honest rather than merely pious and religious. He prefers a person to stand for what he believes rather than pretend to believe what other people say and do. He will know how to put a man on his honor, and even a rogue will treat him with more genuine honesty than persons who show an attitude of mistrust and suspicion. If he had been a lawyer, he would have won his cases on the ground that he would have pointed out the weak, as well as the strong points of his case before the other side had had a chance to do so; thus his shrewdness, farsightedness, frankness, candor, and wit would have been able weapons in his hands for defending his client before the bar. When his opponent came to tell his story, the judge would say, "I know all about that; tell me something new.''

He would have studied the methods of his opposing coun­sel.with so much clearness of insight that, when pleadirrg his case, he would have drawn on his sense of pathos, as well as his sense of humor, in consider­ing every detail of his case.

Law, however, would not have suited him as well as his present profession, for there are some phases of a lawyer's work which he would have disliked, especially the waste of time in waiting for the courtesies of the court. When he is ready for work he is like a restive horse which cannot be easily held back by the check-rein. He would rather walk to his destination than wait for a car, for in the one case he would be occupied and in the other case he would be idle and inactive.

He is companionable and friendly, and retains a friendship for a lifetime, if at all. In his travels he must have left a congenial spirit wherever he has gone, and thus have shown out his cos­mopolitan spirit.

In short, as we have said, he is a resourceful man, and is able to turn his attention to many things, especially to ingenious lines of work, original de­signs, and in public address when ex­pressing what has once impressed his mind, and his excellent power to catch the spirit of a new thought and repro­duce it in a humorous way.


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