Graphology in America

graphology americaMany students of handwriting analysis are not aware of the influence European thought has had on graphology in America. This article gives you information about the beginning days of handwriting analysis in America and events till the year 1961.

The beginning of graphology:

Notions of identifying handwriting indicators and their meanings were introduced in USA even before the father of graphology “Michon” coined the generic term ‘graphology’.   These early introductions seem to have been inspired by two authors in England:

  1. Byerley (1823) who wrote an essay on handwriting interpretation in an English journal
  2. Isaac D’Israeli (1824) who wrote a section in ‘Curiosities of Literature‘ also published in London.

In turn these two English authors had indirectly drawn on Lavater.  Edgar Allan Poe is known to have read the works by Byerley and D’Israeli and he wrote two articles entitled ‘Autography’ which appeared in 1836.   Robert Charles Sands (1838) wrote an article ‘Thoughts on hand-writing’ which appeared in Knicker-Bocker.  He is also known to have read Byerley’s essay.

Samuel Robert Wells was a physiognomist and his father-in-law, a Mr. Fowler, was a phrenologist; together they formed the publishing firm Fowler & Wells in New York City.   In the early 1860s, Wells compiled a book New Physiognomy that was published by the firm in 1865, 1866, 1870.   Chapter 35 is entitled ‘Graphomancy’ which was Wells’ name for his variant of handwriting interpretation. Graphomancy was largely based on Moreau (1806) which was a French translation of Lavater’s pioneering work on physiognomy from the 1770s.   Moreau’s translation also included information from Hocquart and Moreau himself.

The first correspondence course in graphology:

In the 1880s an editor of a Pennsylvania newspaper began to publish questions and answers concerning coal mining.   In 1891 he prepared a course covering this field, to be offered by the correspondence method.  Other cognate courses were soon added, and within a decade this organization grew into the International Correspondence Schools, offering about 300 courses by 1928.   Many private ventures rapidly followed the I.C.S. pattern and by 1928 there were 498 private correspondence schools in the US, enrolling annually more than a million students.  This concept was soon applied to graphology; for example Edith Macomber Hall of the N.Y. Institute of Science, Rochester, NY offered a correspondence course (1903-1904).

In 1882, Mary Hanna Booth became interested in graphology through an “amazing” analysis of her handwriting made by Rosa Baughan.    Miss Booth received face-to-face tuition from Baughan in England and had to import books on graphology from England, as there were none available in America at the time.   From 1896 Hugo von Hagen did much to interest Americans in graphology, he was a member of the Paris Graphology Society.  He founded the first American Graphological Society in Boston in 1892, but seldom did it have over 30 members, finally withering away around 1921.


Marketing of graphology in the early 1900 to the depression

As early as 1900, Miss Booth was contributing articles on graphology to various business journals, and later to periodicals such as Bookkeeper (Detroit), and Stenographer (Philadelphia).  She also had a thrice-weekly column in a Philadelphia newspaper.   When she sent her first graphological printing order to her printer, he corrected it to “geographical” thinking that she did not know how to spell, since in 1900 few Americans had heard of graphology.

There is evidence of several other people operating in the field of graphology at this time. Clifford Howard wrote a book Graphology sold under the pen-name of Simon Arke (1903) and then from 1905 onwards as Howard.  In partnership with Mills Dean he operated a correspondence school in graphology between 1903-1906.  From 1904 to 1911 Professor George E. Beauchamp in New York City advertised graphological readings and lessons.  Prentiss Bailey, editor of a respected Utica, New York newspaper resorted to the nom de plume of John Rexford to write a book about his hobby in 1905.  In 1907 Julia Seton Sears published her book Grapho-psychology and she offered analyses by post.

In 1908 Louise Rice, a newspaperwoman and freelance writer, took lessons in graphology from Miss Booth. In 1910 Miss Booth distributed a little 3-by-5 inch leaflet entitled “Signature Design”, an article which first appeared in Stenographic And Phonographic Worlds, a commercial education journal devoted to teaching shorthand in business colleges.  Her book of 72 pages followed this.

One of the most expert penmen in America, Louis H. Hausam, wrote, published and was selling a 16 page booklet on graphology, this was in circulation around 1910.

From late 1911 to early 1918 Harry H. Balkin performed a vaudeville act in theaters all over America and Canada.  On these tours he claimed to have analyzed thousands of individuals using physiognomy, phrenology, palmistry and graphology.   In 1918 he compiled his book The New Science of Analyzing Character with six pages on graphology, largely based on Howard’s book.   William Leslie French was the writer of numerous articles published in various monthly magazines and newspapers from about 1912 until 1921.  These were brought together in his 1922 book The Psychology of Handwriting.

From 1916 to 1925 DeWitt B. Lucas became the foremost promoter of graphology in America.  During World War II he worked for the Navy Department in Washington as a graphologist and immediately after the war he conducted a correspondence course in the subject.  In August 1919 Lucas began his quarterly house organ Knowing People concerned with graphology.

Introduction of graphology at university level:

June E. Downey was a full-time University Professor.  In 1920 Warwick & York published her book Graphology and the Psychology of Handwriting.  Here was an American woman of academic status who was interested enough to brave the censure of other professors, and write about graphology.   She presented her findings in an exceedingly logical manner. Also in 1920 Albert L. Smith became prominent in the subject with Applied Graphology.  A reputable textbook publisher in New York, known for good business books, published this book.  Applied Graphology was actually used as a textbook for classes in graphology at over 50 different business colleges.  In 1923 Smith set up his own graphology correspondence school in Boston.

About 1924 Louise Rice set up her correspondence school, The Rice Institute of Graphology in New York City.   Rice had a regular column in the New York Evening Telegram, which yielded thousands of requests for analyses and her students completed these analyses under her supervision, one of these students was Nadya Olyanova.   In 1925 under the name of Laura Doremus, Louise Rice published a book which sold for many years, it was called Character in Handwriting.    A year later, in 1926, Rice founded the second American Graphological Society in New York City, as an organisation to which her students and graduates (Rice Institute of Graphology) could belong, as well as other “suitable” graphologists whom she invited to join. In 1927 this A.G.S. was incorporated as a non-profit membership organisation in New York.    In 1928, Miss Booth was elected Vice-President of the American Graphological Society. She resided in Providence, R.I., at the time.   At the April 1934 meeting of the American Graphological Society, Louise Rice introduced Miss Booth to those present, stating that they had been dear friends and colleagues since 1908.

Some of Louise Rice’s former students went on to become well known in their own right.

  • Helen King
  • Nadya Olyanova (Andreiff)
  • Dorothy Sara (Chatcuff)
  • Shirley Spencer and
  • Muriel Stafford.

Milton Bunker’s Contribution to graphology in USA:

milton bunker, m n bunker, graphoanalysisFrom 1934 until 1960 Milton H. Bunker was the foremost promoter of graphology under his variant of the subject he called ‘grapho-analysis‘.  During this period it is likely that he interested more Americans and Canadians in handwriting analysis than had his predecessors combined.

Bunker firmly believed in study by correspondence, for he had taken correspondence courses from 1898 to 1927.  He had taken study courses in penmanship, shorthand, business English, typewriting, short story writing, chiropractic and naturopathy and salesmanship.

Bunker also took correspondence courses in graphology from A.J.Smith, DeWitt B. Lucas and Louise Rice.  He also had purchased sets of the Busse course and the Gubalke course.   There is evidence to show that he made a careful study of available graphological sources.  For example he studied all these graphologists and their work:  Beauchamp, Hausam, Howard, French, Smith, Saudek, Seton, Poppee, Crépieux-Jamin, Lucas, Rexford, Erlenmeyer, Goldscheider, Klages, Langenbruch, Georg Meyer, Laura Meyer, Preyer, Schneidemuhl, Schwiedland, von Hagen, Wells, Byram, Gerstner.

From 1909 Bunker began freelance writing of articles, columns and fiction, often under pen-names.   At the age of 32 years, in 1924, Bunker combined his graphological and writing skills and began a monthly column on graphology under the name of Roger Derrick.  This was the first of many pseudonyms he used for graphology.

Development of Graphoanalysis by Milton Bunker in America:

The French influence on graphology is often overlooked in America.   Around 1919 Bunker found a German translation, by Hans Busse, of Crépieux-Jamin’s work (1901).  He extracted many of the meanings of signs and incorporated them into his courses without giving credit to his source.  In Chapter 10, “die Resultaten” is on just four pages (pp.193-196), here Busse condensed Crépieux-Jamin’s discussion of resultants unmercifully, omitting much critical information.   It was from this condensation that Bunker adapted, calling it evaluation.   Schooling’s English translation of Crépieux-Jamin gave a more extensive coverage of Resultants, and although Bunker obtained the book around 1920/1921 he apparently ignored over 50 pages (pp.89-141) on resultants.

Bunker  was effectively adhering to the absolute fixed significance of graphologic signs as given by Michon.   He was ignoring Crépieux-Jamin’s advances which were stressing the relative value of graphic behaviour clues. It should be added that Bunker’s system has been criticized for this approach.   Bunker and teachers of his system have also been criticized for not citing sources.

In 1925 he became a regional sales manager for International Correspondence Schools, with duties that included visiting and interviewing applicants, training salesmen, hiring and firing.   In that same year his column included short lessons in graphology and he gave his first public lecture on graphology.   In 1926, Milton H. Bunker was a correspondence student of Louise Rice (Rice Institute of Graphology, in New York City). They became personal friends, yet also were enemies, graphologically speaking.   In 1928 Bunker gave radio broadcasts on graphology.  He ran for office of President of the American Graphological Society, roundly defeated by Louise Rice.   He smarted from the defeat and it motivated him to begin a study class in graphology by mail, to compete with Rice.

Establishment of The American Institute of Graphoanalysis by MN Bunker:

In 1929 he coined a new term for his intended variant of graphology.   He used the first part  of the word “graphology”, “graph” and added a hyphen, and added the last word of “handwriting analysis”.   In this way he coined the term grapho-analysis.   With the help of J.I.Kinman, he wrote the first course in grapho-analysis.  Bunker’s definition of grapho-analysis was “Every stroke of your handwriting has a determined value.   Each trait revealed in your writing has a relative value to another trait – and the sum total of the traits is the sum total of your personality”.

He named his school “American Institute Of Grapho-Analysis”.  This was very carefully chosen, he felt that by including the word “Institute” in the name of his correspondence school, it would enhance its image, and thus help enroll more students.   It seemed good business sense.   On the other hand, he did not want his name, Bunker, in the school’s name.  He wanted something broad and widely inclusive, to cover all of North America.   Thus he selected the word “American”.

Bunker was a promotional genius; each month, in 1929,  he was probably processing 20,000 requests for short analyses. This was possible because he had devised a check chart whereby handwritings could be assessed rapidly.

Problems for MN Bunker:

Bunker had borrowed, adapted and re-named the stroke principle of Wells (1866) and Michon (1870).  He had also taken Wells’ Valuation and some elements of Crépieux-Jamin’s theory of resultants, re-naming them Evaluation.   He also used trait descriptions of Wells, A.J.Smith, DeWitt B Lucas, Louise Rice and at least 20 other authors, lifted almost verbatim, or re-worded.    He added the claim that he had discovered well over a hundred traits reflected in strokes of handwriting.   He lifted whole portions from different authors without asking for permission and without giving credit and in some cases this led to the threat of legal action.

For example in January 1929 Bunker received a registered letter from the attorney of DeWitt B. Lucas demanding that Bunker stop using copyrighted material forthwith, or face a plagiarism suit in Federal Court.

The Depression Years for graphoanalysis in America:

A video covering the events in America at various places during the depression years

In October 1929 the stock market crash led to hardship by many people in the United States, these were the years of the depression.    The Institute of Grapho-Analysis weathered the depression as Bunker wrote articles and fiction for many magazines; the money earned went into the Institute.   As Bunker said “For some years during the depression, the Institute took in copper teakettles, bed sheets and other things from students hard hit by the deepening depression.   They couldn’t pay any money, but they wanted to study.  We got more junk in two years than you could find in a second-hand store today”.

In 1935 Bunker began issuing a house organ The Grapho-Analyst on an intermittent basis, to advertise and promote his course.   In the same year he purchased a part interest in a British correspondence school pushing courses in “applied” psychology, hoping to get his course included in their offerings to the British public.

The depression was easing a bit in 1937 and Louise Rice raised the price of her course to $75, so Bunker followed suit and raised his course to $58, still undercutting his closest competitor.   Bunker knew that his office rent, office help and supplies cost less in Kansas City than did her office and other costs in Manhattan.   This difference in costs meant that Bunker could undertake more classified advertising in more pulp magazines.  By 1938 Bunker’s course was beginning to outsell Rice’s; one reason was pricing, the other was advertising.  Louise Rice coined the term “Bunkerites” for his students and graduates, much to Bunker’s dismay.    In 1941 Bunker tried an idea whereby students could buy shares of stock.   The idea was that students would work to get new students enrolled.   However this was not a success, as Bunker said, “None of them were interested in fulfilling the obligation of the corporation”.   It did show Bunker’s enterprising nature.


Progress of Graphology around World War II

After the War competition became more intense. Refugee European Graphologists began activity in graphology in the United States between 1935 and the 1950s. Additionally several people were offering correspondence courses in handwriting analysis besides Milton Bunker.

These include

  • Walter Mann of the Psychographic Institute
  •  Asheville, NC (1945-1947)
  •  Irene Marcuse at Hampton-Marcuse Institute of Graphology in New York(1945-1953)
  • Kay Wolley at the Academy of Scriptology, California (1957-1961).

Indeed from 1947 onward some of Bunker’s own students and graduates began writing courses.

Raising complaints against graphoanalysis:

A steadily increasing number of dissatisfied students and graduates complained to various state and federal agencies about Bunker and his school. In 1948 an investigator from the Federal Trade Commission warned Bunker to immediately stop using the title   “Doctor or any initials with his name. In 1949 the Federal Trade Commission in Washington made Bunker drop the word ‘Institute’ in vending correspondence courses in grapho-analysis.   The FTC finally issued a cease-and-desist order in January 1950.

These actions against Bunker led to him re-writing his courses several times and renaming the school as IGAS inc. in May 1949.   The meaning of IGAS was International Grapho-Analysis Society.   Bunker had been advertising his activities as international, and he had noticed that other corporations engaged in publishing such as Grolier Society and the National Geographic Society had excellent reputations.   For years he had been calling his students members and this title seemed to be appropriate.

In this way Bunker could continue to advertise and sell his courses and other publications dealing with, or related to, grapho-analysis in interstate commerce via the mails.   The “membership dues” received from students or graduates could continue to go towards the annual franchise fee, paid for the right to use his trade-mark-registered words “grapho-analysis” and “grapho-analyst”.

In 1957 Bunker devised a Code of Ethics to control students and graduates to eliminate future threats and to stop current students from spending money elsewhere.  Bunker’s first criterion of loyalty was how well his students and graduates kept away from graphological books and organizations, in obedience to his teaching and warnings.

New graphology schools in America:

  • Nevertheless, one dissident set up an Experimental Study Group in New York State, preparing an experimental set of lessons.
  • Around 1957, another graduate, Charlie Cole, set up Handwriting Analysis Workshop Unlimited (HAWU) and a correspondence course in graphology.   These lessons were based on Klara Roman’s Psychogram.
  • Around 1958 another graduate K.K.Golson in California set up the Scriptology Institute Inc. (S.I.Inc) and a course called “Scriptology” with over a thousand pages and lower cost than Bunker’s course.

Bunker certainly did much to popularize handwriting analysis in America.   At the same time, he was smearing graphology in any way he could, to lessen the competition, so that he could peddle his correspondence courses in grapho-analysis.  Bunker paid for the publication of a book that he wrote under the name of David Ord.  This book attacks graphology and praises grapho-analysis, under the misleading appellation of “an objective study” (1959).  Bunker did not stop here; he wanted to create a “cult” of grapho-analysis worshippers.  He did not want any of his students to even so much as look at any book on graphology.

In 1959 Bunker’s health began to fail and he asked Peter Ferrara to take charge of IGAS; in the next year he lost voting control of IGAS to Ferrara.    Following a series of heart attacks in March Bunker died in a Phoenix hospital on 3 April 1961

Jean-Charles Gille-Maisani (1991) said this of IGAS:  “In spite of the conscientious work of several authors who use this method and the occasional interesting remarks in their productions, I have no hesitation in considering that Grapho Analysis holds back the development of graphology in the United States and Canada”.


Conclusion notes about the progress of graphology in America:

There are several overall issues that emerge from the data, and help to explain the current status of the subject in America.

The vast size of America may be the reason why correspondence tuition has enjoyed popularity for all subjects.  It was only a matter of time before the formula would be applied to graphology. Milton Bunker must take credit for designing and promoting such a course that was extremely successful in the market place. This situation has persisted to the present day and distance learning is the most popular form of teaching for handwriting interpretation.   This is in spite of the fact that some people argue that it is not the best way to teach or learn.

A second observation can be made concerning the promotion of graphology.   The pattern of marketing and sales practices for graphology in the USA has followed an identifiable pattern.   The first phase came from newspaper columns and the offer of analyses.   The evidence shows that this resulted in thousands of requests and a great interest in the subject.   This idea was then adapted to the radio and then, albeit with less impact, to the television.   Against a background of low-cost self-help paperback books flooding the market, these initiatives did much to raise awareness in the subject.   In contrast, awareness and knowledge of graphology in Europe was built by word of mouth recommendation and by face to face teaching, in many cases as one-to-one tuition.

A third observation can be made concerning the short life of graphological interest groups.  Numerous groups have been established and been dissolved after a brief period of time.   IGAS is a notable exception, although it differs in that it is not a scholarly society but a corporation.   The French Graphology Society, which has run continuously since 1871 had some interesting observations on this instability in 1953 (La Graphologie No.50 12-15).   “Our impression, based on received documents, is that graphology in America has not had a comparable development to that seen in Europe, notably in Germany, France, Switzerland, Britain.   There is no regular journal in line with our ‘Graphologie’, where theoretical and practical issues of graphology are discussed.” The article continues: “The rule of the American Graphology Society is that its president must change every two years.  We doubt that this practice would be favourable to a continuous effort”.

A strange parallel took place in most graphological groups in America.    In every case, dissension and ill feelings between members and officers caused the dissolution of each group. A “power elite” had formed in each group, seeking personal advantage at the expense of the rest of the members.    Over half of these groups had collected small graphological libraries which quietly “disappeared” into the hands of the “power elite” of each group.  Conflict of interest, combined with selfishness and self-promotion, brought about each group’s disbandment.

The trustees and curator of H.A.R.L. have drawn a moral from this. They know that there must be a large, extensive reference library in graphology in the United States, preferably non-profit, non-political, non-sectarian, self-supporting, operated on principles of freedom of intellectual inquiry and high standards of scholarship and ethics, open to all sincere inquirers equally, but never favouring any one single school of thought in graphology.

It is clear that a short article cannot fully describe the development of graphology in the United States of America. These notes are therefore intended to encourage the reader to search out more information. This description should provide researchers with avenues for further investigation.

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2 thoughts on “Graphology in America

  1. Dear All,

    My name is Abdullateef Al-Qasemi and my PhD dessertation is about graphology. My mother tongue is Arabic.
    Could you please provide me with recent researches, articles, studies or books about the recent status of graphology research. Or ideas that help direct me in my reserach.

    Thank you for you cooperation

    Abdullateef

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