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New York Folklore Quarterly, Vol. XVI, No. 3, Autumn 1960

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NEW YORK FOLKLORE QUARTERLY
Vol. XVI, No. 3, Autumn, 1960

IDENTIFYING MOTHER LEE’S PICTURE
Eugene F. Kramer

IN 1871, Mr. L. A. Wells, editor of the Illustrated Annual of Phrenology and Physiognomy, prepared a series of phrenological analyses of leading Americans. Mother Ann Lee, founder of the Shakers, caused him a great deal of trouble because she left no known portrait when she died in 1784, and a good likeness of the subject was required for a phrenological report. When human resources failed to produce the necessary picture, Wells turned to the supernatural to supply one. How the spirits rose to the challenge is a fascinating bit of folklore.

“We have presented to us,” wrote Wells, “a portrait purporting to be that of Mother Ann Lee, as she is reverently and affectionately called. It is what is called a psychometric portrait and the manner of its procurement will be found in the note at the close of this article.” The note referred to is a letter from Elder George A. Lomas, editor of the official Shaker journal published at Mount Lebanon, New York...





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