R. A. Brady, Matthew B  (American, 1822-1896)

R. A., a boy some fourteen years of age, afflicted with spinal complaint, is an inmate of Long Island Farms. He is distinguished for intellectual acumen and power, is the best scholar in the institution, and is esteemed a talented and good boy. p. 173

Mathew Brady was hired to take daguerreotypes of mental patients and criminals, to be used as illustrations in the American edition of
Rationale of Crime and its Appropriate Treatment. Their purpose was to show how to read a criminal head – to detect a biological source of social behavior, so the behavior might be reformed with reliable predictability. These daguerreotypes became the basis for 19 woodcuts to illustrate the various phrenological theories in the book. Eliza Farnham, the author of the appendix in which Brady’s images appear in the book, wrote in her preface:

My acknowledgements are due to the officers of the Penitentiary on Blackwell’s Island for their politeness in furnishing me with facilities for taking the daguerreotypes, and to Mr. L. N. Fowler for aiding me in selection of cases; nor must I omit to name Mr. Edward Serrell, who was obliging enough to take the outline drawings for me; or Mr. Brady, to whose indefatigable patience with a class of the most difficult of all sitters, is due the advantages of a very accurate set of daguerreotypes.

Farnham was a matron of the Mt. Pleasant State Prison for Women at Sing Sing. Famous for her role as a prison reformer, Farnham was interested in phrenology, which linked character traits with the shape of the skull. [1]

Reproduced / Exhibited

Hanson, David A. "The Beginnings of Photographic Reproduction in the Usa." History of Photography. 12.4 (1988): 357-376. figure 8


[1] Hanson, David A. "The Beginnings of Photographic Reproduction in the Usa."  History of Photography. 12.4 (1988): 357-376.

Sampson, Marmaduke B, and Eliza W. Farnham. Rationale of Crime, and Its Appropriate Treatment; Being a Treatise on Criminal Jurisprudence Considered in Relation to Cerebral Organization. … from the Second London Edition, with Notes and Illustrations by E. W. Farnham. New York, 1846.

Trachtenberg, Alan. Reading American Photographs: Images As History : Mathew Brady to Walker Evans. New York: Hill and Wang, 2008. pl. 16 p. 57