Collections › OSMG Collection › Physiognotrace or Silhouette Machine

Physiognotrace or Silhouette Machine

Vogler, John
Place Made:
Salem, North Carolina
Date Made:
cherry –walnut –brass –iron –tin
HOA 12-1/2″; WOA 5-13/16″; LOA 18-9/16″
Accession Number:
Cherry physiognotrace with brass and iron fittings. The body of this piece consist of a base that resembles a footstool; having a decorative molded edge and two shaped plank legs with mortise and tenon construction. The rectangular box on top of the base is held into place by two screws underneath; the box itself has dovetailed construction. The box has two doors on the each end that open up with two brass hinges holding each door in place; one door has a small brass pull knob. The door with the pull has four iron pins that hold the paper and tin frame in place for tracing; two of the pins do not appear to be original; a thin tin piece is pinned to an iron mount, which is on the right side of this particular door, and holds the door shut. The interior has a pivoting piece made of brass with a ring at the top; the piece moves forward and backward and the tracing rod fits through the ring, the ring is then tightened. The rod is made up of shaped walnut with a long metal rod at the hand-held end and a metal tip on the other.
LABEL NOTES: This machine was used to trace a person’s face to one-eighth of its natural size by means of following the rod along the facial outline of a subject seated in a chair. The outline, impressed on paper placed in the opposite end, was then cut out with tiny scissors to form what was called a profile- the modern term being silhouette. Family tradition states that this cherry machine was made by John Vogler after a trip to the Peale Museum in Philadelphia where his profile (which is in the collection) was cut by means of a similar device. While it cannot be ascertained for certain whether or not Vogler actually constructed this machine, it is fairly certain that he employed it in his shop. In fact, family tradition states that Vogler loved to cut profiles and would call people in off the street to do it. Vogler was certainly prolific at this art- dozens of profiles of well known and unknown local residents cut by Vogler survive. Three profiles attributed to Vogler are on display in the 2nd floor sitting room in Vogler’s house.
RELATED NAME: Vogler, John (owner)
Credit Line:
Wachovia Historical Society Collection