Souvenirs at the Philadelphia Museum

Peale wore many hats and one of those was of a business man.  While his museum was created to educate and elevate the public’s understanding of the natural world, it also served as a source of income for Peale.  One of the streams of income the museum generated was through the selling of souvenirs. 

A silhouette is an inexpensive way to capture the likeness of an individual.  Using the British invention of a physiognotrace machine, the operator can sketch the outline the sitter’s head in profile, cutting away the paper to leave a hollow image.  "During the process, the subject 'pressed his cheek against a concave wooden plate while a long brass gnomon was run lightly around his head.'  The image was then traced onto paper creating four silhouettes of the subject" (Fling).  This provided for a fun and personalized keepsake for a visitor to purchase at Peale’s Museum. 



The most proficient and talented at operating the physiognotrace machine was a man named Moses Williams.  Williams was enslaved by Peale, yet was able to earn a living wage from the income through creating silhouettes. 

During his time at the Musuem, Williams created over 8,000 silhouettes, which were sold at eight cents each.  And with each silhouette stamped with the word "Musuem", Williams' talents went unrecognized.