The Faces of Americans in 1853

for Sacvan

Let us analyze the American….The American head
is generally large, which the phrenologists attribute to
increased development of the brain. There are all varie-
ties of face, though the oval predominates….The fa-
cial features are, for the most part, more sharply chi-
selled with us than with any other people.

—”Are We a Good-Looking People?” (1853)

When you turned
to the farmhand who hailed you
from the field you could see the face
of the American.

Everyone had the face.
There was an appreciation
for the way each chin perfected
an oval.

All day in his shop
the blacksmith
swung his hammer laughing
at the nondescript faces of Europe.

At night in her home
the mother
admired the heads
of her children, already large.

As far away
as Kansas
their chiselled features rose
up from the horizon.

Indians who looked down at the faces
of those they had killed
with their arrows
wept at their mistake.

-Wesley McNair