"The judge reached and took hold of the man’s head in his hands and began to explore its contours."
1848 edition of American Phrenological Journal
Public Domain1848 edition of American Phrenological Journal - Credit: Fowlers & Wells

The judge is practicing phrenology, a pseudoscience popular in the first half of the 19th century which  involved the feeling of bumps in the skull to determine an individual’s psychological attributes. Focussing on personality and character, it was distinguished from craniometry (the study of skull size, weight and shape), and physiognomy (the study of facial features).

Although popular as a form of psychology during the Victorian era and 1840s America, phrenology was rejected by mainstream academia and had already been largely abandoned as a science by the early 20th century.