Pelmanism is the system of scientifically training the mind invented by William Joseph Ennever. He is described in the "New Century Cyclopaedia of Names" Vol 2. as the "English journalist who originated the mnemonic training system known as Pelmanism." Click here for more details of his life and career.
"Whilst many thousands have perceived the gigantic flaws in our intellectual fabric, one man began long ago to re-design the building", said Sir Max Pemberton, a popular British novelist, in his introduction to the advertising booklet "The Efficient Mind". He was referring to W. J. Ennever who, with others working with him, set out to develop the system. His idea was to develop both the intellect and character of the individual and it was an idea that achieved immense success with huge audiences around the world.
"What's Who? - A dictionary of things named after people"
Limited information has been found to confirm the true origins of Pelmanism and The Pelman Institute and some of the available evidence is conflicting. In his foreword to W J Ennever's book "Your Mind and How to Use it" his long-standing friend and colleague T Sharper Knowlson writes that "then came a request from Professor Loisette, who was undertaking a popular course in memory training, to undertake its management" while the Oxford English Dictionary states that the Institute was founded by Christopher Louis Pelman, a British psychologist, in 1899 and this is supported by "What's Who? - A dictionary of things named after people".
It now seems virtually certain that the request from Loisette and Pelman's origins are not quite as these publications suggest.
As John Karp writes in his excellent biography, Ennever hints at these origins, although never mentioning Loisette or Pelman by name: "I realised, however, that the training of the mind was a practical possibility; and, in conjunction with some of the ablest psychologists of the time, I brought out the first modest system of mind and memory training". John also writes that "Unfortunately there are no reliable sources on Christopher Louis Pelman himself, and his fate remains unknown".
Since John's biography was written we have discovered some new evidence that Christopher Louis Pelman was indeed the person responsible for the first version of the course with the exciting find of a set of booklets of "Memory Training. It's Laws and their Application to Practical Life" (see images below). The booklets are undated but are believed to date from the late 1890s/very early 1900s.
Left: WJ Ennever's course Right: Christopher Louis Pelman's course
There is no doubting the connection between Christopher Louis Pelman and W J Ennever as the address on Pelman's booklets, "The School of Memory Training", 70 Berners Street, London is the very address where Ennever's wife, Mary Margaret, was living in 1901. There is another very striking similarity between the two courses in that they both contain the "Knight puzzle". It is certain that these booklets are indeed earlier instruction courses that helped to formulate Pelmanism. This, however, throws into some doubt the claims by Sharper Knowlson that Professor Loisette, an American, was the instigator of Pelmanism.
It thus seemed that Pelman was an American as, despite exhaustive searches, no record other than the address on his booklets has been found for him in England while references do exist to a Christopher Louis Pelman an American "Memory teacher" and to a Pelman School of Chicago. These can be found in the US Library of Congress Online Catalog where he is credited with writing "Memory Training", presumably the same work as mentioned above, and "The natural way of learning a language" c1903, a subject he included in those early memory training booklets. Pelman's complex use of the English language in his training material also pointed in the direction of him being a native English speaker.
Professor Loisette, while having been very successful in his day, is now largely believed to have plagiarised much of his material and his name Loisette, was itself an alias. He was born Marcus Dwight Larrowe in the USA and is also known as Silas Holmes. Further analysis of the Pelman booklets and the work of Loisette supports the view that one was plagiarising the work of the other. Both men's work originates in memory training and both claim to have developed systems to help to improve memory. Pelman's earliest known work is the set of 5 booklets while at a similar time, Loisette published his principal work "Assimilitative Memory" in New York in 1896.
Christopher Louis Pelman's "Figure Alphabet"
Prof. A Loisette's "Figure Alphabet"
Both works contain "Figure Alphabets" as a means of memorising dates or numbers by converting them to words or phrases using consonants. As a simple example, "Enemies" would represent 230.
While I understand that "Figure Alphabets" have been in existence for several centuries a cursory glance is all that is required to see that both the figure alphabets and their supporting text are virtually identical. In support of his choice of the letter "S" to represent "0" Pelman wrote "A small written s has some similarity with the figure 0; also if the capital letter S were cut into two parts and the bottom half attached to the top half it would make a nought (0)." Loisette argued "If the capital letter S were
cut into two parts, and the bottom half attached to the top half, it would make a nought (0). So it is easy to remember that S represents 0."
"Memory and Success"A Loisette 37 New Oxford Street, London W (British Phone Books advertisement 1886)
Professor Loisette was in London between 1885 and 1888 as he is recorded as living and working at 37 New Oxford Street. We also know, from his early booklets, that Pelman was in London in the 1890s less than half a mile away in Berners Street. The 37 New Oxford Street address is only a few yards away from 4 Bloomsbury Street, the headquarters of The Pelman School (and later The Pelman Institute) and it was from this address that Loisette was advertising his "Memory and Success", seemingly an almost identical offering to that of The Pelman Institute. It is of course inconceivable that the two men, living and working within a few hundred yards of each other, would have created virtually identical offerings that both included "Figure alphabets" and their supporting text in isolation. A natural assumption to make, therefore, is that the two had known each other, and William Joseph Ennever, and had worked together at some stage. Although there are no known references to Christopher Louis Pelman in the UK before 1891, he would have been there before 1888, the last known year that Loisette was in London.
The later view of experts on early psychology that Loisette had plagiarised much of his work suggests that this may have occurred while he was in London and that it was Pelman's work that was his principal source.
C L Pelman in his study. The Review of reviews by William Thomas Stead (v25 1902). Source: Google books
Loisette returned to the USA in the late 1880s/early 1890s and published his best known work with no reference to Pelman. He may have further developed Pelman's work, or had access to material that Pelman was working on but had not yet published, enabling him to complete his own book prior to its publication in 1896.
Wake up and mend! A word for memory culture. The Review of reviews by William Thomas Stead (v25 1902). Source: Google books
There are no verifiable references to Ennever & Pelman working together in the USA and so it is unclear whether Pelman was working on his own account when he returned to the USA. Some form of partnership with Ennever obviously existed as a copy of the US version of Pelman's "Memory Training" booklets shown below includes a copyright notice in the name of W. J. Ennever and is dated 1903. The earliest known advertisement for the Chicago-based "Pelman School of Memory Training" was also in 1903 (see section 5 below) and although Ennever is thought to have previously travelled to the USA we know he travelled there in October 1903 when he gave his final destination as Chicago, clearly suggesting he would be meeting Pelman to further develop their business interests.
William Joseph Ennever himself had little to say about the Institute's origins, except when interviewed for The Times in 1922. This is what Ennever had to say in the article "The Biography of an Idea" (see image in section 5) :
"Pelmanism is not the result of a sudden inspiration, but rather the fruit of gradual evolution. Nearly twenty-five years of slow and careful experimental work has gone into the upbuilding of the Pelman System.
The idea, as it existed in my mind at the first, was in a more or less nebulous form. When I started the Pelman 'School' (as it was originally called) somewhere in the early nineties, I cannot say that I had definitely formulated the idea of Pelmanism as it exists today. It would be manifestly absurd to do so, because the Pelman system represents the response to a demand of the nature and extent of which I only vaguely guessed the existence twenty-five years ago."
"The Secret of Certainty in Recollection"
The Pelman-Foster System
It's only a short comment, but it's one of the most revealing glimpses Ennever ever gave about the origins of the Institute, then a memory training school, and confirmed for us that Pelmanism was born out of this memory training course. He was presumably working with Christopher Louis Pelman and maybe others at this time on memory training techniques.
The Times 20th March 1906
The Pelman-Foster System
The Pelman School of Memory, as confirmed in the above newspaper interview, was the fore-runner of The Pelmanism Institute and the origin of at least one of its innovations. While correspondence courses were apparently known in the USA the Pelman School was possibly the first to use the technique in the UK. Their course for memory training is recorded in the form of "The Secret of Certainty in Recollection. The Pelman-Foster System", a book of five correspondence lessons dating from c1905. Each lesson was accompanied by an "Examination Sheet" for completion and return to the school but no examples of these sheets have yet been found. These five lessons are a later version of the "Memory Training" booklets pictured below.
In a later publication, "Your Mind and How to Use It" (1958) Thomas Sharper Knowlson writes that in 1900 he was asked to become the Director of Instruction and Editor-in-Chief of Ennever's Pelman Course. In the 1901 census he can be found living in Streatham with his wife, Lily, and young son and his occupation is listed as "Secretary of College (&) Journalist".
The Strand Magazine 1908
The Pelman-Foster System of Memory Training
A Times newspaper advertisement of March 1906 identifies a Mr R F Foster as "the author" of the system and the Pelman School of Memory invited participation in classes to be held by Mr Foster to teach his method of memory training. This appears to confirm that Robert Frederick Foster, the author of Foster's Complete Hoyle (the authoritative work on card games) and the disseminator of the rules of many card games, including auction bridge and other bridge variations, the Salvadoran conquian and whist was indeed the Foster of Pelman-Foster. WJ Ennever's name does not appear in the advertising or documents of the time and therefore suggests that his role in the venture may have been as the "marketeer". By 1905, the school had offices in South Africa, Australia, America and Germany as well as its headquarters in Bloomsbury Street, London where it was to remain until the 1930s and Ennever is known to have been widely travelled.
Foster is believed to have been born in Scotland in 1853 and had emigrated to the USA at an early age and is also credited in "Who's who among North American authors" as the co-author of the system. Foster died in 1945, aged 92. Interestingly, the 1888 book "Loisette" exposed (Marcus Dwight Larrowe, alias Silas Holmes, alias Alphonse Loisette) reveals that RF Foster had worked as Loisette's business manager from 1877-78, before quitting and denouncing him as "a fraud and a humbug". "Loisette" exposed goes into a frenzy of name-dropping to show the purity of Foster's motives.
"Loisette" exposed (Marcus Dwight Larrowe, alias Silas Holmes, alias Alphonse Loisette) (1888)
"Mr. Foster is a native of Edinburgh, Scotland and is connected with some of the best families in Great Britain. Lord Kinloch, for many years Lord Provost of Scotland, was his first cousin, and he numbers among his immediate relatives the Bishop of Kildare, the Rev. Dr. Moody Stewart, and the Sandfords, of whom Sir Herbert is well known in America, having been British Commissioner to our Centennial in 1870. Knowing these facts, it was not surprising, on meeting Mr. Foster, to find that he was thoroughly ashamed of ever having had any connection with Loisette".
My "Little Bit" by Marie Corelli c1919
As Ray Girvan says in his blog (see sources) "It's still a trifle suspicious to quit working for someone you think a charlatan, then immediately go into the same line of business with closely similar instruction texts".
This leaves us with the question of Christopher Louis Pelman's origins and the earlier thinking that he was British or an American. Marie Corelli's book My "Little Bit" published in about 1919 gives us the first clue that this assumption was incorrect. Corelli takes a sharp dig at Pelmanism, telling how she was offered, and refused, 50 guineas to write a promotional piece but asserts that Pelman was originally known as Poehlmann.
"It is but the other day that I was assured "on the highest authority" (as the bewildered press reporters at the Peace Conference have expressed it) that "Pelman" was originally spelt "Poehlmann,".
There are at least two online references (see sources) which confirm Pelman (or Poehlmann) as a German who, as a student, was interested in psychology and states that he completed his education in England. It also confirms the link to Ennever, although wrongly calling him John W, and to the Institute. The German text introduces another psychologist's name to the potential list of collaborators, that of a Dr Thorp, while S Sharper Knowlson is correctly known as Thomas Sharper Knowlson.
"Prof. Poehlmann came from a humble background. His parents were German. He was born in the second half of the 19th century. His interest in psychology goes back to his student days. He finished his studies in philosophy and psychology in England. After having made known his ideas in books and other publications, he founded an institute with John W. Ennever in London in 1900. Later the teachers and psychologists Dr. H. Thorp and S. Sharper Knowlsen joined them. Spreading his system for memory training was the goal of the institute".
Christoph or Christof Ludwig Poehlmann (or Pöhlmann) was the author of numerous German-language books and guides on memory and concentration. While he also wrote on other subjects, including Die deutsche frau nach (1914) a general discussion of the German woman in the early 20th century and Englisch leicht gemacht (English Made Easy), the reference to a German language version of Memory teaching: its Laws and their application to practical life and his many German works on memory training would seem to leave little doubt that this is the man known in the UK and later the USA as Christopher Louis Pelman. Pelman's nationality may have led him to leave the UK for America in the early 1900s as anti-German feeling had been running high in London since the mid-1890s.
Although he appears to have had limited direct input to the development of the memory training courses Ennever's contribution and their business connections are endorsed by a dedication in a 1930s copy of "Brain Building for Success" (a later incarnation of Pelmanism) in which Pelman, then deceased, is quoted as saying "This book is dedicated to the memory of my friend and partner of early days".
We know that several of William Joseph Ennever's family were also involved in the business although verifiable information is limited we do know that his brother, John Dominic Joseph Ennever, travelled to South Africa in 1903, presumably on Pelman Institute business and is recorded as the Assistant Secretary, Memory Training School in 1911.
From an advertisement in "The Pools of Silence" by H de Vere Stacpoole published in 1919.
Pelmanism was advertised as a system of scientific mental training which strengthened and developed your mind just as physical training strengthened your body. It was developed to expand "Mental Powers in every direction" and "remove those tendencies to indolence and inefficiency" and was a development of the earlier memory training system.
Amongst the defects and weaknesses claimed to be "rapidly and permanently banished by Pelmanism" were:
Weakness of Will
Want of Energy
Lack of Ideas
Shyness and Diffidence
Lack of Confidence
Unnecessary Fears & Phobias
Lack of System
And besides banishing these failings, Pelmanism "makes and keeps your
brain keen, fresh, vigilant and self-reliant, and develops such valuable positive qualities" as:
Strength of Will
Social Charm and Tact
Speaking & Debating Power
The Power of Thinking Constructively
Presence of Mind
Or, as the advertising booklets "The Efficient Mind" (below. left) and "The Science of Success" (below, right) put it:
In reality, Pelmanism was more a mixture of perceived common sense and some early practical psychology which found a willing mass audience of people looking for something beyond memory techniques.
5. The Pelman memory training and Pelmanism courses
The memory training courses became popular in the early 1900s, developing into the better-known Pelmanism courses, continuing through the First World War and remaining so until the Second World War and was advertised extensively during this period in newspapers, periodicals and books. William Joseph Ennever was declared bankrupt in 1940 and died in 1947 and the course remained in use long after his death. The Times carried an advert for "Super-Pelmanism" on 22nd October 1943, a version of the course it is thought he personally developed to try to regain some of his former glory and wealth. This was followed by other adverts in The Times in 1945 and the evolution of his training course into his book "Your Mind and How to Use it" published shortly before the Second World War.
In the promotional booklet published in the USA in 1927 (see below), entitled "Scientific Mind Training", illustrations of Pelman Institute offices from several locations around the world were shown as well as interiors from the London office. The Royal Academy portrait of William Joseph Ennever, which is also featured in the table of contents, can just be seen hanging above the fireplace in the "Chief Consultant's Offices" in the London Headquarters.
In a similar promotional booklet "The Efficient Mind", probably published in the 1930s, many well-known people of the time extol the virtues of Pelmanism. These included Sir Max Pemberton, who wrote the forward, Baroness Orczy, author of "The Scarlet Pimpernel", Sir John Foster Fraser, Jerome K. Jerome, Lieut-Gen. Lord Baden-Powell, the brother of the King of Sweden and others. Even the earliest known advertisement (see below) claims that Ennever had "Crowned heads, Princes, prelates, members of Parliament, merchants, bankers..." among his pupils and offices in Melbourn, Munich and Paris. It is not yet known when the word "Pelmanism" was coined nor when the course evolved from memory training to a "mind training" course but the earliest known reference to "Pelmanism" is not until 1917. Its popularity had increased dramatically by the end of the first World War driven by the notion that Britain could regain its position of predominance in the world. The regular advertising in The Times would have given Pelmanism "establishment approval" and a number of eminent people of the time had all added their well-publicised support although as we saw earlier it is probable that these testimonials were far from unsolicited!
Pelman Institute, Application Form. India.
The Pelman Institute was still in Bloomsbury Street, London W.C.1. in the 1930s with offices also in Melbourne (396 Flinders Lane), Durban (Natal Bank Chambers), New York (71 West 45th Street and also at 271 North Avenue, New Rochelle), Delhi (10 Alipore Lane) and Paris (35 Rue Boissy d'Anglais). There are also records of offices in Calcutta (102 Clive Street) and Java (Kromhoutweg 8, Bandoeng). Enrolment in the course cost £6.6.0 and it was claimed to have been adopted by over 500,000 men and women. The education was delivered using a correspondence system that it is thought he modelled on the American system. It is also claimed that Pelmanism was practised in the Great War in "well-nigh every battalion in the Army and on practically every warship in the Fleet, and its votaries included many Admirals and Generals...".
William Joseph Ennever's book "Your Mind and How to Use It" published in about 1940 claims that over 100,000 members of His Majesty's Forces had enrolled during the Great War for a course that was specially designed for them. Enrolment in the war-time course called "The Ennever Foundation Course" cost £1.10.0d. The offices were now located at Vernon House, Sicilian Avenue, London W.C.1.
Like its predecessor, the Pelman-Foster memory training course, Pelmanism has its roots in memory training as can be seem from the following earliest-known advertisements in The Times in February 1903 and from the USA and Canada c1903-5.
Pelman's System of Memory Training.
The Times 21/2/1903 (part 1). (This advertisement was a full newspaper column in length.)
Pelman's System of Memory Training.
The Times 21/2/1903 (part 2). (This advertisement was a full newspaper column in length.)
The Pelman School of Memory Training. Chicago c1904
Pelman System of Memory Training. Chicago c1903.
Pelman School of Memory. USA c1905.
Pelman School of Memory. Oswego Daily Palladium New York 10/1/1905.
Memory is Capital to men of Affairs
Illustrated London News 10/4/1909
A small selection of the many later advertisements and testimonials for Pelmanism are shown below:
Pelmanism advertisement: The Times 19/2/1916
Pelmanism advertisement: The Times 19/2/1916
Pelmanism advertisement: The Times 19/2/1916
Pelmanism advertisement: Nash's and Pall Mall Magazine December 1917
'What I Think of Pelmansim', Judge Ben B Lindesy. Advertisement for the Pelman Institute of America.
'Pelman News' from The Illustrated London News 7/6/1919.
Pelmanism advertisement (part): The Times 18/7/1918
Pelmanism advertisement (part): The Times 18/7/1918
Pelmanism sweeps the country. The Times 4/2/1919.
Pelmanism advertisement: The Times 20/2/1919
Pelmanism advertisement: The Times 20/2/1919
Pelmanism advertisement: Punch or The London Charivari 9/4/1919
Pelmanism advertisement: The Times 2/1/1922
Pelmanism Awakes the Giant Within You.
The World's Work Advertiser March 1922 (USA)
Source: Unknown (USA) c1923
Pelman Institute of America, 2575 Broadway New York City
Source: Unknown (USA) c1925
Pelman Institute of America, 19 West 44th Street, NYC.
The World Sweep of 650,000 Pelmanists
Source: The Rotarian November 1924 (USA)
Are You Afraid To face The Truth About Yourself?
Source: Mentor Nov 1925 (USA)
Pelmanism advertisement: The Times 28/1/1928 By Edward Anton
Pelmanism at Work. Radio Times June 5th 1925
Pelmanism advertising brochure containing various testimonies from India. Printed in Delhi
Le Temps 22/7/1927
Paris has just added a branch of the Pelman Institute
Scientific Mind Training booklet. Published in the USA 1927
Scientific Mind Training booklet. Showing images of Pelman Institute offices around the world,
including interiors of the London headquarters.
Scientific Mind Training booklet. Table of contents of the booklet, showing the portrait.
Pelmanism advert from the 1928 Daily Mail yearbook
Pelmanism advert from the 1928 Daily Mail yearbook
Pelmanism advert from the 1928 Daily Mail yearbook
Pelmanism advert from the 1928 Daily Mail yearbook
Pelmanism language advert from the 1928 Daily Mail yearbook
I gambled 2¢ and WON $35,840 in 2 YEARS, Popular Mechanics April 1929(USA)
The Man with the 'Grasshopper Mind', Popular Mechanics Jun 1930 (USA)
Source: Unknown (USA) c1930
Sponsors: Frank P. Walsh, T.P. O'Connor, Lucas Malet, Mrs. St. Leger Harrison
'Why Worry?' advertisement for the Pelmanism course in 'Lilliput' magazine March 1941
Advertisement for the Pelmanism course on back cover of "World Digest" June 1942
Source: The Times 22nd October 1943.
Source: The Times 22nd March 1945 & 16th May 1945.
Source: The Times 5th December 1945, 6th February 1946, 1st May 1946 and 6th November 1946.
Pelmanism advertisement: "Geographical" 1st November 1967
The Institute was still advertising in The Times, the literary magazine "The Argosy" and other publications until the late 1960s and while the date of its final demise is not known W J Ennever would have been forced to resign from the board on his bankruptcy, however.
The last known advertisements for Pelmanism are from "Geographical" magazine in November 1967 and from a 6/- (18 @ 4d) stamp booklet "Barn Owl" from January 1969 in which several educational establishments advertised their offerings, including the Rapid Results College and the Linguaphone Institute. The Institute's address in the 1960s was Tudor House, Carter Lane, London EC4 with overseas offices advertised as being in Delhi, Durban & Paris.
The Pelman Institute saw opportunities to sell its course as part of the country's war effort and for the second World War offered its course at half price to serving members of His Majesty's serving forces and its advertisement claimed offered 'Time and energy to spend in service that will add to Britain's striking power!'
It is claimed that the course had been adopted by a total of more than 500,000 people and another 100,000 of His Majesty's Forces enrolled for the course specially designed for them during World War II. The Institute advertised its value to the home war efforts by 'On The Home Front' advertisements (see right). The World War II supplementary course booklet designed specifically for service personnel was entitled 'For War-time members of his Majesty's forces' (image below). Back in 1918 The Daily News had dedicated three columns of its September 28th edition to reviewing Pelmanism. We know that the Institute paid for testimonials so it is hard to believe that this was an independent review, although it claims to be such, as it reaches the following glowing conclusions:
The newspaper "Truth" had published a similar review of Pelmanism in a Special Supplement in May 1917 and over eleven pages extols its virtues in the same way that it had done a year earlier and The Daily News was to do the following year.
The early memory training course developed by The Pelman School was a course of five lessons which included Laws of Mental Connection, proper use and training of the senses, the "Figure Alphabet" system of recalling important numbers, learning languages and lists of events, people etc. These are known in two forms of five lessons each.
Set of 5 booklets by Christopher Louis Pelman Undated but believed to be c1902 (see US version copyrighted W. J. Ennever 1903 Source Google books)
Later set of 5 booklets by Pelman School of Memory published as a hard cover book "The Secret of Certainty in Recollection"c1905)
A later version of "The Pelman System of Mind & Memory Training" course, thought to date from 1916, had been extended to become twelve lessons, the same format as the earliest known Pelmanism courses. These lessons contain the first examples of health exercises designed to supplement the improvement of the mind training courses, partly by improvements in breathing techniques and simple physical exercises. These exercises were created by Eustace Miles M. A.
This 1916 course had developed beyond memory training as can be seen from the title and while no mention is made of "Pelmanism" it was to be only a short period before the full transition had been made to the well-known course title. Several elements of the Pelmanism pyschology and language training techniques can be found in this version.
The "Little Grey Books", which together with the Exercises and Examination Papers constituted the later Pelmanism Course underwent continual improvement and can be found in twelve or fifteen lesson versions as well as the simplified "Super-Pelmanism" version referred to above (no example of this course has yet been found, however). The style of the booklets suggests that the fifteen lesson version is a later course. The twelve lesson version was the course in use just after the 1st World War, the start of Pelmanism's success. See above for T. Sharper Knowlson's summary of the course as published in The Times in February 1920.
The Course was given entirely by correspondence so that there were no classes or lectures to attend. You could 'follow it in your own time and at the most convenient moments'.
The fifteen lessons were as follows and in addition "General Supplements" and a second world war "War-time" supplement are also known:
The Soul of Pelmanism
Driving out the inferiority complex
Your purpose in life:
How to achieve it
The will to conquer
Concentration and mental control
The Science & Art of Self-realization
The Money Brain:
an enquiry into its qualities
The world of people
and things to know about them
Self-expression and personality
Good judgement in business & affairs
The scientific method:
or how to handle your facts
Your subconscious life
Creating new ideas:
Studies in imagination and originality
The use and abuse of reading:
How to organize your mental life
Pelmanism in action
For War-time members
of his Majesty's forces
Pelman Institute Certificate (1954)
Pelman Institute Certificate (1963)
Each booklet came with its own worksheet which the student completed and returned to the Institute. On satisfactory completion of the course students were awarded a certificate of "Membership of the Pelman Institute". The "marking" process consisted of an examiner making comments and criticisms which were annotated on to the worksheet and returned to the student. No scoring of the worksheet was undertaken.
The course also came as a boxed set and the twelve lesson version has also been found as a bound hard cover book (see images at top). It is likely that the bound volumes were printed either by the student themselves or were an offering by the Pelman School or Institute on completion of the course. The worksheets were only sent out on completion of a previous one and in the examples of the books I have seen the right edge is not clean cut and there are no standard preface pages.
The nine dots puzzle from Pelmanism Worksheet 8 (1932)
The nine dots puzzle from Sam Loyd's book (1914)
Worksheet 8 of a 1930s course contained a puzzle that will be recognised today as one that appears regularly in logical and creative thinking questions and which appears to be first recorded in Sam Loyd's, Cyclopedia of Puzzles. (The Lamb Publishing Company, 1914). It seems that the Institute had modified the puzzle for its own use when creating its exercises.
6. Pelmanalysis (Pelman Institute Vocational Guidance Bureau)
Letter referring to Pelmanalysis 1930
In the 1920s the Institute introduced "Pelmanalysis", a "scientific enquiry into the abilities of men and women" which pointed to "their eligibility to fill specific positions". The analysis was based on a large chart containing 82 questions of a personal nature and then based upon this information the Institute sent the client a set of psychometric tests which, in turn, were returned to the bureau and analysed.
The lack of available source material suggests that this analysis did not have a great deal of success and no examples of the questionnaire, the tests nor the resulting advice have yet been found although we do know it was still being marketed as late as 1930.
Brain Building for Success by W J Ennever. The Ennever Foundation Ltd (c1938)
Your Mind and How to Use It by W J Ennever. Doubleday & Doran Co, New York (1938)
The Ennever Foundation is known to have existed from the late 1930s and it is possible that Ennever had parted company with The Pelman Institute by this time as he had also founded his Institute of Personology by 1938. Probably in an attempt to stave off his personal bankruptcy W J Ennever published his mental training techniques as hardcover books and while they contained many of the exercises from the grey books it was no longer a correspondence course requiring the reader to complete and return 'answer sheets' having become a 'self-instruction course'. These hardcover books are first known in the 1930s as 'Brain-Building for Success' published by The Ennever Foundation Ltd. It contained a posthumous dedication from the late C L Pelman and identifies W J Ennever as the founder of Pelmanism. His friend and colleague from The Pelman Institute, T Sharper Knowlson is the book's associate editor and it contained the following sections:
Your Place in the World
Why not a Better Memory?
Educate your Desires - as well as your Intellect
The Will to do Well
Concentration: The Mark of Mental Mastery
Mental and Physical Rhythm
A Common-Sense Talk about Personality and Self-Expression
An example of the book published in New York in 1938 included a similar set of chapters.
Later versions then appear also entitled "Your Mind and How To Use It" and are simplified and smaller in size and content compared to the above versions in a presumed attempt to regain a mass market and also specifically marketed to members of the armed forces.
Your Mind and How to Use It. Brain Building for Success by W J Ennever. Thorsons Publishers Ltd (reprinted 1958)
Your Mind and How to Use It. Special Forces Edition by W J Ennever. Thorsons Publishers Ltd (c1945)
In a foreword by Ennever and T. Sharper Knowlson these later editions are sold as "... not a book on psychology, but an entirely new course of mental training developed out of the experience of forty years. A book on psychology is about everybody's mind. This book is about your mind."
It is probable that examples of these titles may be found in the countries in which The Pelman Institute had offices and covering a period from the mid-late 1930s until some years after the end of second World War. The special war time edition produced for the UK's HM Forces was an abridged version of "Brain Building for Success" and attempted to build on the success the correspondence course achieved during the Great 1914-18 War.
Over 100,000 members of the forces had enrolled for the special Great War course that was developed for them although the Institute believed that a lower cost would have substantially increased the take-up. The second World war edition, being a self-instruction course, was their response. The 1958 edition for general consumption was virtually identical to its war-time predecessor probably because both Ennever and Knowlson had died in 1947.
The Straits Times, 8 September 1939 (Singapore)
The Ennever Foundation Sixth Book (c1940s)
W J Ennever had returned to his successful little grey books format, although few examples are known, but now using a more attractive light blue. He published a version of his 'Brain-building for Success' as these 'Little Blue' books apparently in the same structure as the chapters of his 'Brain-building' book but until more examples are found it will be difficult to confirm this.
Given W J Ennever's experience in 1940 book 6 of The Ennever Foundation course contains a salutory lesson entitled 'When Disaster Threatens' saying 'Let us turn to another aspect of the subject. Take expectation - a fear of something evil, or unfortunate, about to happen. Perhaps a firm of high repute has failed, and as you are involved, it may mean your failure also unless you can obtain money due from a party abroad. Your ability or inability to do this is the origin of your fear. If you can - welcome relief! If you can't, stark bankruptcy!
Although they are not seen advertised in anything like the frequency of the mind training courses the Pelman Languages Institute also offered language courses in French, German, Spanish, Italian and also Afrikaans and Urdu and possibly Hindustani. In the booklet "Science of Success" printed in India from the early to mid-1940s it claims that these courses had been in use for over 20 years.
The earliest versions of memory training booklets by Christopher Louis Pelman and of Pelmanism all contain hints for learning languages and the last known advertisements for Pelman Institute language courses appeared in "The Times" in 1967 when the Institute's address was Tudor House, Carter Lane, London EC4 with overseas offices advertised as being in Delhi, Durban & Paris.
The booklets were published by The Pelman Institute
or the The Pelman Languages Institute. All are undated.
Speak French, German, Spanish or Italian in a Short Time c1927
The Gift of Tongues (German) c1940s
The Gift of Tongues (Urdu/Hindustani) c1940s
The "Science of Success" c1940s
The Times 5th Sept 1967.
One of the last known advertisements
for the Pelman Institute.
Pelmanism and Health Culture (incl "Stalag IV A" POW stamp)
The pre-WW1 mind and memory course and many of the "little grey books" contain physical exercises as an integral part of a Pelman fit body and mind program and a course of these exercises was published separately around the time of the second world war. They may have been popular with members of the armed forces as an example is known to have been used in the Stalag IV A prisoner of war camp by a Private A L Covill from Cambridgeshire. It contains the "Stalag IV A" POW stamp on its inside cover (see over).
7 Weeks to Conquer the Weaknesses The Institute of Personology Picture Post 31/12/1938
We know that William Joseph was declared bankrupt in 1940 and it appears that, in 1938 and possibly earlier, he was attempting to stave off this outcome by launching 'The Institute of Personology' and was using his knowledge and past reputation to rebuild his wealth and reputation. The new Institute used his undoubted success with Pelmanism to sell his new 7 week course 'Personology' but was careful to avoid using the words Pelman or Pelmanism. The Picture Post advertisement refers to his 'mind, memory and personality training' and that he 'pioneered the first comprehensive system that swept the world and put a new word into the English Dictionary'. It also continued the extensive use of testimonials, the Picture Post advertisement including quotations from seven well-known publications including the Daily Sketch and the Sunday Times.
'Personology' looked and felt like 'Pelmanism' in all respects and offered a free copy of a book entitled 'Plus Minds' and a course that 'can make YOU a dictator - of Yourself'. The Sunday Graphic's glowing testimonial saying:
'...Rich in backbone and stimulation. Delivers a deadly blow at the inferiority complex. Its contents are so shrewd, and its approach so sympathetic that it may be called not one but all mankind's epitome.'
Despite the hype and high profile advertising it is likely that this revamped offering had limited success as no examples of the 'Plus Minds' booklet have yet been found.
A number of advertising leaflets have been found that give us some idea of the grandeur of the Pelman Institute building in London as it was in the mid-1920s. Most of the international offices had addresses in prime city locations.
The Pelman Institute Board & Instructors
Pelman Institute letterheads from London in 1932 and Delhi in 1943, an example of advertising material for the Swedish office and details of The Pelman Institute Board of Directors and Instructors..
As we saw earlier many well-known personalities of the day had given personal tributes to the value and benefits of Pelmanism. We also have evidence that at least some of these testimonials were solicited and a fee offered. The following is an incomplete list of many of the people who gave testimonials for publications in England. Similar testimonials have been found for the American market and it is probable that they exist for advertising in other countries also:
Extract from testimonial
Sir Max Pemberton, a popular British novelist, working mainly in the adventure and mystery genres.
Whilst many thousands have perceived the gigantic flaws in our intellectual fabric, one man began long ago to re-design the building.
Baroness Orczy, author of "The Scarlet Pimpernel"
Even the most superficial glance at the 'Little Grey Books' will open up the most dazzling possibilities...
Dame Sybil Thorndike, actress
I am happy to tell you what a really excellent course in mind training we have received from your twelve little grey books.
The Rt. Hon. J M Robertson, formerly Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade
Pelmanism is a progressive method by which all men of ordinary education who are content to take trouble for a good end can profit mentally to an indefinite extent.
Lieut.-Gen. Lord Baden-Powell of Gilwell. KCB, KCVO, LLD, FRGS and "Chief Scout".
I feel that no man - no matter how educated or what his age or what his profession - who seriously takes up the Course can go through it without improving himself to some degree, while to many it will assuredly point a path that will help them to successful careers."
Mr Edgar Wallace, one of the most popular and successful of living authors and dramatists.
I have found Pelmanism the most useful method for the organisation of thought. To students of all ages it seems to me to be indispensable. It is the machine-tool of thought.
T P. O'Connor, the "Father of the House of Commons".
The system is all that it professes to be. It is not only unique in itself, but deserves well of the country and of the world.
H.R.H. Prince Charles of Sweden, brother of His Majesty the King of Sweden
Pelmanism shows us the way to the improvement of chaaracter and an active life. The power of expression is increased and will power developed. I hope that Pelmanism will gain adherents in increasing numbers and show many an uncertain and hesitating wanderer the way to a happy life.
Jerome K Jerome, famous author and dramatist
By the help of Pelmanism he (every youngster) might have been a useful member of Society from the beginning. The sooner he takes it up the better for him and for the country.
Sir Herbert Austin, Head of the world-famous Austin Motor Co.
Pelmanism is proving of immense help to the people of to-day. A study of the science of Pelmanism will enable the student to develop a Will and to make his brain an efficient servant of that Will. Too many people are just drifting. Pelmanism can stop that drifting and start the drifter on a useful journey.
It seems that the system still has its followers today, albeit many seeing using the original material as a commercial opportunity, as can be seen from the following books and web sites:
Pelmanism in Vietnam
A book entitled 'con duong lap than' has been published in Vietnam apparently dated as late as 1999 with a credit to W J Ennever although it seems highly unlikely that this is an official publication (see image right).
A website offering to sell you some very dated memory training systems (incl Prof. Loisette's "Assimilitative Memory" first published in 1896 and with references to the "Pelman Method of Mind and Memory Training" (in 4 volumes). See other links here offering the booklets for free!
A website offering free access to the text of the "Little Grey Books". It quotes
'To read the FREE 15 Lessons online please click on "15 Lesson Guide" in the navigation bar at the top of this page. Thank you.'
"Unless a man can control the workings of the mind he is its slave and not its master."
The unknown "Pelman Institute of America" appear to have published "Pelmanism, A Whole New Mind: Change Your Brain, Change Your Life" in 2008. See image right.
Note: neither I nor any of the family, as far as I am aware, have any connection with any of these sites and I have provided them for information only. I must add though that even the closest descendants of William Joseph Ennever, while recognising the phenomenal success the course had in the early 20th century, would certainly question the validity of many of the claims made for it by the above concerns.
There are also countless websites about "Pelmanism", the memory card game, which is often claimed to have its origins in the Pelman course although there is no real evidence to support this. There is no specific reference to the card game in "the little grey books" although even the first lesson includes an exercise in which the student is encouraged to deal out four playing cards face down, turn each over in sequence and then after two minutes remember the four cards in order. Once mastered the student is encouraged to move on to five cards and gradually increase the number. Other card memory games appear as student exercises but none which could be descibed as "Pelmanism".
John Waddington Ltd, the famous playing card manufacturers, also sold a card game based on the Pelmanism mind training course which was designed to find the emotional age of the player or players. This had nothing to do with memory training, however.
The rules of Pelmanism, the card game (also known as Concentration and Pairs):
Any deck of playing cards may be used. The rules given here are for a standard deck of 52 cards, which are normally laid face down in 4 rows of 13 cards each. The two jokers may be included for 6 rows of 9 cards each. In turn each player chooses two cards and turns them face up. If they are of the same rank and colour (e.g. 6♥ and 6♦, Q♣ and Q♠ or both jokers if used) then that player wins the pair and plays again. If they are not of the same rank and colour, they are turned face down again and play passes to the player on the left. The game ends when the last pair has been picked up. The winner is the person with the most pairs and there may be a tie for first place.
It was probably inevitable that a popular and successful mind and memory system would have had its critics although documented references to them appear to be limited to Maria Corelli (see section 2), who disliked the system of paid-for testimonials, and a humorous and rather uncommon satire by someone who clearly wished to remain anonymous. The author of 'Bellmanism', which was published by Gee & Co. in 1921, purports to be published by Whizz Publishing of London. There are no clues as to the author's real identity who describes his work as a 'Little Gay Book', a take-off of the Pelmanism 'Little Grey Books'.
The 'Bellman' is the leader of an expedition in 'The Hunting of the Snark' by Lewis Carroll in which the Bellman has a rule-of-three: What I tell you three times is true.
The '£500 a year increase!' cartoon reads:
Managing Director (on right) :- Mr Jones! Have any of your men bad memories? I want someone to act as my private secretary but I do not want one who will remember my private affairs. I want a man whose memory cannot be relied on.
Mr Jones :- I think, sir, that Mr. Nincolm Poop would suit you sir. He can never remember anything for two minutes together, sir. He has recently taken a course of Bellmanism, sir, which I believe is a system of mental training by which the inconvenient retention of unpleasant facts in the memory is avoided, sir.
Managing Director :- Very well, Mr Jones, send him to me at once -and- Mr Jones, you can increase his salary £500 per annum!
I would like to thank Ann Miller, W J Ennever's granddaughter, and John Karp for their help in improving this history of The Pelman Institute & Pelmanism and to Ray Girvan for his discovery of the origins of CL Pelman & RF Foster and for several online references to Foster, Pelman and Loisette.
If anyone has any further documents or information on the Pelman School of Memory, the Pelman Institute, Pelmanism (particularly Pelmanalysis), Bellmanism or Whizz Publishing Co., Christopher Louis Pelman, Richard Frederick Foster or the life and career of William Joseph Ennever I would be delighted to hear from you.