U of S | Mailing List Archive | alt-photo-process-l | Re: Puyo and Demachy said it first [was Re. Paper Negatives]

Re: Puyo and Demachy said it first [was Re. Paper Negatives]

I highly recommend the movie 'The Road to Wellville' for what is probably a historically suspect look at the physical culture movement in the early 1900's. Lots of good old fashioned potty humor and hilarious scenes of adults making polite small talk over dinner about the subject of intestinal health. Anthony Hopkins has a great time playing a totally mad Dr Kellogg. If you are in the right mood, this movie is pretty funny. Some of the more interesting 'exercise' machines shown in the movie would suggest that people's desire to have a effortless method of getting fit may not be a recent phenomena.

I also recall an extended passage in the Sinclair Lewis book, 'Babbit' (1922) , where the protagonist decides to get fit using some pathetically pointless dieting and exericise routines.

Anyway, this is in no way any kind of proof of anything, but some good fun nonetheless. I tend to agree with you that physical fitness was not really something to which most grown adults paid any attention prior to the seventies.

On Dec 4, 2007, at 1:57 AM, Judy Seigel wrote:

Gordon -- You're "proving" that some concepts existed. I don't doubt it. I'm talking about everyday life.

So what if I *heard* of the "speedo swimsuit" ?-- a piece of clothing you wore, and written up as such. I NEVER saw one on a person or knew a person who had one, making it extra beside the point. I also heard of graham crackers and smelling salts and touch your toes and chew 100 times before swallowing and endless wacko "health" plans, some of which indeed reached the mainstream -- what was the one about drinking vinegar? (I think you mixed it with something.) Not to mention "pink pills for pale people," Wheaties, breakfast of champions, and Wonder Bread that built strong bodies 8 ways.

Meanwhile, when I speak of "gym culture" and reaching the masses, I mean the ordinary person, not just the babe in the speedo, but middle aged, middle class, and OLD age and "working class" who NOW go to a gym and regularly "work out."

That there was *a* health club chain" in 1870 is not this argument. I knew HUNDREDS, probably THOUSANDS of people and NONE of them went there. No college friend, no neighbor, no relative or colleague, not even a mere acquaintance belonged to a gym that I ever heard of.... until, oh maybe 1970 oe 80. True, there was "physical therapy" in cases of accident or illness or even congenital disability, but that's "medicine" not gym.

That various strategies were available to those who wished or needed them or had them prescribed, is simply not this discussion... & again 100% beside the point. Yes, my husband was in the army circa 1955 and had "basic training," ie, marching in the heat of some South Carolina bog until half of them passed out. That was NOT gym culture, and neither he nor any of his army buddies went anywhere near a "gym" voluntarily until much later (in fact that army experience probably innoculated them against it).

But I would gladly explain the meaning of language, including such terms such as "mass culture" and "mainstream" to your historian friend. If he shares your interpretation of this discussion, he clearly needs help.

PS. I probably read more books than your buddy and my father worked for the NY Times -- we had 3 newspapers in the house daily & I read many items BESIDES the funnies. I never heard of Annette Kellerman or Million Dollar Mermaid either (what could SHE do at a gym anyway? Ride the bicycle?)



On Sun, 2 Dec 2007, Gordon Cooper wrote:

Judy Seigel wrote:
On Sun, 2 Dec 2007, Gordon Cooper wrote:
There was a health club chain open in the US c. 1870 with the development of the "Health Lift"reactionary lifting machine. Club swinging, parallel bars and pulley weights were standard too. Oh, and a lot of the gyms were for women, as Jan Todd and other historians of Physical Culture have noted. Genevieve Stebbins, the Delsarte proponent was a paid member of the Dudley Sargent gymnasium at Harvard c. 1890. A number of schools implemented the Delsarte method of physical culture training as described by Stebbins and her contemporaries. A quick perusal of early issues of "Health and Strength" or "Physical Culture" magazine will reveal ads for quite a few gyms and facilities for women (and men). "Pudgy" Stockton was a professional bodybuilder in the 1930's, and she was by no means the first.
Actually, Gordon, you may be proving my point !!!! My family subscribed at one time or another to a dozen magazines & read a dozen more at various times. We never ever even HEARD of the physical culture magazines you cite. Today when I walk to the post office I pass 3 gyms in one direction and going to the main post office in the other direction I pass two.
My point isn't that there were no gyms or "physical culture," but that something happened to bring this culture to the masses, into the mainstream -- to put the Crunch gym on Hudson Street with 100 people using the stair master at street level on view behind a wall of glass. (Well, maybe not 100 people at once, but if you stood there for a couple of hours.....)
Or walk east from the post office on Christopher Street, you pass two more...I don't recall ever seeing a gym or even hearing of one in my "youth," which believe it or not was well into the 20th century. Today even my heterosexual friends in for gods sake THE SUBURBS belong to gyms.
What more can I say?
Um.. Judy, it was mainstream. Several times. I take it you've heard of the Speedo swim suit? Annette Kellerman? Million Dollar Mermaid? The New York Times? Did your family read the Times in 1904? 1927? 1891? Army calisthenics? Did you have a family member in the armed forces after 1870? If so, they participated in the mainstream of Physical Culture.

The mainstream is defined by whether or not you or your family have heard of something or participated in it?

Try suggesting that to my historian friend, Ronald Hutton. But duck quickly.

Gordon Cooper