Scope and Contents
This subject category- Physical Culture consists of material related to the various aspects of physical culture. The materials contain information about physical culture and instructions for readers on how to improve their bodies. Numerous images show how to perform exercises and images of healthy and unhealthy bodies. This category contains information not only on the philosophy of physical culture but numerous items that illustrate the start of America's obsession with weight and body image and the commercialization of physical health.
Publications, Informational and Instructive consists of books, periodicals, and broadsides that were published to inform the public about physical culture, to direct readers in how to follow some aspect of physical culture, or both. Though a portion of these items are related to specific exercise equipment or regiments, publications for the purpose of marketing an item or service are located in series two. The majority of items in this series were published in New York, between 1890 and 1920; however there are also items from as early as 1854 and one item from 1940 as well as items from London, Philadelphia, Boston, and Battle Creek, Michigan. Publications are in alphabetical order by author.
The subject most represented in this series is exercise with many items providing information on how to perform proper exercises through both written description and images. The instructions are often different for men and women and many involve the use of various types of exercise equipment. Other topics covered include nerves, breathing, massage, and many other tenants of physical culture. Two volumes, The Body Beautiful and The Top Link, have instructions for properly performing everyday tasks such as sitting, standing, and breathing. Two volumes, Health Culture and the Sanitary Woolen System and The Influence of Dress in Producing the Physical Decadence of American Women, focus on dress and its affect on the body, specifically the dangers of corsets and artificial fibers. Manuel for Physical Measurements gives directions on how to measure the size and strength of various mussels. Training in Theory and Practice is a general text providing information and instruction on almost all areas connected to physical culture. The latest publication, The Fifty Years in Business Magazine from 1940, contains an article about Bernarr Macfadden.
Advertisements is divided into four categories depending on what the advertisement is attempting to sell: exercise equipment, classes at physical culture institutions and schools, instruction in physical culture through books or by mail, and lectures on physical culture. The items are mostly broadsides, letters, or pamphlets and the majority are illustrated, many in color. Most items are from the 1890s and early 1900s with a large number from New York including all the physical culture schools. Within each sub series the items are in alphabetical order by the company advertised.
Advertisements exists for numerous exercise machines, including many that are similar to machines seen today and some that are less familiar. Two machines, the Albany Normalizing School's Niles Normalizing Machine and the Sanitarium Equipment Company's Battle Creek Health Builder, use electricity to vibrate a belt placed against the body. Other contraptions included The Cartilage Company's Cartilage Treatment which increases height, the Greenhut-Siegel Copper Company's Professor Charles Munter's Nulife, a garment that improves the wear's posture, and a vibrator from Shelton Electric Company.
Instruction is offered in massage, hydrotherapy, Swedish movements, and facial beauty culture, as well as general physical exercise and education. In addition the advertisements from Macfadden Publications, Inc. and Physical Culture Publishing Company both include opportunities to become involved with the company itself, by purchasing stock or becoming a sales associate. The proposed benefits from the equipment and instructions cover a large range of topics including health, self respect, increased lifespan, youthfulness and for women a more attractive face and larger bust.
General Information includes an article from 1795 on the health benefits of massage as well as other newspaper articles about physical culture. Images of various types depict the ideal male and female body. Items are arranged by type, image or article, then by date.