Thursday, February 22, 2007

Issues of Physical Culture Magazine Donated to Archives for Access through Ball State University Digital Media Repository

A recent donation to the Ball State University Libraries’ Archives and Special Collections Research Center from a faculty member and a student organization provides a resource for students and scholars in many disciplines including health and physical education, art, history, and journalism.

Physical Education professor David Pearson and the Ball State University Student Chapter of the National Strength and Conditioning Association presented the Archives with a collection of 40 issues of Physical Culture Magazine, dated between October 1917 and December 1939. The issues will be digitized and made available for study through the Ball State University Digital Media Repository, a project of the University Libraries.

Physical Culture Magazine was first published in March 1899 by Bernarr Macfadden. With the slogan, “Weakness is a crime; don’t be a criminal,” the magazine promoted the virtues of healthy diet, exercise, and natural healing. It included articles, fiction, advice columns, testimonials, and a wide range of advertisements. Macfadden wrote much of the content under various male and female pseudonyms and illustrated it with photographs of men and women in “classical poses” to demonstrate the health and beauty of a good physique.

The magazine’s circulation grew rapidly, from 5,000 in 1899 to 100,000 in 1901 and 500,000 readers in 1919. In 1941, Macfadden gave up Macfadden Publications and the new owners renamed the magazine Beauty and Health. Macfadden was outraged over the fate of the publication though and bought it back in 1943 to be published in a smaller format. He changed its name to Bernarr Macfadden’s Health Review in 1950. It ceased publication with his death in 1955.

Professor Pearson spoke of the importance of this historical collection for research, saying that “Bernarr Macfadden was a true visionary and his Physical Culture Magazine may be one of the most important publications of its time as it was the first to market the idea of health and fitness to a mass audience. To be able to help start a collection of these magazines with the help of our student NSCA organization has been very exciting for me. This publication was also the first to promote exercise to women. Not only will our exercise sciences students benefit from this collection, but others in art, marketing, and women’s studies will find a rich history with them.”

Dr. Pearson acquired the collection of these hard-to-find magazines via the Internet. More issues will be donated to the Archives as they become available.

For more information, contact John B. Straw, Ball State University Libraries’ Director for Archives and Special Collections Research Center,, (765) 285-5078.


Post a Comment

<< Home