Physical Culture City: 1905. First Edition. Physical Culture City, Spotswood, New Jersey, 1905 or later. Thirty-one images in total, varying sizes, most 3 x 5 inches or smaller. Fair to Good. Item #CAT213
Bernarr Macfadden was a proponent of Physical Culture, a movement combining exercise with nutrition and ascetic living that helped give rise to bodybuilding culture. The movement had origins in the mid nineteenth century in Germany, the United Kingdom and eventually America. Macfadden’s system gained popularity largely through the exposure he gave it in his large publishing empire. He founded Physical Culture magazine in 1899, and eventually grew his publishing holdings to include several other publications including Liberty, True Detective, Photoplay and others. In 1905, McFadden purchased land in Spotswood, New Jersey with the intention of forming a community of Physical Culture proponents. He wrote, in Physical Culture, that he wanted to form a community where “physical culturists could live the kind of life they could not find out in the rest of the world... No sickly prudes, no saloons, drug stores, tobacco shops or places in which one may purchase things that make for the moral undoing of man or woman!"
After engaging the services of two hundred loyal physical culturists to clear the land and build the camp, Macfadden moved his entire publishing operation to the newly-built camp in 1905. The experiment was short-lived. Residents of the area complained of the physical culturists scant attire, the camp suffered from disorganization, and Macfadden was busy dealing with various other legal problems relating to his publishing empire, including a conviction for publishing explicit material in Physical Culture. Eventually this proved too much to bear, and the experiment failed in 1910. Macfadden moved his remaining operation to the Flatiron Building.
The group of photographs here offer a scarce look into the failed project. Macfadden is pictured in one of the pictures, wrestling with another man in the snow. Most of the other images show the architecture of the camp, with a few showing the residents, and one picture showing a group of men looking at a car that has fallen into a river due to a bridge collapsing. Unfortunately the images are not in great shape, having been exposed to moisture at some point and removed from an album by us to house in archival sleeves. We have kept the rear board of the original album, as there is a map of Physical Culture City affixed, and it is included here. The pictures remain in fair to good condition, and the historical scarcity and intrigue of the content makes them worth the effort to digitize and preserve.