Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Moving With the Times - Physical Culture for Men

I've not been posting much of late, but I have been busily working on many, many projects - they just had to be kept "under wraps" until after this past weekends annual "Ladies & Gentlemen of the 1860's Conference"! But now it's time to share and I'm starting a series of posts on the workshop that we presented: Moving with the Times. 

Every time period has a characteristic “look”, partially defined by clothing and hairstyle, but also by the way people interact with their surroundings and more importantly, with each other. We designed Moving With the Times as an interactive workshop - we discussed and demonstrated both the ideal and the reality of physically maneuvering our modern bodies in the mid-19th century manner. While the clothing styles of the time help to reinforce certain ways of moving, knowledge of the periods “do’s and don’ts” is also essential.

Particular emphasis was placed on physical interactions between men and women in public and management of hoops, but we also explored a wide range of topics including the effect of social standing on acceptable body movement and the impact of the exercise “craze”.

In regards to the mid-19th century exercise craze, I found a wonderful series of cartoons that I was not able to include in our handout, due to size limitations, so I'm sharing it here:

Mr. Slim's Developments in Physical Culture

Mr. Slim reads Prof. Strongman on "Physical Culture."

Is highly delighted-determines to commence a course of exercise immediately.

Having purchased the necessary implements, he surveys them with great satisfaction.

Appearance of Mr. Slim in his gymnastic suit.

First day holds out the two pound dumb-bell, after repeated trials.

Suffers great pain all night-swelled appearance of arm in the morning.

Resolves to be more careful and gradual in his exercise-development of left arm in one month.

Commences practice with other arm-appearance in another month.

Commences practice for development of legs.

Appearance at expiration of third month.

Finds it necessary to develop the vital organs-begins accordingly.

Appearance of Mr. Slim at the expiration of four months.

The cartoons appeared in Ballou's Dollar Monthly Magazine, which billed itself as "The cheapest magazine in the world", in May of 1862. It's good evidence that the increased interest in exercise for exercises sake was not just an upper class pursuit - all social classes were targeted.

Somethings just don't seem to change: Mr. Slim buys the gear and clothing and gives it up in a few months - has this happened to you?

There were many, many gymnastic and calisthenic books published in the mid-19th century - gymnastics were targeted more towards men and required a great deal of apparatus. Calisthenics were for women - we'll be discussing this more soon

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