Friedrich Ludwig Jahn

Posted on Monday, April 23rd, 2018 by John Wood
The Father of gymnastics is widely regarded as Friedrich Ludwig Jahn, the German Prussian physical culture pioneer. As a commander in the Military, Jahn was shocked at the poor physical condition of the soldiers during the Napoleonic wars of the early 1800’s. As a result, Jahn devised a system of exercises and games intended to improve strength and stamina.

This gave rise to the Turnverein Movement, or gymnastic societies, which sought not only to build military readiness but also national pride through physical training pursuits.

It was Jahn who devised early models of the gymnastic equipment which are commonly today: the balance beam, horizontal bar, the parallel bars and the vaulting horse.

The German Wheel

Posted on Tuesday, January 9th, 2018 by John Wood
Here’s a lost piece of training equipment that you sure don’t see every day the German Wheel. Also known as a Gym Wheel or a “Rhönrad”, Otto Feik, a metal worker from Germany devised this unique device in 1925 as a means of building full-body strength and stamina (while also having a good time doing so!)

It consists of a giant metal frame, about seven feet in diameter, with straps for the feet and overhead “rungs” which are gripped with the hands during use. A user then controls the movement of the wheel with body power – they say it’s a great “core” workout.

In 1936, at the Berlin Olympics, there was an exhibition of “Wheel Gymnastics” which spread the popularity of the Gym Wheel to other countries. Today the German Wheel” is virtually unknown in the U.S. but there have been contests and even world Championships going on in Europe and Japan for decades.

All Contents, Including Images and Text, Copyright © 2005-2019 by John Wood and Thunderdome Media Inc., Not to be reproduced without permission, All Rights Reserved
Author: John Wood. All contents, including images and text, copyright © 2005-2019 by John Wood and Thunderdome Media Inc. Not to be reproduced without permission. All rights reserved. We will most likely grant permission but please contact us if you would like to repost. IMPORTANT: Equipment and books, courses etc. pictured in blog posts are generally not available for sale unless specifically noted.

The Gymnasium of the Central New York Turn Verein

Posted on Friday, May 9th, 2014 by John Wood

The Gymnasium of the Central New York Turn Verein

A look at the typical afternoon session at the central New York Turn Verein, circa 1890. Look closely and you’ll see an impressive rack of Indian clubs and dumbbells, climbing ladders, trapeze swinging and all manner of fitness building activities. Located at 211 East 67th street, in addition to the excellent gymnasium shown above, the central Turn Verein also had rooms for swimming, shooting, fencing and bowling. It also featured the largest ball room in the city of New York at the time.
All Contents, Including Images and Text, Copyright © 2005-2019 by John Wood and Thunderdome Media Inc., Not to be reproduced without permission, All Rights Reserved
Author: John Wood. All contents, including images and text, copyright © 2005-2019 by John Wood and Thunderdome Media Inc. Not to be reproduced without permission. All rights reserved. We will most likely grant permission but please contact us if you would like to repost. IMPORTANT: Equipment and books, courses etc. pictured in blog posts are generally not available for sale unless specifically noted.

The West Point Gymnasium, 1895

Posted on Saturday, February 22nd, 2014 by John Wood
In the early 1800’s, the physical education program of the The United States Military Academy was sporadic, and lagged behind other institutions of higher education such as Harvard and Yale. To address this discrepancy, in 1885 West Point hired its first professional physical education instructor, Herman J. Koehler, who revitalized the program and made it one of the finest in the country.

One of Koehler’s major contributions was to secure funding for the building of a new gymnasium which, when completed in August of 1892, was superior to any in the world at the time. The rare shot shown above was how it looked in 1895. Look closely and you’ll see Indian clubs, wall pulleys, climbing ropes, tumbling mats, climbing ladders and many other pieces of classic gymnastic equipment.

Koehler was a member of the famed Frankford Squad.

The Gymnasium of the Romania College of Physical Education

Posted on Sunday, January 20th, 2013 by John Wood
The Gymnasium of the Romania College of Physical Education
Here’s a quick look at The Gymnasium of the College of Physical Education in Bucharest, Romania. Their most well-known graduate is the famed gymnastic coach Bela Karolyi.
All Contents, Including Images and Text, Copyright © 2005-2019 by John Wood and Thunderdome Media Inc., Not to be reproduced without permission, All Rights Reserved
Author: John Wood. All contents, including images and text, copyright © 2005-2019 by John Wood and Thunderdome Media Inc. Not to be reproduced without permission. All rights reserved. We will most likely grant permission but please contact us if you would like to repost. IMPORTANT: Equipment and books, courses etc. pictured in blog posts are generally not available for sale unless specifically noted.

U.S. Naval Academy Gymnasium, circa 1899

Posted on Friday, November 23rd, 2012 by John Wood

U.S. Naval Acadey Gymnasium 1899

A look at the U.S. Naval Academy Gymnasium, circa 1899 …Climbing ropes …Rowing machines …Pommel Horses …Climbing Ladders …Flying Rings …Tumbling Mats …Look closely and you’ll notice that the entire back wall is covered with racks of Indian Clubs.

The Springfield College Gymnasium

Posted on Wednesday, November 7th, 2012 by John Wood

What’s notable about this particular old gym?  Look close and you’ll see a rack of Indian clubs, some light barbells and some other vintage gymnastic equipment which makes it pretty nifty insofar as oldtime training gear goes but there is another reason that this gym stands out… It was at this gym, at the School for Christian Workers at Springfield College in December of 1891, where the first game of organized basketball took place. James Naismith, under orders from Springfield’s physical education director Dr. Luther Halsey Gulick, was to develop a vigorous indoor game which could keep the students in shape during the winter months. The baskets — actual peach baskets — were nailed to the lower rail of the balcony, which happened to be exactly 10 feet from the floor… and the rest is history.

This picture was taken around 1887, so a few years before all the hubbub started.

The Ohio State Armory

Posted on Wednesday, August 22nd, 2012 by John Wood

Ohio State Armory - 1898

I’ve had this picture of this fantastic old gym in my collection for years and it has always been a mystery as to exactly where it was. Recently, thanks to the wonder of the internet, we have found out that this is the interior view of the gymnasium of the Ohio State Armory, in Columbus, Ohio.

This was a pretty typical gym at the time: plenty of wide open space and a variety of available gymnastic training equipment such as traveling rings, medicine balls, tumbling mats, pommel horses and climbing ropes etc. Like most gyms of the period, the training options were basic, but more than enough to obtain good results. The large and very impressive semi-circular beamed roof was specifically designed to allow in plenty of natural light.

The armory was quite a facility, It was built in 1897 and resembled a Medieval castle, turrets and all, as you can see in the exterior shot below.

The 23rd Street Y.M.C.A.

Posted on Tuesday, May 29th, 2012 by John Wood
The 23rd Street Y.M.C.A.
A look at the interior of the famed 23rd street Y.M.C.A. in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan, New York City, sometime around 1900. Though the available equipment was spartan by some standards, it was certainly all that was (and is) required to build a high level of strength and vitality.

This facility is actually famous for several other reasons: It was one of the first centers of widespread basketball interest and activity in the US… in fact, the team that practiced in this gym, headed by Alfred “The Kid” Abadie and his brother Bob, won the very first national AAU tournament championship in 1898. Charles Merrill and Edmund Lynch (of Merrill Lynch) are said to have met in the swimming pool sometime in 1913 and, as the story goes, many decades later, it was this location that inspired the Village People song “Y.M.C.A.”

Around a decade ago, the building was sold and this area was turned into luxury apartments.

George Brosius and The Frankfurt Squad

Posted on Friday, May 11th, 2012 by John Wood

George Brosius and his Frankfurt Squad

George Brosius (far right) is shown here with his famous “Frankfurt Squad.” This seven member team was composed of the most talented individuals from the Milwaukee Turnverein of which Brosius was the long time teacher.

Against thousands of the best athletes that Europe had to offer, Brosius’ team shocked the world in 1880 by winning five out of twenty-two prizes at the international gymnastic competition held at Frankfurt, Germany. They also took first place in a separate German wrestling competition.

From left to right: Hermann J. Koehler(2nd prize, also Brosius’ nephew, FYI) , Anton Schaefer (4th prize), Friedrich Kasten, Carl Paul (21st prize), Wilhelm Lachenmaier, Otto Wagner (3rd prize), Carl Mueller (5th prize), George Brosius (director)

Also of note is the bust of Friedrich Ludwig Jahn looking down from above.