to walk, to ride or to take part in a game.”
That’s the problem that Herbert Hoover faced when he took the presidency back in 1928. Sure, running the country is hard work, but you still have to keep in shape.
Fortunately, this problem was solved ingeniously by White House physician Admiral Joel T. Boone. Boone created a game for the President and his staff which required very little equipment, and very little skill but which provided the perfect amount of daily physical activity.
The game was simple – it was a combination of volley ball and tennis, yet played with a medicine ball. Team members simply hurled the medicine ball back and forth over an eight foot high net. Points were scored when a ball hit the ground on the opposing teams side.
As Hoover wrote in his Memoirs:
And Will Irvin, a friend of the president, remarked:
Early each morning from four to 18 VIPs would show up for the games on the south lawn of the White House and at 7:00 sharp they choose partners and begin. They played until 7:30 when a factory down by the Potomac blew a loud whistle.
They played every morning of the week and paid little attention to the weather, whether it was cold, windy, rainy or snowing, they played almost always without fail, with the exception of an unusually drenching downpour where they retreated to the White House basement for their games.
Only once during his presidency did Hoover ever miss a game.
With plenty of natural lighting, an indoor track, climbing ropes, Indian clubs, balance beams, medicine balls, wall pulleys, climbing ladders and an awesome selection of globe barbells and dumbbells, I’d say this facility is just about all you could ever ask for in a gym.
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.
Hewlett is pictured here with the tools of his craft: boxing gloves, Indian Clubs, Dumbbells, medicine balls and the wooden wand. It should also be known that this picture represents the very first time a medicine ball was photographed in the US (taken around 1860). Interestingly, at the time most physical culture figures generally recommended very light apparatus work but Hewlett appeared to favor much heavier clubs and dumbbells. Also of note are those pretty nifty “dumbbell clubs” on the left.
Two other items of interest about Mr. Molyneaux: His daughter, Virginia married Frederick Douglass. In 1900, his son, E.M. Hewlett, became the first African American lawyer to win a case before the Supreme Court of the United States (Carter vs. Texas).