Harry Truman’s 1948 White House Gym

Posted on Thursday, October 11th, 2018 by John Wood
A look at Truman’s gym in the White House, circa 1948. It is sparse, but certainly contains everything someone would need to stay in shape: medicine balls, Swedish Bars, Wall Pulleys, Gymnastic Rings, Rowing machine, health rider bike, situp board, and a rack of dumbbells (more of which are out of the frame.)

George Brosius’ Gym

Posted on Wednesday, August 29th, 2018 by John Wood
What a great gym! – This fantastic facility was established by George Brosius, a pioneer gymnastics coach and famous “Turner” in the Milwaukee area. You can read more on Brosius and his amazing story here and here. Gotta love the Indian clubs, climbing ropes, and medicine balls. This pictures dates from about 1900.

De Arte Gymnastica by Hieronimus Mercurialis

Posted on Saturday, February 17th, 2018 by John Wood
It doesn’t get any more “Old School” than De Arte Gymnastica by Hieronimus Mercurialis. Published in 1569, this is the oldest book ever written on physical training. It describes exercises as practiced by the classical Greeks and Romans: the value of walking, throwing the discus, climbing ropes, training with heavy balls (i.e. Medicine Balls) and, as seen in the wood cut above, dumbbells and heavy stone tablets called “plummets” — history’s first odd object lifting!
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.

Hooverball

Posted on Friday, April 11th, 2014 by John Wood

“Once the day’s work begins, there is little chance
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:

“It required less skill than tennis, was faster and more vigorous, and therefore gave more exercise in a short time,”

And Will Irvin, a friend of the president, remarked:

“It is more strenuous than either boxing, wrestling or football. It has the virtue of getting at nearly every muscle in the body.”

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.

The Olympic Club Gymnasium

Posted on Wednesday, February 5th, 2014 by John Wood

The Olympic Club Gymnasium

The Olympic Club in San Francisco, California is the oldest athletic club in the United States (established in 1860). The original location didn’t survive the great earthquake of 1906 but they relocated to a new location on Post Street in 1912. This is what their gymnasium looked like, circa 1915.

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.

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.

Aaron Molyneaux Hewlett

Posted on Sunday, August 28th, 2011 by John Wood

Aaron Molyneaux Hewlett

Aaron Molyneaux Hewlett was the first African American on the Harvard University staff and the director and curator of the Harvard Gymnasium from 1859 to 1871. He also taught gymnastics, boxing and the use of dumbbells.

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).

Hemenway Gymnasium

Posted on Tuesday, August 16th, 2011 by John Wood
Hemenway Gymnasium
he original Hemenway Gymnasium was the finest physical education facility ever created. It contained every manner of physical training equipment: climbing ladders, tumbling mats, climbing ropes, flying rings, barbells, dumbbells, indian clubs, medicine balls… even early strength building “machines” (which you may be able to see on the left if you look closely.)

There was a running track, handball courts and rooms for fencing, wrestling, boxing and any other imaginable physical activity. At the head of this fantastic facility was Dudley Allen Sargent, who virtually founded the discipline of physical education.