Dio Lewis

Posted on Thursday, October 11th, 2018 by John Wood
Dio Lewis was an early physical culture pioneer who was outspoken on the role of temperance, clean living and physical training as a part of education. His system of gymnastics was eventually adopted by schools and laid the groundwork for modern physical education.

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.

Dr. Vladislav Von Krajewski

Posted on Sunday, October 22nd, 2017 by John Wood
Dr. Vladislav Von Krajewski was one of the leading physical training of the day, the founder of the St. Petersburg Athletic and Cycling Club and personal physician to the Czar of Russia. The good doctor’s interest in physical training was as a method of securing and preserving health, strength, activity and vigor (both mental and physical). He created a system of training around these goals, and it was the reason behind the success of many of the strongest men who ever lived. Some of Dr. Von Krajewski’s most famous pupils included George Hackenschmidt, George Lurich, and Ivan Poddubny.

Dio Lewis’ Iron Crown

Posted on Saturday, May 17th, 2014 by John Wood

You’ll find some pretty interesting ideas when you venture into the “forgotten lore” of physical training. Here’s a good example from the great physical culture pioneer Dio Lewis, introduced way back in 1864:


“Bearing burdens on the head, results in an erect spine and an elastic gait. Observing persons, who have visited Switzerland, Italy, or the Gulf States, have observed a thousand verifications of this physiological law.

Cognizant of the value of this feature of gymnastic training, I have employed, for this purpose, within the last twelve years, various sorts of weights, but have recently invented an iron crown, which I think completely satisfactory. The accompanying cut gives a good idea of its general form. I have crowns made to weigh from three to one hundred pounds.

The crown is so padded within, it rests pleasantly on the entire top of the head, and yet so arranged that it requires skill to balance it. It is beautifully painted, and otherwise ornamented.

The Following Suggestions are deemed important in wearing the crown: Wear it five to fifteen minutes morning and evening. Hold the body erect, hips and shoulders thrown far back, and the crown rather on the front of the head, as shown in the cut.

Walking up and down stairs while wearing the crown, is good, if the lower extremities are not too much fatigued by it. When walking through the hall or parlors, turn the toes, first, inward as far as possible; second, outward; third, walk on the tips of the toes; fourth, on the heels; fifth, on the right heel and left toe; sixth, on the left heel and right toe; seventh, walk without bending the knees; eighth, bend the knees, so that you are nearly sitting on the heels while walking, ninth, walk with the right leg bent at the knee, rising at each step on the straight left leg; tenth, walk with the left leg bent, rising at each step on the straight right leg.

With these ten different modes of walking, the various muscles of the back will receive the most invigorating exercise.

All persons of both sexes, and of every age, who have round shoulders or weak backs, are rapidly improved by the regular use of the Iron Crown.”

George Barker Windship

Posted on Monday, April 28th, 2014 by John Wood

George Barker Windship was one of the very first proponents of “Physical Culture” and unlike many of his contemporaries, promoted hard work and heavy lifting for super strength. Here’s a bit of his philosophy:

“The body should be made as strong as possible, with no weak points. It should be balanced and symmetrical with the muscles full and round and strong, like those of the “Farnesian” Hercules. Heavy weights and short workouts are the secret to health and longevity.
Training should be systematic, with the intensity of the exercise gradually increasing over time. Workout sessions should never last more than an hour and that proper rest must be obtained before the next day’s training.”

– George Barker Windship, February, 1861

(Couldn’t have said it better myself. — JW)

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Author: John Wood. All contents, including images and text, copyright © 2005-2021 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.

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).