View Full Version : Bodybuilding during the era?
06-05-2011, 10:39 PM
For some time I have been wanting to put on quite a bit more muscle. I am five-ten and weigh about 130 pounds. My question is, did men during the 1860's lift weights? Were there books about it? I am not talking about the strongest man in the world circus lifting look. Just a very muscular but nimble look, maybe like we are used to seeing on boxers.
06-05-2011, 11:13 PM
German Americans founded the American Turners Association in 1848 to promote gymnastics and culture under the slogan "A Sound Mind in a Sound Body".
When the 2nd Wisconsin returned to Madison Wisconsin in 1865, the local Turners Club was among the various civic organizations that escorted the veterans to the capitol building for their mustering out, and so were well established among Wisconsin's German community by wartime. A few years back, I attended an antique show that was being held in the modern Madison, WI Turner Hall. I noticed a framed lithograph on the wall dated 1866 showing portraits of the Turner membership. They were all decked out in what looked like light-colored fireman shirts with dark kerchieves and were depicted tossing around indian clubs and lifting bar bells ect...and like any good German, standing around the keg tossing back a few lagers!
06-06-2011, 12:44 AM
Indeed. A Turnverein chapter was organized here in Lafayette, IN as early as 1854. Period newspaper reports I've noted indicate they even provided public exhibitions of their gymnastic prowess albeit with some risk. On at least one occasion, a Turner was seriously injured (possibly died) after falling off the top of a human pyramid.
There's a lesson in that for us all. ;)
06-06-2011, 01:00 AM
A life spent doing manual labor will promote a lean muscle mass. Based on the socio-economic level of the person you are portraying, you may be better off learning the basics of a period trade and using that as the reason for your muscled appearance. A river (one who rives wood with a maul and froe) would be a good one to research as it would promote strong muscles in the shoulders, biceps, triceps, and laterals.
I've got fences that need to be built and wire to be stretched if you want to save your gym membership money.
06-06-2011, 01:12 AM
I can't remember what book I saw the picture of, but it was of a blacksmith during the industrial revolution. The man looked to be in his 20s, but had the arms of somewhat who could lift some serious weights. I would imagine he built his muscle mass through his trade's physical labor and not in the weight room however. That said, hitting the gym won't kill your impression. At 130 pounds, you could gain 20 to 30 pounds (even 40) and still look like the boys did in '61.
06-06-2011, 08:52 AM
There certainly was interest in "physical culture" during the Civil War period although not in "body building" as it's commonly understood today. There definitely seems to have been a "moral" angle connected with physical culture back then--certainly much more so than now. I immediately know of two Civil War era periodicals that dealt in this subject: Lewis's Gymnastic Monthly (changed in January 1862 to Lewis's Gymnastic Monthly and Journal of Physical Culture) as well as the Boston Journal of Physical Culture. Here's a Google link to get you started:
Check it out,
06-06-2011, 03:02 PM
1st thing that popped into my head was what Harvard student Richard Henry Dana did when he became sickly, Hire out as a common sailor on a Brig and sail around the horn.
06-07-2011, 09:10 PM
Just an aside, but Stonewall Jackson was apparently known to work out with wooden dumbbells. According to what I remember from the tour of his house in Lexington, he worked out in a large walk-in closet on a regular basis. He had his own home gym =) Someone please correct me if I'm wrong.
06-07-2011, 09:54 PM
This looks interesting:
06-09-2011, 10:16 PM
Thanks folks, I'm still reading the stuff you-all posted.
07-20-2011, 11:05 AM
T.J. Jackson used to get up every morning and take a walk, with a pair of dumbells, this followed by a cold-water bath, before walking over to the Institute for class. The Stonewall Jackson House in Lexington, still has the tub, and dumbells.
Note: This act was considered to be a peculiar oddity...I suspect that on the large scale, it would be rather uncommon to see folks ripped like the old Arnold - though with the advent of 'clubs' as listed above, certainly there were exceptions.
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