Bernarr Macfadden : biography
Bernarr Macfadden (August 16, 1868 – October 12, 1955) was an influential American proponent of physical culture, a combination of bodybuilding with nutritional and health theories. He also founded the long-running magazine publishing company Macfadden Publications. He was the predecessor of Charles Atlas and Jack Lalanne, and has been credited with beginning the culture of health and fitness in the United States.
Macfadden was married four times and had eight children, seven of whose names began with the letter "B".
He was an acquaintance of Shirley Temple, Clark Gable, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Will Rogers, and Rudolph Valentino.
Publishing and writings
Macfadden founded Physical Culture magazine in 1899, and was editor up to the August 1912 issue. Aided by long-time Supervising Editor Fulton Oursler, Macfadden eventually grew a publishing empire, including Liberty, True Detective, True Story, True Romances, Dream World, Ghost Stories, the once-familiar movie magazine Photoplay, and the tabloid newspaper, The New York Graphic. Macfadden’s magazines included SPORT, a preeminent sports magazine prior to Time, Inc.’s Sports Illustrated.
Ghost Stories was a nod in the direction of the rapidly growing field of pulp magazines, though it was a large-size magazine that preserved Macfadden’s confessional style for most of its stories.Locke, John; editor. Ghost Stories: The Magazine and Its Makers: Volumes 1 & 2, Off-Trail Publications, 2010. In 1928, Macfadden made more overt moves into the pulps with, for example, Red Blooded Stories (1928–29), Flying Stories (1928-29), and Tales of Danger and Daring (1929). These were all unsuccessful. In 1929, Macfadden underwrote Harold Hersey’s pulp chain, the Good Story Magazine Company. Macfadden titles like Ghost Stories and Flying Stories continued as Good Story publications. Other intended Macfadden pulps, like Thrills of the Jungle (1929) and Love and War Stories (1930), originated as Good Story magazines. In 1931, Macfadden purchased the assets of the Mackinnon-Fly magazine publishers, which gave him the pioneering sci-fi pulp Amazing Stories, and several other titles; they were published under the Teck Publications imprint. This apparently made Good Story expendable and financial support was withdrawn almost immediately. The Teck titles lasted under Macfadden control until being sold in the late ’30s, after which Macfadden was absent from the pulp field.
Macfadden also contributed to many articles and books including The Virile Powers of Superb Manhood (1900), MacFadden’s Encyclopedia of Physical Culture (1911–1912), Fasting for Health (1923), and The Milk Diet (1923).
Macfadden popularized the practice of fasting that previously had been associated with illnesses such as anorexia nervosa.Griffith, Ruth Marie; “Apostles of Abstinence: Fasting and Masculinity in the Progressive Era”, American Quarterly, vol. 52, no. 4 (December 2000), pp. 599-638. He felt strongly that fasting was one of the surest ways to physical health. Many of his subjects would fast for a week in order to rejuvenate their body. He claimed that “a person could exercise unqualified control over virtually all types of disease while revealing a degree of strength and stamina such as would put others to shame” through fasting. He saw fasting as an instrument with which to prove a man’s superiority over other men.
Macfadden had photographs of himself taken before and after fasts to demonstrate their positive effects on the body. For example, one photograph showed Macfadden lifting a 100 pound dumbbell over his head immediately after a seven day fast. He also promoted fasting by appealing to racial prejudices, suggesting that fasting was a practice of self-denial that only civilized white men would choose to embrace. Macfadden acknowledged the difficulties of fasting and did not support it as an ascetic practice but rather because he believed its ultimate benefits outweighed its costs.