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Everything New is Old: The Strange Story of Bernarr Macfadden


The Coney Island Polar Bear Club, which was mentioned in yesterday's post, was founded in 1903 by a long-forgotten fitness guru and publishing magnate named Bernarr Macfadden, who lived from 1866 to 1955, and was way ahead of the curve when it came to organic food, celebrity-gossip columns, fad diets, vaccination-fears, and sexual frankness.

According to, he wrote more than a hundred books, including the following:

  • Fasting, Hydropathy, and Exercise (1900)
  • Virile Powers of Superb Manhood (1900)
  • Power and Beauty of Superb Womanhood (1901)
  • Strength from Eating (1901)
  • Vaccination Superstition (1902)
  • Creative and Sexual Science (1904)
  • Strenuous Lover (1904)
  • Muscular Power and Beauty (1906)
  • Making Old Bodies Young (1919)
  • Truth About Tobacco (1921)
  • The Miracle of Milk (1923)
  • Fasting for Health (1923)
  • How To Raise a Strong Baby (1924)
  • Physical Culture Cook Book (1924)
  • After 40 - What? (1935)
  • Practical Birth Control (1935)
  • Woman's Sex Life (1935)
  • How To Gain Weight (1936)
  • How To Reduce Weight (1936)
  • Be Married and like It (1937)

He made millions publishing magazines like True Detective, and True Story, and he produced one of the trashiest tabloid newspapers in America's history, the New York Graphic, which employed the notorious gossip columinst Walter Winchell. Macfadden started foundations and tried to correct the county's eating habits, but few listened, and he died in poverty. His complete story is told in “Mr. America,” a 2009 book by the journalist Mark Adams, who was kind enough to create the following video:


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