Physical Culture for Babies

From Physical Culture for Babies (1904) by Margueritte & Bernarr Macfadden.

A product of the “physical culture” movement of the 19th and early 20th century–essentially a modern-style fitness movement–Physical Culture for Babies applies the dictates of physical culture to childhood development, with the result being children like the on the left.

I was prepared to mock this book, but most of what’s in there is not controversial by today’s standards, and as one who’s been exercising his baby boy since birth (with the result that Henry could do, at 2 1/2, what Gladys Martin is doing in the photo) I’m not in any position to mock. We can smirk at some of the statements–the “don’t use combs” thing, for example–but I actually agree with a lot of what’s in here.

For example, here’s a list of common beliefs, circa 1904, about children (the author is debunking them):

That baby from birth must be swaddled in as many garments as possible….

That rooms through which the air is circulating are highly dangerous to baby’s health….

That a baby will grow strong and vigorous even if it be rarely taken outside of the house.

That so-called baby foods are just as good as the food which Nature intended for the infant….

That “soothing syrups” and like poisonous compounds are harmless and really do the work which their proprietors foolishly or mendaciously claim they can accomplish.

Okay, Internets, mock me for being a loon. Go ahead. I don’t care.

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