How Bernarr Macfadden Found wealth in Bodybuilding and Publishing

On August 16 in the year 1868, the founder of a popular magazine empire was born in Missouri, United States. His name was Bernarr Macfadden, the bodybuilder who is considered as the father of physical culture.

Bernarr Macfadden 2
Bernarr Macfadden 2 (Credit:

Bernarr Macfadden was the son of an abusive alcoholic father and a melancholic mother. He was orphaned at age 11. As a boy, he was very sickly so he chose to work in a farm that required strong physical stamina. Soon, he was able to develop a strong muscular body. At 13, he moved to St. Louis City where he found work as an office boy. Though he had sporadic formal education, he was promoted and became a clerk. When he became weak and sickly again, he bought his first set of dumbbells and through a routine of daily exercise and strict diet (no meat and alcohol), he became a bodybuilder and a champion wrestler.

In 1887, Bernarr Macfadden opened a studio offering kinesitheraphy and began teaching higher physical culture. He was doing considerable business and his popularity as a trainer and coach spread to other cities including Chicago and New York. In 1899, he wrote a novel based on his life and it became popular among his clients.

It was in 1898 when Macfadden started his publishing business. With the help of entrepreneur Hopton Hadley, Mcfadden published his first magazine, Physical Development. The following year, he added Physical Culture which became popular in America. Eventually, his publishing empire included a tabloid newspaper and romantic magazines such as True Story and True Romances. He developed friendship with famous people such as President Franklin Roosevelt, Italian Dictator Benito Mussolini, actor Rudolph Valentino and writers George Bernard Shaw and Upton Sinclair, Jr.
Mcfadden died a multimillionaire in 1955 at the age of 87. He married four times and had 8 children.



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