Bernarr Macfadden (who was the publisher behind many famous magazines) started this magazine about health, fitness, and physical development in March of 1899. This was not the only magazine about these subjects published in the 1890's, but it was a true pioneer, and probably the most succesful. Physical culture, exercise, body building and improvement, and fitness in general were subjects of personal interest to MacFadden, and he even displayed himself as a model on some of the covers. It provided serious information, fads, fiction, attractive models in scanty sporting costumes, and pages of advertising aimed at the active and those who wished they were. In 1941 it added "Beauty and Health" as a subtitle, and the cover designs went "modern." By 1944 it was the "New Physical Culture" and the subtitle had been dropped. Cover designs varied all over the map in the later 1940's, and in 1950 the title was changed to MACFADDEN'S HEALTH REVIEW.
PHYSICAL CULTURE gained both newsstand sales and public condemnations for its slightly "racy" covers with dancers and swimmers and other attractive male and female models. See for yourself what the fuss was about. In 1909 its obscenity conviction was appealed to the Supreme Court, which found in its favor. Had to help sales, eh?
Very few libraries hold this magazine, so we are dependent pretty much on eBay sales and copies scanned for us by volunteers. In particular, the issue for March, 1911 (added 26 July 2005) was found in the walls of a 1901 house in Oconomowoc, WI and scanned for the website by a volunteer. If you have copies of any issues, please help us by scanning or photographing them for the website. Thanks!
Ball State University has put the covers and contents of sixty-one issues of this magazine online, on their library's digital collection website. A good discussion of the history of this magazine can be found at the eNewssstand project.