An Early Weight Reducing Machine

c100_2015_mch_002_0000Gardner Weight Reducing Company, June 22, 1916, South Bend, Indiana

“The objects of this association shall be the purchasing, selling, leasing and operating Body Massage of Reducing Machines.”

The directors of this company were Richard O.Morgan, Katherine Morgan, James A. Judie, and Margaret Judie. Mr. Morgan was a credit man [accountant?] at the Oliver Chilled Plow Works, one of South Bend’s largest factories, and Katherine was his wife. Mr. Judie was a real estate agent, and Margaret was his wife.

The Gardner Weight Reducing Machine was one of the first mechanical massage machines, using the theory that massaging the body will increase the body’s circulation which will cause fatty tissue to burn off. Similar to later fat-reduction vibration machines, the Gardner machine used roller-pin shaped rollers to massage the patient’s midwaist. A picture of the machine shows a crank on the right side, so maybe an attendant had to crank it to make it work. “Instead of rolling on the floor”!?

James P. Gardner and his son Paul E. Gardner manufactured this weight-reducing contraption. James was a very wealthy fifty-seven year old manufacturer of machines who lived with his family and several servants on Greenwood Avenue in Chicago. Paul was about twenty-five years old and worked as a stocks and bonds broker. Apparently the machines began to be used in Chicago and several other cities in the U.S. early in 1914, and men and women used them in separate rooms.

The elder Gardner was also a co-founder of the Olympia Field Country Club in Chicago, which boasts the largest clubhouse in the United States. I bet the Gardner Weight Reducing Machine had a prominent place in it’s gymnasium!

by Robert F. Gilyeat, an Indiana State Archives volunteer

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