Obesity in America, 1850–1939

A History of Social Attitudes and Treatment


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About the Book

This is a study of obesity in America from 1850 to 1939, concentrating on how the condition was viewed, studied, and treated. It examines the images and stereotypes that were associated with fatness, the various remedies that were proposed for the condition, and the often bizarre theories used to explain it, including the idea that ordinary tap water was fattening.
From about 1850 to 1879, obesity existed almost exclusively among the upper class, and it received very little medical attention. From 1880 to 1919, doctors, scientists, and other health professionals began to present a coherent theory of obesity. By 1920, the condition was recognized as a big enough health issue that various groups, ranging from private employers to public health officials, began developing some of the nation’s first organized weight reduction programs.

About the Author(s)

Cultural historian Kerry Segrave is the author of dozens of books on such diverse topics as drive-in theaters, lie detectors, jukeboxes, smoking, shoplifting and ticket-scalping. He lives in British Columbia.

Bibliographic Details

Kerry Segrave
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 208
Bibliographic Info: appendix, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2008
pISBN: 978-0-7864-4120-4
eISBN: 978-0-7864-9207-7
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Preface      1

1. Obesity Emerges, Slightly, 1850–1879      3

2. Psychology and Effects, 1880–1919      18

3. Oddities, Sports, Clubs, Employment, 1880–1919      31

4. Causes and Cures, 1880–1919      48

5. Reducing, Diets, and Exercise, 1880–1919      71

6. Style and Prevalence, 1880–1919      110

7. Psychology and Effects, 1920–1939      116

8. Oddities, Sports, Clubs, Employment, 1920–1939      125

9. Causes and Effects, 1920–1939      132

10. Reducing, Diets, and Exercise, 1920–1939      139

11. Style, Prevalence, and Statistics, 1920–1939      159

Conclusion      168

Appendix: Average Weights of Men and Women (1931)      175

Notes      177

Bibliography      189

Index      197