These strange 1917 photos were supposed to teach businessmen how to get in shape for success

These strange 1917 photos were supposed to teach businessmen how to get in shape for success
These strange 1917 photos were supposed to teach businessmen how to get in shape for success

Impressive carriage and appearance are much needed by those who would succeed in the business world. Undeniably the reader who could appear before another man looking exactly like the illustration would secure his host’s attention instantly.

H. Irving Hancock, 'Physical Training for Business Men'

These illustrations were created by photographer A.B Phelan to accompany H. Irving Hancock’s Physical Training for Business Men, a handbook of simple exercises designed to improve a man’s poise and appearance and give him a subtle advantage in the competitive marketplace.

Hancock opens with a parable about an electrical contractor whose poor posture distracts and disgusts a potential client. The sloucher is rejected in favor of a contractor who carries himself with alertness and grace.

Defects in carriage, gait, breathing and more are enumerated and linked to losses in the workplace. Hancock then describes a routine of simple exercises that can transform the slovenly failure into an upright closer.

Using “one of the best qualified in physical appearance among the younger men of the Army” as a model and a camera technique of his own invention, Phelan’s photos illustrate the recommended exercises with ghostly contrails of motion.

Physical exercise performed in a routine manner and with only duty as the impulse is never as valuable as that which is done for the sheer joy of doing it. Joy is as priceless in the gymnasium, or in one’s chamber, as it is in purely mental work.

H. Irving Hancock, 'Physical Training for Business Men'

The motionless crouch of the tiger watching prey does not convey a sense of either weakness or indolence. The beholder knows that the energy is there, lurking latently in the tiger’s muscles…. So the business visitor, shifting needlessly in his chair, does not impress the beholder with anything save irritation.

H. Irving Hancock, 'Physical Training for Business Men'

It is a safe rule, in general,that he who does not stand on sound legs will often give as poor an impression of his mental as of his physical power.

H. Irving Hancock, 'Physical Training for Business Men'

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