Eugen Sandow’s Combined Toy and Physical-Culture Apparatus (1913)

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This is one of the odder products examined on this website, and that is really saying something! One of the great issues facing parents and schoolmasters is how to get kids excited about exercising. Well, a century ago, Eugen Sandow claimed to have the solution. What do kids love more than anything else? Candy!

With this keen insight in mind, Sandow devised a pulley toy which combined candy and exercising.

How did it work?

The idea behind Sandow’s equipment was relatively simple. A large mannequin would be hooked up with a series of pulleys and drawstrings. In the mannequin’s jaw was a comporting which, when the hands were pulled with requisite force, would open. So the general idea was to place candy in the mannequin’s mouth. If a child pulled the hands hard enough, the jaw would open and the candy would roll down the mannequin’s inner tubings, eventually ending up in the mannequin’s hand.

Sandow’s patent, filed in 1913, explains this using a combination of advertising and bombastic language.

Application filed. October 28, 1913.

To all whom it may concern:

Be it known that I, EUGEN SANDOW, a subject of His Majesty the King of Great Britain, and a resident of London, England, have invented a new and useful Combined Toy and Physical-CultureApparatus, of which the following is a specification.

This invention relates to an improved combined toy and physical culture apparatus, the object being to provide a toy for children (for example those between the ages of 1 and 7 years), which will require some physical effort to play with, or with which some physical effort may be exerted, so that the child may unconsciously be provided with a means for developing and maintaining its physical perfection and health.

According to the invention the toy takes the form of a doll or figure of suitable dimensions having loosely arranged arms and legs with which are combined in the body portion a suitable part of one of the known wall elastic or like exercising devices, for example, the portion of same which may comprise two elastic or like cords, metal spring devices, or the like, each having a handle at one end and a stirrup at the other.

In the present instance a leg and an arm are interposed in each cord or the like, the handle being formed by or at the hand, and the stirrup being attached to the foot. Each cord or like portion passing through the body may if desired travel around a separate pulley or the like to form a point on which a pull can be exerted.

By placing the feet in the stirrups and stretching or pulling out the arms and legs various known body exercises may be performed.

The hands of the doll or figure may for appearance, and to provide a convenient handle for grasping, be made to carry a dumbbell which to provide Wrist and arm exercise may be of the known split spring expanded type, or the wrists may be similarly split, expanded by springs and suitably covered if they are to be the points grasped.

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It may be desirable to provide the child with some further incentive to use the toy and in such case a delivery box for sweets may be arranged in same with means for discharging or delivering a sweet at the mouth of the doll or figure after a certain Specification of Letters Patent.

Patented Jan. 5, 1915.

Was it popular?

Sadly we don’t know.  Sandow filed his patent in 1913, a year before the outbreak of the First World War. From David Chapman’s wonderful Sandow biography we know that Sandow’s business interests declined rapidly in the months leading up to the Great War and worsened even more during the four year conflict.

There is next to no evidence then that Sandow got the opportunity to mass produce this product. Would it have been popular? It’s hard to know. Sandow’s reputation was beyond reproach and, had he promoted the product in the 1890s at the height of his fame, it may have sold well.

The general size and idea of it though leads me to believe that this was one of the more fanciful ideas of Sandow’s enterprise. What do you think? Is this something children would lie to use? Let us know in the comments below!

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