Caption: Strongman Eugene Sandow, 1893, Credit: Library of Congress
Image by: Library of Congress 
Strongman Eugene Sandow, 1893 

005: Beach Bodies: A History of the American Physique [rebroadcast], 7/27/2013

From: BackStory with the American History Guys
Series: BackStory with the American History Guys Weekly Episodes
Length: 54:00

Embed_button
It’s summer, the beach is calling, and so is the dreaded swimsuit! Americans are constantly bombarded by images of physical perfection – especially at this time of year. If it’s enough to make you want to run for cover, then BackStory is here to offer comfort – exploring the ideal of the perfect American body, and how it hasn’t always been what it is today. Read the full description.

Jpg1-240x300_small

In this episode of BackStory, the American History Guys explore how ideals of the body have changed over the centuries, and consider some of the ways Americans have attempted to perfect their physiques. From the initial emergence of skinniness as a desirable trait for middle-class men, to the 19th century science of “nasology”—which held that the shape of a person’s nose was the key to understanding their character—Brian, Peter, and Ed get to grips with a range of body history. Plus, they steel themselves for a look at the Cold War roots of that bane of schoolchildren everywhere—the Presidential Physical Fitness Test. 

Guests include:

  • Eddy Portnoy, Rutgers University, on the pseudo-science of discerning character based on the shape of a person’s nose.
  • Katharina Vester, American University, on dieting in the 19th century and the preference for plump-bodied women.
  • Rachel Moran, Pennsylvania State University, on how the federal government developed a stake in our physical wellbeing
  • Megan Kate Nelson, Harvard University, on the rise of “Empty Sleeve” literature that glorified amputee veterans returning home from the Civil War.

Also in the BackStory with the American History Guys Weekly Episodes series

Caption: Charles Peale’s Mastodon skeleton, by Édouard de Montulé (1816)

43: The Departed: Extinction in America, 4/19/2014 (:00)
From: BackStory with the American History Guys

Some 20,000 species across the globe are at high risk of extinction, experts say – many here in the United States – and some of our natural fauna have already disappeared. So ...
Caption: “The Anarchist Riot in Chicago,” from Harper's Weekly, May 15, 1886 , Credit: Library of Congress

42: Fear Tactics: A History of Domestic Terrorism [2014], 4/12/2014 (54:00)
From: BackStory with the American History Guys

The Boston Marathon bombings took place one year ago, leaving a stunned nation to wrestle with what the government response should be. But how did Americans in the past ...
Caption: "Save me from my friends!" Uncle Sam shelters Cuba, illustration from Puck, 1898, Credit: Library of Congress

41: Responsibility to Protect? A History of Humanitarian Intervention [rebroadcast], 4/5/2014 (54:00)
From: BackStory with the American History Guys

In 1898, President McKinley called for war with Spain to liberate Cuba from the “barbarities, bloodshed, starvation, and horrible miseries now existing there”—offering a ...
Caption: Strikers from the Ladies Tailors Union, 1910, Credit: Library of Congress

40: Fair Wages: A History of Getting Paid, 3/29/2014 (54:00)
From: BackStory with the American History Guys

In his 2014 State of the Union address, President Obama called on Congress to increase the federal minimum wage to $10.10. And last month, he signed an executive order ...
Caption: Player for the Chicago Kent College of Law indoor baseball team, 1910 , Credit: Library of Congress

39: Turf War: A History of College Sports [2014], 3/22/2014 (54:00)
From: BackStory with the American History Guys

As the nation plunges into March Madness 2014, betting on who will make it to the Final Four and claim college basketball’s championship, BackStory aims for some historical ...
Caption: Shades of Green, Credit: Wikimedia Commons

38: The Green Show, 3/15/2014 (54:00)
From: BackStory with the American History Guys

With St. Patrick’s Day on the horizon, the color green seems to be everywhere we look. So BackStory sets out to celebrate the holiday with an offbeat, wide-ranging, and ...
Caption: “Victory! Congress Passes Daylight Saving Bill,” detail from 1918 lithograph , Credit: Library of Congress

37: On the Clock: A (Brief) History of Time [2014], 3/8/2014 (54:00)
From: BackStory with the American History Guys

As we "spring forward" into Daylight Saving Time, BackStory explores the different ways Americans have experienced and understood time, over time.
Caption: The Pantages Theater in Los Angeles, decked out for the 1959 Academy Awards, Credit: UCLA Library

36: Real to Reel: The 2014 Oscars Show, 3/1/2014 (54:00)
From: BackStory with the American History Guys

In honor of the Academy Awards, BackStory heads to the movies! With Oscar-nominated movies like "12 Years A Slave" bringing the antebellum United States to the fore, and ...
Caption: “The Almightier,” illustration from Puck, May 15th, 1907 , Credit: Library of Congress

35: On the Money: A History of American Currency, 2/22/2014 (54:00)
From: BackStory with the American History Guys

There’s a lot of talk about Bitcoin these days—the digital currency that's been gaining ground. Bitcoin allows online payments to be made person-to-person, instead of via a ...
Caption: Detail from Chicago Department of Health vaccination poster, produced by the Works Progress Administration, late 1930s , Credit: Library of Congress

34: Contagion: Responding to Infectious Disease [rebroadcast], 2/15/2014 (54:00)
From: BackStory with the American History Guys

It’s the height of the flu season, and federal public health agencies have been spending millions of dollars trying to keep this year’s virus under control. But when yellow ...

Piece Description

In this episode of BackStory, the American History Guys explore how ideals of the body have changed over the centuries, and consider some of the ways Americans have attempted to perfect their physiques. From the initial emergence of skinniness as a desirable trait for middle-class men, to the 19th century science of “nasology”—which held that the shape of a person’s nose was the key to understanding their character—Brian, Peter, and Ed get to grips with a range of body history. Plus, they steel themselves for a look at the Cold War roots of that bane of schoolchildren everywhere—the Presidential Physical Fitness Test. 

Guests include:

  • Eddy Portnoy, Rutgers University, on the pseudo-science of discerning character based on the shape of a person’s nose.
  • Katharina Vester, American University, on dieting in the 19th century and the preference for plump-bodied women.
  • Rachel Moran, Pennsylvania State University, on how the federal government developed a stake in our physical wellbeing
  • Megan Kate Nelson, Harvard University, on the rise of “Empty Sleeve” literature that glorified amputee veterans returning home from the Civil War.

Timing and Cues

SHOW RUNDOWN

06:00 – 19:00 SEG A

IC: Major funding for Backstory is provided by the National Endowment for the Humanities…
OC: We’ll be back in a minute.

6:00 - 19:00 Nose Knows Best

Brian chats with Eddy Portnoy about the 19th century pseudo-science of nasology, which claimed to explain personality traits based on the shape of a person’s nose, and the History Guys riff about why we began wanting to change our appearance in the 19th century.

19:00 – 20:00 STATION BREAK 1 (MUSIC BED)

20:00 – 39:00 SEG B
IC: This is BackStory…
OC: We’ll be back in a minute.

20:00 – 29:36 More to Love

Peter talks with Katherina Vester about the rise of dieting in the 19th century and about how it was preferable for men to be slim and women to have a few extra pounds of padding on their bones.

29:37 – 39:00 Run DNC, Run RNC

Rachel Moran and Brian discuss how the federal government began to claim a stake in the public’s physical fitness, and Moran explains the origins of that annual bane of schoolchildren everywhere: the Presidential Physical Fitness Test.

39:00 – 40:00 STATION BREAK 2 (MUSIC BED)

40:00 – 59:00 SEG C
IC: Welcome back to BackStory…
OC: …at the University of Richmond.

40:00 – 51:08 Listener Calls

Peter, Ed, and Brian take calls from listeners.

51:09 – 57:29 The Sleeve Makes the Man

Ed interviews Megan Kate Nelson about the proliferation of so-called “empty sleeve” narratives in poems, stories, songs, and artworks that glorified amputee veterans returning home after the Civil War.

57:29 – 59:00 PRODUCTION/FUNDING CREDITS

***********************************************************************
Contact: Producer, Tony Field (434) 924-8922, tfield@virginia.edu

Related Website

http://backstoryradio.org/shows/beach-bodies/