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History

The Coney Island Polar Bear Club was founded by Bernarr Macfadden in 1903. While virtually unknown today, Bernarr Macfadden (1868-1955) was called the "Father of Physical Culture." An early advocate of physical fitness, natural foods and physical exercise, he believed that "our bodies are our most glorious possessions, that health-wealth is our greatest asset . . . that weakness is truly a crime . . . that every man can be a vigorous vital specimen of masculinity: that every woman can be a splendidly strong, well poised specimen of femininity."

Although many considered him a "kook and a charlatan," few people of his generation did as much to advance the cause of physical fitness, healthy eating habits and the natural treatment of disease. He authored over 100 books on his theories of health, sexuality and fitness becoming a millionaire publisher along the way. Among his powerful and influential friends were FDR, Will Rogers, Shirley Temple, Clark Gable and Rudolph Valentino.

It was his belief that a dip in the ocean during the winter can be a boon to one's stamina, virility and immunity. Among early Polar Bear members could be counted NYC Deputy Police Commissioner George S. Dougherty and Supreme Court Justice Crater, long famed for his disappearance.


© Coney Island Polar Bear Club