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Our holdings include hundreds of glass and film negatives/transparencies that we've scanned ourselves; in addition, many other photos on this site were extracted from reference images (high-resolution tiffs) in the Library of Congress research archive. (To query the database click here.) They are adjusted, restored and reworked by your webmaster in accordance with his aesthetic sensibilities before being downsized and turned into the jpegs you see here. All of these images (including "derivative works") are protected by copyright laws of the United States and other jurisdictions and may not be sold, reproduced or otherwise used for commercial purposes without permission.

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[REV 25-NOV-2014]

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Camelot: 1961

Camelot: 1961

Sept. 15, 1961. New York. "Beauty shops. Helena Rubinstein, 655 Fifth Avenue. Gym class." Where the Ladies Who Lunch go to work off all those Waldorf salads. Large-format safety negative by Gottscho-Schleisner. View full size.

On Shorpy:
Today's Top 5

Rethinking Reebok

My favorite part of this terrific photo might be that the choice of footwear was apparently either "nothing" or "gladiator sandals." A very interesting choice!

The 60s version of high class figure maintenance

I think those women look great, actually. Look at their posture, something that isn't given enough attention now. Those leotards obviously are not figure flattering like that ones we wore in the 80s. Liposuction had not been invented yet, either.

Back to Cali

This is what I remember people calling "calisthenics," before people did any serious working out; done almost just for show, as opposed to for any real benefit.

What is also interesting to me here are the shapes of these women; much broader chests and hips than we are used to seeing today.


I wonder if that exercise was contrived to prevent the flabby triceps that develop sometime between middle age and senility.

When I saw those ladies, a character from the Patrick Dennis novel "The Joyous Season" immediately came to mind. I didn't pick out a particular woman but one of them could be Gaga. She is the modern, cosmopolitan grandmother of the story's narrator. She likes to boast that her doctor says she has the butt of a boy.

The other, old lady type grandmother, Gran, would find the whole thing most undignified and wouldn't be caught dead in such a place.

Nails It

tterrace wrote: "One wonders exactly how strenuous a workout a society matron would be willing to put up with."

My mom, circa 1974 or so, lost a ton of money when she tried to crank up a women's fitness center in Naples, Florida. After that venture went belly up (no pun intended), those pricey Nautilus machines were crammed into my brother's large garage for a few years before he finally gave them away or hauled them to the dump. I guess Mom was 20 years or so ahead of her time with THAT idea!

June Cleaver isn't the only one

I question just how serious these women were about "working out?" Necklaces, bracelets, earrings, in addition to every hair being perfectly in place tells me "staged."

[Or just the way things were done there. This is, as it says, a "beauty shop"; one wonders exactly how strenuous a workout a society matron would be willing to put up with. - tterrace]

["Every hair being perfectly in place" is the whole point of Helena Rubinstein. This photo is posed, not "staged." - Dave]

Put on a Happy Face

To tell the truth, I'm not sure I'd want to be photographed during an exercise class either.

SHORPY HISTORICAL PHOTO ARCHIVE | History in HD is a vintage photo archive featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1960s. (Available as fine-art prints from the Shorpy Archive.) The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago.

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