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Fat Men’s Clubs

January 7, 2019

Did you know America used to have fat men’s clubs? They proliferated during the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. And they played just the role you might guess: venues for very overweight men to socialize and network. One famous club in Vermont had a secret handshake and a minimum weight of 200 lbs. (The average 200-pound man carried more fat then than now, since body-building was rare, and we’re taller.)

fat men club

Apparently, the fat men’s clubs gave wide waistlines their last hurrah as an icon of status. For most of history, getting enough to eat was an achievement, and getting fat suggested serious wealth. Those days were over by the time of the fat men’s clubs, but the idea still lingered. Yet an element of deprecating humor apparently played a role too. That same Vermont club’s motto was, “We’re fat and we’re making the most of it! … I’ve got to be good-natured; I can’t fight and I can’t run.”

NPR has a great (longer) article on the subject (and a good photo of a club).


Photo courtesy of rockcreek from Washington, D.C., via Wikimedia Commons

© 2019 by David W. Tollen. All rights reserved.

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