Mr. America: How Muscular Millionaire Bernarr Macfadden Transformed the Nation Through Sex, Salad, and the Ultimate Starvation D (Hardcover)

How Muscular Millionaire Bernarr Macfadden Transformed the Nation Through Sex, Salad, and the Ultimate Starvation D

By Mark Adams

Harper, 9780060594756, 304pp.

Publication Date: March 1, 2009



During two feverish decades between the world wars, Bernarr Macfadden did more to educate the world about healthy eating, alternative medicine, regular sexual activity, and exercise than anyone in history. A tubercular orphan at age eight, he discovered the nascent fields of vegetarianism and weight lifting, and at the turn of the century founded Physical Culture, the most influential health magazine of all time and the cornerstone of a thirty-million-dollar media empire. His disciples included Upton Sinclair and Charles Atlas; among his employees were Walter Winchell, Ed Sullivan, and Eleanor Roosevelt. He launched the worst newspaper in U.S. history, founded a whole-grain utopian community in the New Jersey suburbs, trained fascist cadets for Mussolini, and came within a hair's breadth of being elected senator from Florida—running on a physical fitness platform.

Yet today few have heard of this larger-than-life entrepreneur who changed American society. In Mr. America, Mark Adams illuminates Macfadden's captivating, ambitious, and unparalleled life. After examining the thousands of diets in Macfadden's revolutionary five-volume Encyclopedia of Physical Culture, Adams plays guinea pig and tests several of the most extreme ones on himself—with amazing, and sometimes hilarious, results.

Praise For Mr. America: How Muscular Millionaire Bernarr Macfadden Transformed the Nation Through Sex, Salad, and the Ultimate Starvation D

“A witty, perfectly pitched re-creation of a long-forgotten and madly outsized figure. Adams will make you laugh with fresh information on every page, and in this age of flabby, overlong biography, his delightful production has a leanness that Macfadden himself would approve of.”
-Thomas Mallon, author of Bandbox and Dewey Defeats Truman

“A biography of one of the more amazing people whom few of us today have heard of. . . . Adams’s writing style and the fascinating life of Macfadden make this book hard to put down. Highly recommended for all libraries.”
-Library Journal

“In this entertaining, briskly written biography, journalist Adams rescues from obscurity the history of Bernarr Macfadden. . . . Macfadden can claim to be the first person who hired and spotlighted the gossip columns of Walter Winchell and Ed Sullivan—creating another huge impact on American culture.”
-Publishers Weekly

“Every decade ushers in a new ‘revolutionary’ exercise fad (or three). But as Mr. America points out, most of them probably owe a nod to Bernarr Macfadden and his magazine Physical Culture.”
-Men’s Journal

“Fascinating. . . . Adams spins a lively yarn in this biography of pioneering health-and-fitness guru Bernarr Macfadden. . . . A funny, informative history of a true American eccentric and the national preoccupation with health and fitness.”
-Kirkus Reviews

“In this impressive biography, Adams chronicles how, in the first half of the 20th century, Macfadden opened some of the country’s original health food restaurants and communes, assembled early bodybuilding shows, and built a $30 million magazine empire.”
-The New York Times Book Review

“Terrific. . . . A briskly paced, fascinating biography. . . . Mr. America reads like the strangest F. Scott Fitzgerald novel never written. . . . An entertaining look at the journey from meat and potatoes to veggies and soy milk.”
-The Onion

“An entertaining, enlightening read that . . . gives Macfadden his overdue legacy. . . . Adams deftly wrestles this messy, Herculean life into shape. . . . Even from the grave, it seems, Bernarr Macfadden continues to educate and shape America.”
-The Los Angeles Times

“Mr. America is a must read for those interested in health and fitness.”
-The St. Petersburg Times

“In the first half of the twentieth century, Bernarr Macfadden was central to American popular culture. . . . Bravo to Adams for enabling the rediscovery of this phenomenal American.”

“A remarkable story. . . . It is to Mark Adams’s great credit that, in Mr. America, he has rescued from obscurity a man whose influence is still felt in this country more than a century after he muscled his way onto the national scene.”
-The Wall Street Journal

“This book is a delightful and colorful piece of true Americana. Enjoy every twist and turn of it.”
-Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love

“When you read this book, you’ll be astonished you hadn’t heard of Bernarr Macfadden—one of the most fascinating, brilliant, bizarre, and influential characters in American history. I know I was. I want to thank Mark Adams for bringing him to light in this great biography.”
-A.J. Jacobs, author of The Year of Living Biblically and The Know-It-All

“Imagine if Rupert Murdoch, Jack LaLanne, and Dr. Andrew Weil all got together and had a baby, then raised that child on wheat germ and 100 pushups a day. Only such a prodigy could give you a sense of the sheer eccentric magnificence of Bernarr Macfadden.”
-John Hodgman, author of The Areas of My Expertise and More Information Than You Require

“With such a great eccentric as his subject, Mark Adams shrewdly gets out of the way (and gives Macfadden’s extreme weight-loss regimens a try.”

“Hilarious. . . . Delightful. . . . If Macfadden hadn’t existed, we would have had to invent him.”
-Louis Bayard, The Washington Post

“Bernarr Macfadden was the ultimate life coach and one of the great influencers of his generation. He set the stage for the world of health and self help as we know it today. Mr. America is required reading for anyone committed to increasing the quality of their life.”
-Baron Baptiste, author of Journey Into Power and Breaking Through

“As recounted by Adams (who self-tested some of Macfadden’s occasionally extreme advice about fasting and exercise), the improbable saga of this eccentric self-made guru shows that our mania for fad diets and get-fit-quick schemes has deep, and deeply weird, roots. Grade: A-”
-Entertainment Weekly