Roper's Gymnasium, 274 Market Street, Philadelphia, PA, circa 1831.
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Advertisement showing the interior of the well-attended gymnasium, operated by James Roper on the 800 block of Market Street, in which several men exercise in front of a crowd of spectators. In the right, three men perform balance moves on a balance beam next to a wall adorned with a rack from which boxing gloves and squash rackets hang. Beside the beam, two men wearing boxing gloves converse near the pummel horse that two men utilize. In the front center and left of the room, two pairs of men, one pair wearing face guards, fence; two men pull weights attached to the ceiling; and another tests his strength on the parallel bars near men climbing poles. To the rear, other exercisers climb vertical and inclined ropes, hang and climb from exercise ladders, straddle and perform pull-ups on horizontal poles, and dangle upside down from a trapeze. Around the room, spectators including several men and a few women in winter clothing, stand and sit to watch the gym attendees. Roper established the gymnasium circa 1831 which relocated to the 800 block of Walnut Street

Credit: Courtesy of the Library Company of Philadelphia

In the 1820s most American men's universities and secondary schools adopted some form of German style gymnastics. In Philadelphia Mr. Roper's Gymnasium assured the dyspeptic they would find "every manner of contrivance" needed to regain their health. In 1831 Roper opened a school for calisthenics and employed his wife to oversee the classes for women. That spring, the Trustees and the Provost at Penn, concerned that their students health was bring compromised from too much studying made arrangement for a reduced fee that entitled Academy and College students to an hour of gymnastic instruction each day.

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