The Secret Fat Men’s Clubs of the 1900’s

The first fat men’s club to form was the Fat Men’s Association of New York City in 1869. Acceptance into the organization represented status and pride for the participants and the concept grew tremendously in the years to follow. The likeness of such a club spread to countries far from the United States branching to places like France and Germany. The clubs provided an excellent way to network, show off their weight, and most importantly eat a ton of great food. The prideful members are remembered saying “We’re fat and we’re making the most of it!”. They wore their weight like a medal of honor and with all of the body positivity movements going on in the world today, I can say they were before their time.

What Exactly Do You Do in a Fat Club?

Fat clubs were like most clubs that you think of. They featured people with similar life experiences and interests who at the end of the day were looking for friendship. These clubs provided an outlet of fun for the overweight comrades and as stated before they were all over. Some common ones were the New England Fat Men’s Club the Jolly Fat Men’s Club, the United Association of the Heavy Men of New York State, the Heavy Weights, and a French club called the Les Cent Kilos (“The Hundred Kilos”).

            Membership into the club provided fun events that the participants could enter. A very popular one was weigh-in competitions. All of the men would line up and weigh themselves one after the other. This was a chance to put size to the test and the largest man would go home with a prize. Many of these weigh- ins were open to the public and people from far and wide gathered to see which plump man was going to win gold. The organizations also planned other events picnic excursions, a ball, clambake and other wealthy events.

Could You Be in a Fat Men’s Club?

There were requirements to be a part of such a brotherhood. For one, they had to weigh 200 pounds. Many of the events the organizations would conduct required a mandatory weight check before the activity. The member had to meet the minimum weight, or he would have to pay a fine, or even sit out of the fun completely. Another necessary step was that the members had to pay a fee. Usually it was a small fee like that of the New York Fat Men’s Club of one dollar. This was pretty shocking because they were known to host members of high status and wealth. However, the clubs were formed in a time where food was not a one hundred percent guarantee and jobs were scarce. Being 200 pounds meant that you had a steady form of income and meals, depicting prosperity even with a minimal fee. The last criteria for the fat men was that they needed to memorize a secret handshake and password. Without a phone, I do not think I could remember this, but when the rewards are so grand who knows maybe I could.

Fat women clubs were also in action; however, they were not very popular. One well known women’s club had similar criteria and their average weight came to a staggering 236 pounds. Most popular weight clubs in America remained ones that featured weight loss and did not encourage weight gain.

The Decline of the Overweight Band of Brothers

Fat clubs started to decline in popularity at the start of the 1920’s. In the beginning of the famous roaring 20’s, obesity became a bigger problem and food was more readily available. The industrialization of the United States created more jobs than ever, and more food produced by agricultural machines. This all contributed to why waistlines began to decrease alongside the membership numbers in the fat men’s clubs.

            The fat men’s clubs were the last big thing in history that points to a time where obesity was openly accepted and even glorified. Accepting who you are and the body you are given is always a great thing to practice. However, I doubt these organization will ever reign supreme again. In the years since these times, medical officials have pointed that a healthy lifestyle is beneficial, and weight can be a serious concern. Trends of today have supported this idea of a healthy lifestyle with an ideal body image having healthy, curvy, natural features. Hopefully we can continue to put our health first, and maybe splurge like the fat men’s members every once in a while.
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