Rosendahl’s and Dorothy Alexander
A Pilates History Research Archive® First Find!
The oldest known gymnasium that incorporated the Pilates’ system and apparatus, other than Joe Pilates’ Studio: Rosendahl’s
I’m so excited to share my latest research that may change the collective understanding of the history of Pilates Studios that were opened during Joe’s lifetime.
This original 1939 letter from Joseph Pilates (shown in part here) refers to a recent trip he took to Atlanta, Georgia and he mentions his system was introduced.
Previous research elsewhere has suggested that he was visiting Dorothy Alexander (of the Atlanta Ballet) in Atlanta and that it was with her that his system was being introduced.
However, my research shows that Ms. Alexander did not actually start the Atlanta Ballet until 1941- a full three years after Joe wrote this letter.
As we can see here in this article:
Image first shared 11/20/23.
Also stated in the above article, Atlanta dancers visited Jacob’s Pillow in the summer of 1941- and likely experienced Joe Pilates and Contrology there since that’s when Joe was getting his start in that location.
Therefore, if the Atlanta Ballet did not yet exist then, where was Joe going in Atlanta to introduce his system in 1939?
Through my research, I was able to uncover this lost article that was published just a few weeks before Joe’s dated letter, describing an Atlanta Gym called Rosendahl’s which featured the Pilates System.
Image first shared 11/20/23.
This 1941 advertisement mentions a pilates studio in Atlanta in 1941- which was most likely Rosendahl’s, although it could also have been Dorothy Alexander at this point since it was the same year she likely met Joe in Massachusetts. Image first shared 11/20/23.
Here are a few more advertisements for Rosendahl’s, all very close to the 1939 year that Joe wrote his letter and that the article was published.
Joe Pilates, Body Builder for Dancers
These articles about Joe Pilates are from a series that included photos depicting his Return to Life matwork as well as many references to phrases from his book. Article first shared on 5/12/23.
Originally discovered by Rachel Romdhane at Miami Beach Pilates, this early 1940s article about Jacob’s Pillow captures a rare moment of what was likely an indoor mat class with Joseph Pilates for “body conditioning.” Thank you, Rachel! Image first shared 5/12/23.
Tags: Ted Shawn
The 1940 US Census, showing Joseph and Clara Pilates listed as “Physical Culture Teachers.” Image first shared on 5/12/23.
This incredible find is due to the research of Cathy Strack. Her discovery debuted to the pilates community through publication in her book, Get to Know Joe Pilates. This image is from Elaine Ewing’s personal collection of original magazines and articles. This ad, dating back to 1927 is the oldest known US based Pilates ad to date. Image first shared on 5/12/23.
A Pilates Source® Exclusive!
A team effort between Sean Gallagher, Elaine Ewing, and Cathy Strack has uncovered incredible information about the history of a pilates apparatus called the Idealizer.
Previously in the Carola Trier section of the Pilates History Research Archive™, we presented this postcard from Clara Pilates to Carola Trier, telling Carola that she could come pick up her “Idealizer”. At that point in time, we did not know what an Idealizer was.
On 6/11/22, as a team we made an archival pilates discovery that sheds light on what the Idealizer was, thanks to this incredible, rare article.
The article describes the adjustable Ped-o-Pul, also known today as the Archival Ped-o-Pul, with the bike seat, the springs from above, and that it takes up very little space in the corner. It describes the Idealizer as being for singers, ballerinas, or office workers. The article states that Joe just invented it, and along with the postcard this places the invention of the adjustable Ped-o-Pul, aka The Idealizer, in that time period.
This information also disputes theories that Joe invented this apparatus for a specific person, or just for singers or dancers.
The Pilates Source® will continue to present rare research information and historical finds to enrich the community’s deeper understanding of the method by constantly sharing pilates history news such as this.
Images first shared on 6/16/22.
An article from the 1940’s that we became aware of a few years ago but I’m just getting around to adding to the Pilates History Research Archive™. Images first shared 7/22/22.
Two articles that refer to Joe’s NYC neighborhood as “Jacob’s Beach”. I have heard of his neighborhood (939 8th Ave in NYC) referred to as Hell’s Kitchen but I have not found any other instances of it being called Jacob’s Beach other than these two articles. Interesting!
An Elaine Ewing Research Discovery!
First posted on social media on February 25, 2022
Through my research, I found these photos that were previously unknown to the pilates community! The moment I found these was just incredible and I couldn’t wait to share them with the world. Before I did, I asked permission from the archive in which they are held and owned. Once I obtained permission, I posted the photos! Here is the proper credit for these images:
John Lindquist Photograph
© Harvard Theatre Collection
Houghton Library, Harvard University
Through my research I found that these images were actually digitized by an intern in the Harvard Library archives in 2014 yet I had never seen them shared or posted before on a website or social media! What excitement we all felt when we finally first saw them!
When I posted these photos on Instagram and Facebook on February 25, 2022, Sean Gallagher also issued the following post, which enriches the historical understanding of these images. Thank you, Sean, for sharing this information and history with us!
“I want to thank Elaine Ewing for her dedication and hard work in exploring pilates history with every lead she finds or idea she gets from reading and looking at the archives I have, even when that leads to discoveries that change the narrative that we have followed due to what we know from what we have been told and seen. Her discovery of the pictures from the Jacobs Pillow official photographer John Lindquist of some pictures of Joe demonstrating and showing off his apparatus in color (Yes Color!!!!!) is amazing. These pictures were donated to Harvard Theater collection in 1981. The photographs were not digitized and made available until 2014 and Elaine just found them after researching a hunch she had.
One of the pictures is one that I had put into my Archival book in 2000 since it was part of the archives that I purchased when I bought the pilates business. The picture I used was one that Joe had added a caption in the upper right of the picture “Joseph Pilates founder of Contrology at seventy-two-year of age. With several of his inventions for personal rehabilitation” The copy I had was in black and white and was Joe’s derivative and since it was in a set that showed Joe at different ages it was added to the book.”
-Sean Gallagher, February 26, 2022
“You are Younger than You Think”
Two very similar articles with subtle differences- what do you notice? Images first shared on 2/25/22.
This newsletter from The Academy of Chiropractic, Inc describes an apparatus demonstration that Joe did for them with Frederick Rand Rogers and his students. Notably, the newsletter eludes to the fact that this is not the first demonstration that Joe did for them. Image first shared on 2/25/22.
A newsletter from the Masonic Lodge that Joe was a member of. This article states a few things that are never before stated in an article published during Joe’s lifetime, such as:
- information about Joe being a Free Mason, stating that he began in 1930
- a statement that Joe invented the apparatus on the Isle of Man
- details about why Joe chose to leave Germany
- details about Joe’s plans for a health club on his Berkshire property
Image first shared on 2/25/22.
This article appeared in Life Magazine and was about Roberta Peters. It depicted her time in the studio with Joseph Pilates as well as a voice lesson with William Herman. Images first shared on 10/15/21.
Image first shared on 10/15/21.
Joe really knew how to attract attention beyond a simple article. He had a talent for creating super memorable phrases that really grab attention, even to this day. The title of this article is a perfect example! And I love the part about the most rewarding client in Pilates’ history. Image first shared on 2/18/21.
This article is from 1961 and appeared in many different newspapers at the time. It contains some great quotes from Joe and impressions from the reporter upon meeting Joe in the studio and taking a lesson. Image first shared on 2/18/21.
This article is unique in that it depicts Joe on the beach- a location we have never seen him in previously! The article says that he was visiting Florida and spent some time on the yacht of a friend. Super cool! Image first shared on 2/18/21.
This article from 1963 contains a lot of great bits from pilates history. It also features Catherine di Mantezemolo, who was a model for pilates photoshoots for articles from the 1960’s through the 1980’s. Image first shared on 10/15/21.
One of the more unusual articles that discusses Joe’s Contrology hair brushing technique. Another physical culturing of the times, Bernar Macfadden, also had a hair brushing technique, which may have possibly inspired Joe to come with his own. Image first shared on 2/18/21.
One of the earlier articles that mentions Joe and proof of how he trained boxers early on. The story telling in the article is great, too. Image first shared on 2/18/21.
Vintage Pilates Studio Phone Book Listings
These pages are from New York City phone books from the 1950s. It is clear that Joe had a studio phone and an apartment phone, that shared the same number. Images first shared on 2/18/21.
Pretty Opera Star Trains Like a Boxer
This incredibly rare article is one I have in my collection of originals. It’s a favorite of mine because it features Elaine Malbin!
Images first shared on 11/1/2021.
83-Year-Old ‘Contrology’ Expert Claims to Have Fitness Formula
One of my favorite, original articles. Images first shared on November 1, 2021. (Click images to enlarge.)
Another great, rare article about Joseph Pilates and his amazing clients. Image first shared on October 15, 2021. (Click images to enlarge.)
The Eighth Avenue “Contrologist”
A very rare and super cool original pilates article. Images first shared on October 15, 2021. (Click images to enlarge.)
Stretching Your Way to Longer Life
This original article was one I was very excited to be able to add to my collection. Articles on newsprint are very hard to find, mostly because less people saved daily and weekly newspaper less often than they saved glossy magazine articles. Luckily someone saved this one! Images first shared on October 15, 2021. (Click images to enlarge.)
Another magazine ran the same article, but chose to colorize the images. Images first shared 7/22/22. (Click images to enlarge.)
Cutting a Fine Figure
This is an original Collier’s Magazine from the 1930’s. Many pilates teachers are aware that there was a readers digest in the 1930’s that ran an article about Joe. Well, the interesting thing is that the Readers Digest article is actually a “condensed” version of this article. The fact is, the Reader’s Digest version of this article is actually not the full article! It is my pleasure to present to you a photo of my original copy of the full article from Collier’s Magazine. Images first shared September 18, 2021. (Click images to enlarge.)
Here is the condensed Reader’s Digest article for comparison: (Click images to enlarge.)
You’re Younger than You Think
I was excited to find an original copy of this rare article from the early 1940’s with lots of great quotes from Joe as well as descriptions of what was taking place in the studio. Images first shared on September 18, 2021. (Click images to enlarge.)
This is one of my most exciting finds- and original copy of this rare 1940 article about Contrology! Image first shared on September 18, 2021. (Click image to enlarge.)
An article mentioning the Pilates Studio. This was actually published after Joe passed away. Image first shared on July 29, 2021. (Click image to enlarge.)
This article is from a modern magazine, but is using a rare and old photo of Joe in Central Park from 1936- wow! Image first shared July 29, 2021. (Click image to enlarge.)
This fascinating article is one that took an extra step of sleuthing to discover and it was well worth it. It shows that Joe was faculty in the American Society of Teachers of Dancing (along with many other notables, including Eve Gentry) and that he taught Contrology as part of the Curriculum. Image first shared on July 29, 2021. (Click image to enlarge.)
He Trains Beauties
This is one of the most rare articles about Joe and Contrology, from the 1950’s Original copies of this article are available for purchase, contact me for info. Images first shared on July 29, 2021. (Click images to enlarge.)
How to Stay Fit Lying Down
This article is from Pagaent Magazine. I have original copies of this issue for sale, please email me for info. Images first shared on July 30, 2021. (Click images to enlarge.)
This famous article about Jacob’s Pillow appeared in Life Magazine in the 1930’s and includes a well known photo of Joe teaching two dancers with the Headresses in the Tea Garden at Jacob’s Pillow. Images first shared on July 26, 2021. (Click images to enlarge.)
The Return to Life Club
A number of articles appeared over time in a newspaper local to the Berkshires of Massachusetts, about The Return to Life Club, which was a mat class for men that met above the barber shop in the town of Lee, Massachusetts. Thank you to Cathy Strack for sleuthing out the history behind The Return to Life Club! Images first shared on February 18, 2021. (Click images to enlarge.)
Joe’s main residence was in NYC, and he would stay at his country house in Becket on the weekends and in the summers. Country homes are always susceptible to break-ins and Joe’s was no exception. These articles tell the story of the time Joe’s house was burglarized and a gun and alcohol were stolen. The fact that Joe owned a gun gives more credibility to the chances of the story being true about Joe going to threaten Bob Seed with a gun when he found out he was poaching clients. But that whole story is one that time has yet to fully tell! Image first shared on February 18, 2021. (Click image to enlarge.)
Joe Pilates- Did he have a Will?
A seemingly insignificant legal announcement in a local paper in Lee, Massachusetts after Joe passed away- however this announcement proves that Joe did in fact have a will- which contradicts what was previously thought to be true. This mistruth was first spoken during the trademark trial by Joe’s own lawyer, who actually took part in filing the will in the first place. Unfortunately, because of this, the story of Joe not having a will was passed down over the years until now. Special thanks to Cathy Strack for first discovering that Joe did indeed have a will. Image first shared on February 18, 2021. (Click images to enlarge.)
Joe Pilates Becket Studio
This article is special because it shows what is currently the only known photo of Joe’s Berkshire studio in the process of being built. Here we see Joe at work on his property in the Berkshire Mountains of Becket, Massachusetts, just around the bend from Jacob’s Pillow. Image first shared on February 18, 2021. (Click image to enlarge.)
Joe Pilates, 85, Still Active as Physical Culturist
This article appeared in a local newspaper in Lee, Massachusetts, and told about Joe’s new studio at Henri Bendels Department Store in NYC. It’s one of the few articles to discuss that studio that I have found so far. Image first shared on February 18, 2021. (Click image to enlarge.)
Joseph J. Pilates Dies; Becket Physical Culturist
A unique obituary containing interesting details written about Joseph Pilates that appeared in a newspaper in the Berkshires. Image first shared on February 18, 2021. (Click image to enlarge.)