An article about Mary Martin, William Herman, and Kounovsky’s gym. Image first shared December 10, 2021.
I was completely excited to discover this photo from a vintage, original magazine depicting Mary Martin working with William Herman and using the famous “weighted shoes.” Until this photo, I had only guessed that the weighted shoes Mr. Herman used in his lessons with voice students were the ones invented by Joseph Pilates, since he also used other apparatus invented by Joe, such as the Devana and Ped-o-Pul. However this photo shows that, in fact, he was not using Joe’s weighted shoes, but rather generic weighted shoes, possibly made by York Barbell, that were common in physical culture at the time. Amazing!
With Joe’s weighted shoes, the weight was controlled by adding an iron insert into the footbed of the shoe. With other weighted shoes, such as the ones shown here, the weight was controlled by added iron plates to the sides, similar to how one would add weight to a barbell. Image first shared April 22, 2021.
William Herman Teaching Mary Martin inside his vocal lessons studio
Photos by Toni Frissell | To view a full collection of photos from this series, visit Elaine Ewing’s instagram page at @elaine_ewing
These are the only known photos of a student being taught on an original Divana, taken in 1959. These are also currently the only known photos of the Divana with William Herman and his student during a vocal lessons, where he used Pilates’ apparatus in ways that Joe taught, as well as in his own ways during vocal lessons.
Here we can see Mary Marin on the short box, with arms folded as Joe taught. It appears as though she is singing while exercising, just like Elaine Malbin did in her photos with Joe Pilates during the same time period.
These photos provide excellent details of the original Divana, and even show that Herman had a vibrating exercise machine in his studio as well!
Previously, we have shared a photo from this series that was published in a number of articles at the time, with Mary Martin on the Ped-o-Pul as well as Mary boxing with the Ped-o-Pul behind her. Now, we are fortunate to view the outtakes that were not chosen for publication, and here are some of the best!
The most fascinating part is the use of four total springs on the Ped-o-Pul, which we believe was a technique created by William Herman to suspend the arms during vocal lessons.
The Spine Corrector
In this series, William Herman is teaching Mary Martin on the Spine Corrector in a way that we know Joe Pilates also taught- arching back with a bar held with both hands. The Spine Corrector was a popular apparatus for singers with both Herman and Pilates. In addition to the Spine Corrector, Mary is also shown on the mat with the Spine Corrector nearby, perhaps exemplifying some of the benefits of a Spine Corrector practice.
In this series, William Herman is teaching Mary Martin on the mat with the Spine Corrector in the background. Perhaps she is exemplifying some of the benefits of a Spine Corrector practice.
In this series, William Herman is teaching Mary Martin to use the Breathacizer during her vocal lesson while he plays the piano. These are currently the only known photos of anyone other than Joe Pilates teaching the Breathacizer or even using the Breathacizer outside of the Pilates’ Studio. Until these photos surfaced, we did not know that Herman had a Breathacizer because it was not mentioned in articles or interviews. As always, there is so much more to history than what is discussed in published articles. That is the beauty and also the endlessness of research- there is always more to learn and to be inspired by!
Images first shared July 20, 2023
Mary Martin was a famous Broadway Star, as well as a student of William Herman, famous voice coach. We can see Mary Martin use the Ped-o-Pul in this article, which was interesting because it has two springs. Image first shared February 16, 2021.
Mary Martin describing her workout in relationship to her singing and her new show. She mentions her workout with William Herman, which includes Iron Shoes (possibly either from Joe or inspired by Joe), and her exercises that she does at Kounovsky’s gym- a gym that was competitive with The Pilates Studio for the same clientele. Image first shared April 3, 2021.
This is the best photo I’ve found so far of Mary Martin in William Herman’s studio with the Ped-o-Pul behind her. It was an amazing day in pilates history research when I saw this photo for the first time, and felt the satisfaction of seeing the bike seat and its shadow behind Mary. What an amazing find, to discover that William Herman’s Ped-o-Pul had a bike seat! Image first shared April 3, 2021.
See also William Herman for more information about his techniques, use of pilates apparatus, and place in pilates history. It is evident that William Herman used pilates apparatus in his teaching, but he did not teach the pilates method with it, he taught specific exercises he devised for his students to help them improve their singing and endurance while singing on stage.