Pilates History Research: Mary Martin

An article about Mary Martin, William Herman, and Kounovsky’s gym.

Mary Martin Pilates archive article

I am thrilled to have recently acquired an original, rare magazine copy of this photo with Mary Martin using the Ped-o-Pul at William Herman’s studio in NYC. So much more detail than in the newspaper version.

Mary Martin using the ped-o-pul

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.

Mary Martin and William Herman archive photo

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

Mary Martin Punches Out a Song Article
Mary's a Knockout Archive Article

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.

Mary Martin sing upside down pilates archive article

A description of Mary’s workout at William Herman’s studio. I’m not yet sure if the “pulley machine” was the Ped-o-Pul or a non-pilates apparatus that he had.

Mary Martin workout description pilates archive article

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!

Mary Martin boxing singing archive photo

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.