In the late 1930’s, Joseph Pilates took out this ad for an unspecified invention. Based on the price point and the description, we’re thinking it might be the Magic Circle or the Tensometer. It appears that he is advertising a $5 royalty given to those who are willing to sell the apparatus for him. So cool! Stay tuned as the research continues.
Special thanks to Ellen Boyle for sending me this incredible historical find!
Body Exercise Apparatus
Joe’s patent for what we know today as the Reformer. Notably, he did not refer to it as a reformer or Universal Reformer, in the patent. There are many other interesting differences and points made throughout the patent.
The Foot Corrector was the first patent Joe ever filed, back when he lived in Germany and before he emigrated to the United States. For that remain, I translated the patent from German to English for a better understanding of it.
Interestingly, the pedal design is not like any that is made today.
Also, it mentions that springs might be used, but also suggests air or water for resistance.
This is an interesting patent by Joe, perhaps done just for fun or to learn more about the patent process.
The Tensometer was a metal apparatus, similar looking to a hand weight, with a compression spring inside. On the outside it had a meter to tell the user how much force was being applied during any given exercise. Additionally, the end pieces were interchangeable, depending on which exercise was taking place.
Joe’s original patent for the Wunda Chair. Filed in 1931 and patented in 1934. There are obvious and remarkable differences between this original design compared to what we use today in pilates studios.
Interestingly, this original Chair had a spring loaded back for use when sitting in it like a chair, as well as a spring loaded seat/pedal for when using it to exercise. Additionally, this chair came with little metal foot plates that inserted into the pedal of the chair. In archival film footage, Joe can be seen adding these little plates in a demonstration as to how to use the chair.
This is not an exercise chair, but rather an “easy chair” designed by Joe. Joe also filmed himself using this chair after he built it, and it can be seen in some photos from around the studio.
One of Joe’s bed designs, these metal “v-beds” still exist and are part of Sean Gallager’s Pilates Archive™. Not shown in the patent drawing, these beds also had springs and straps attached so that one could exercise on the bed when the mattress was in the flat position, and sleep in the bed with the mattress dropped into the V position.
The original beds are preserved in Sean Gallagher’s pilates museum, which is in Joseph Pilates’ original studio in the Berkshires of Massachusetts.
This version of the V-Bed was archived by Joe through film footage on a New York City rooftop, in which he showed different sleep and relaxation positions available. Other marketing material was also produced, such as brochures and advertisements.
See also: Bednasium
Joseph Pilates’ “Double Frame Bed” References
Research into these citations on Joseph Pilates’ “Double Frame Bed” patent lead me to finding each of these inventions that came before, and influenced, Joe’s idea for the V-Bed. I highlighted the sections within each of these patents that I thought sounded most likely to have influenced Joe and his designs.
This was some tricky and time consuming research but I enjoyed it as always! The most challenging patent to locate was the last one, only titled “Germany”!
Images first shared on 12/2/2021.