Bernarr Macfadden (1868-1955) was an eccentric businessman and health crusader of the early 20th century.
His most successful business venture was his publishing empire, starting with Physical Culture magazine (1899-1955). This was followed by other magazines and over 100 books, including Virile Powers of Superb Manhood (1900) and Muscular Power and Beauty (1906).
He also organized bodybuilding competitions, opened health food restaurants, and even tried to found a community based on his beliefs called Physical Culture City. (It was in New Jersey.)
But he had plenty of detractors, including the editors of TIME magazine, who nicknamed him “Body-Love” Macfadden.
Speaking of names, Bernarr wasn’t born with the name Bernarr. His birth name was Bernard Adolphus McFadden. In his late 20s, while working in New York City as a personal trainer and physical therapist, he decided to rebrand himself. He ultimately settled on the distinctive “Bernarr Macfadden.” Here’s one version of the story:
Bernard Adolphus McFadden was a name that did not satisfy him. He had experimented with Bernard Adolphus, B. A. McFadden and B. Adolphus McFadden. Professor B. McFadden was not much of an improvement. Bernard sounded weak to him. If he accented the last syllable and substituted an R for the D, it would seem powerful, something like a lion’s roar — Bernarr, a unique name that people would remember. He dropped the Adolphus and, probably because there were so many McFaddens, he chose the name Macfadden, much to the resentment of his relatives scattered across the Midwest.
Bernarr Macfadden married several times and had a total of nine children — first six girls, then three boys. Their names were Helen, Byrne, Byrnece, Beulah, Beverly, Braunda, Byron, Berwyn, and Brewster. The B-names were clearly inspired by the “B” of Bernarr, and I suspect that Braunda was named with the word “brawn” in mind.
- Bernarr Macfadden – Wikipedia
- Ernst, Robert. Weakness Is a Crime: The Life of Bernarr Macfadden. Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 1991.