Imagining a Better Future by Re-imagining the Past

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Going Back to Nature

“When every night,
The set that's smart

Is intruding in nudist parties in studios,

Anything Goes.”

Lyrics to the song “Anything Goes,” written by Cole Porter, 1934


After a long series on a rather serious subject I think its fitting to quote John Cleese, “And now for something completely different.” In this case, that difference is an essay on how the modern nudist movement actually traces its roots back to the diesel era.

Long before the diesel era organized social nudism was well developed in Germany, which many see as the birthplace of modern social nudism. Known as the Freikörperkultur (FKK), which translates as Free Body Culture, Germany saw a dramatic increase in popularity of nudism during the Roaring Twenties. As an example of its growth in popularity Germany’s first nude beach was established on Sylt island in 1920. No one should be surprised that the Nazis heavily suppressed German social nudism when they rose to power. According to Hermann Goring, “One of the greatest dangers for German culture and morality is the so-called nudity movement.” After World War II social nudism made a dramatic comeback and flourished in both East and West Germany.

German Nudist Magazine from the 1920’s

Social nudism wasn’t unknown in England prior to the diesel era either. Previously there had been several English nudist advocates, such as socialist and activist Edward Carpenter. In 1924 the first successful nudist club in the UK, which was named the “Moonella Group," was established at Wickford, Essex.

Just as in England there had also been several French advocates of social nudism prior to diesel era, such as a Frenchmen named S. Gay who established a naturist community at Bois-Fourgon in 1903. But it was Marcel Kienné de Mongeot who is often credited as being the founder of the modern French nudist movement in 1920. In the 1930’s the Doctors André and Gaston Durville opened Héliopolis naturist center on Ile du Levant as well as other nudist sites. Another French nudism advocate Albert Lecoq founded the North Gymnastics Center in 1933.

America also saw the birth of its own modern nudist movement in the 1920’s. Most trace the modern American social nudist movement to Kurt Barthel, who started the American League for Physical Culture in 1929. The League had its first outing, consisting of 3 women and 4 men most of who were in their twenties, later that year in New York. In addition to founding the League, in May of 1932 Kurt Barthel also established America's first official nudist camp in New Jersey called 'Sky Farm.' In the 1930’s the American Gymnosphical Association, an organization formed by a group of members who had left the American League, established another nudist club that they named 'Rock Lodge.'

Kurt Barthel

Barthel’s American League, after a series of spin-offs and reorganizations over the years, is considered the ancestor of the current American Association for Nude Recreation, which now has over 50,000 members and is considered one of the leaders in the today’s nudist (now called naturist) movement. In addition, both Sky Farm and Rock Lodge continue to operate today as member-owned co-operative naturist clubs.

One last item of historical curiosity is an advertisement from a July 1937 issue of Life magazine for Simonize Car Wax that includes a photo of a nude woman in a transparent raincoat that reads, “Don’t… Let Your Car Go Nudist!” Link to Life Magazine.

It should be obvious that contrary to popular assumption modern nudism as a movement isn’t a product of the Baby Boomers, or the hippy culture of the 1960’s, but is actually a product of the diesel era. Of course on a lighter note, being that this is a dieselpunk site, this revelation may also give some readers a new way to define “dieselpunk fashion.”

9 comments:

Tome Wilson said...

I know it's hot in Texas, Larry, but you should really wear more than a fedora if you're headed outside. Getting sunburn on your dangle might not be worth the excitement ;-)

Lord K said...

Off-topic:
Congrats, your Wiki article is a gas!

Larry said...

Thanks, Lord K!

Lord K said...

Unfortunarely I've been too busy to take part in the discussion. Speaking of movies, I'd add "Dick Tracy" (1990) and "The Shadow" (1994) to your list.

Larry said...

Good ideas Lord K. But it's looking like they're threatening to delete the Wiki page.

Lord K said...

De-le-te? Why?!

Larry said...

In a nut shell, they don't feel like the references are good enough.

Lord K said...

What kind of reference they consider good enough?

Larry said...

They don't seem to like blogs and web sites as sources. They want hard copy references. If you go to the site and click on the appropriate link it will take you to the deletion talk page. We're also talking about this on the forum, dieselpunks.org if you want to join in. Maybe you can give Jonny and I some ideas.