6 Unsuccessful Exercise Machines throughout History — The Industrial Age

Magazine cover of inventor for unsuccessful exercise machines through historyIn the industrial age, exercise machines continued to be invented.

As farmers grew more food and people got fatter, their desire to exercise and lose weight intensified — the fat people, not the farmers, who stayed pretty skinny.

Science and invention marched forward to fight fat with brain power.

Undaunted by shortages in brain power some plucky exercise machine inventors went ahead anyway.


Woodcut of a person using a pulley

1) Ruling Class Weight Lifting 

Early in the mechanical age, the wealthy assumed that they could lose weight the same way they did everything else: with servants.

British inventor Bartholomew “Pete” Crinkle convinced wealthy clients that they could lose weight by lifting massive weights using the mechanical advantage weight loss system.

When a portly landowner asked if servants could do the lifting, Crinkle shrugged, famously saying, “Why not?”

An idea was born. Servants across Great Britain set to work, raising and lowering heavy boxes.  Sometimes riding on the boxes (not shown here), the landed gentry turned into the flying gentry, soaring and swinging, giddy at their mechanical mastery over weight.  Of course, overweight is what they stayed.

When Crinkle’s failure was discovered, clients sacked their weight lifting servants, leading to the Angry Muscular Servants Uprising of 1822.  Crinkle emigrated to America.  There he started a wild animal petting zoo.  The petting zoo’s popularity plummeted when customers learned they could only pet wild animals that they themselves had caught.

Drawing of people jumping with parachutes to lose weight

 2. Parachute Pandemonium

The battle against weight took to the air in France with another fundamental misunderstanding of weight loss.

Pierre Choute, French inventor and giant butterfly breeder, convinced customers that defying gravity could reduce weight.

It made sense.  The overweight tried the system, and young thrill seekers misused the Pierre Choute weight loss device to escape chores.  No one lost any weight.

The heaviest of clients met with disaster, plummeting to earth when their butterflies became exhausted.  Choute emigrated to America.

Woodcut of a man with two telephone receivers for failed exercise machines

3. Facial Fat Reducer

Nagged by his wife, Matilda to make money, inventor Alexander Saltine Gong jumped on the new craze for electricity.  His painful and ineffective device, the Electro Dejowelator shocked the face, neck and head.

Although it was unpleasant, Gong used the electro  grips to block the sound of his wife’s continued nagging when he failed to sell the device.

Woodcut of an early telephone for failed exercise machines

When the shrewish Matilda tried the Dejowelator, she held one electro grip over her mouth.  Gong did not correct her.  Electric shock paralyzed her mouth for hours. Although a failure as a weight loss machine inventor, Gong became happy and successful in his personal life.


Photo of giant tubas

4. Tuba Training

While attending college in the United States, Admiral Yomamado became enamored with the largest brass instrument.  Convinced he could get his troops into extraordinary fighting condition, he ordered them to play giant tubas.

Unable to even get a sound from the gargantuan instruments, troops fled in shame when Yomamado came to inspect their progress (shown here).  A military failure, Yomamado later converted the giant wheeled tubas into a fleet of taxis that were cramped but honked well.

Gymmasticon assumed a failure

5. The Gymmasticon

Costly and complicated, the Gymmasticon demanded a lot of hard, sweaty work and therefore became unpopular.

Like so many exercise machines the Gymmasticon was abandoned for the much more pleasurable pastime of eating.


Clothesline for failed exercise devices

6. Stationary Kite

Watching fit children flying kites in a field behind her home in 1957 gave Wendy Boughbreaks the idea of the stationary kite.

Fitting into a small yard, the stationary kite could “fly” without wind and was physically undemanding, a popular feature.

Sadly, the stationary kite did attract lightning.  Wendy was electrocuted in 1958 during tropical storm Edna.

So there you have them, 6 unsuccessful exercise machines from the industrial age.

Tired of exercise machines that don’t work?  Try one that does and makes you feel great.

Lesser Known Follies in History

photo of the original check used to pay for Alaska, worth $7.2 million

Throughout history, people have dubbed brilliant inventions and land purchases as”follies”

We have all heard of “Fulton’s Folly,” the famous steamship, and “Seward’s Folly,” the $7.2 million purchase of Alaska from Russia. 

Of course, we now chuckle at the ignorance of critics who failed to comprehend the genius behind these “follies.”  Many lament that Sarah Palin ultimately came with the deal, but Seward had no way of knowing that.

But what of other, lesser known “follies” in history?

Here we present an incomplete compendium.

Seward’s Second Folly:  After the purchase of Alaska, known as Seward’s Folly, Sammy Seward, a cousin of William H. Seward, tried to buy China.  Although the price was relatively inexpensive in today’s dollars, China was much more expensive than Alaska, and, it turned out, was not owned by Russia.  Sammy did not give up on matching his cousin and later tried to buy France.

Clemson’s Folly:  Invented in 1827 by eccentric inventor Fiduciarious “Clem” Clemson, a merry-go-round to relax horses was devised to twirl large beasts around while playing cheerful music.  Unfortunately, during testing, Clemson was crushed by a Clydesdale.

Klimperson’s folly:  Klimper Klimperson, an eccentric gold miner, wished to walk to Japan from Sacramento, California.  He began a tunnel to Japan from his back yard but ran out of funds long before the tunnel reached the edge of his property.  Later, the tunnel would become a celebrated wine cellar and yodeling den.

Fulmer’s Folly:  Inspired by Fulton’s Folly, Chance Photo of a replica of Fulton's steamship aka Fulton's folly“Charles” Fulmer looked around his kitchen to find a propellant similar to steam.  Fulmer invented the “toaster smoke engine” which used thousands of toasters to generate hot smoke.  Unfortunately for Fulmer, the famous “copper rise” of 1928 raised the price of extension cords, and also several serviceable alternatives to steam engines had been invented by then.