Dr. Sargent gave the last of his series of lectures of Physical Training in the Fogg Art Museum last evening. The subject of the lecture was "What Harvard has done for Physical Education."
One of the notable facts in connection with the growth of Harvard, Dr. Sargent said, is the hopelessness of each student's knowing of the growth of all the departments of the University. We hear so much of the decadence in the physical welfare of students now-a-days that it may be interesting to turn our attention to the condition of the students of some time ago.
The first gymnasium in this country was established at Northampton in 1825. In 1826 Dr. Follen, who had been at Northampton, established a gymnasium at Harvard in an unoccupied commons hall. He also started an out-door gymnasium on the delta where Memorial Hall now stands.
However, the gymnasium was only attended as long as the novelty lasted because the exercise was too violent and fatiguing. The students were expected to be on the playground from 12 to 1 daily. There they took active and laborious exercise which only the strong men could endure. Consequently, most of the students left tired, and after repeated complaints the exercise was discontinued.
Colonel Higginson speaks of this gymnasium as in existence in 1830, but in 1840 it had gone. In 1843 a private gymnasium was started on Brattle street in an old building which had once been a court house. Here especial attention was given to boxing.
In 1845 a college boat club was formed and in 1850 races began. It is an interesting fact in this connection that Yale's first shell was an old boat which Harvard had discarded. About this time match games in other sports were also begun.
The old gymnasium opposite Memorial Hall was built in 1860 at a cost of $9488.05. Other gymnasiums at Yale, Princeton and Amherst followed and in 1879 the present Hemenway building was erected.
Prior to this the old style of apparatus was used, made by the college carpenter and arranged any way. The hanging ropes were of tarred hemp and the man who attempted to strike the rough canvas-covered striking bag was usually content with one blow. The pulley weights were swinging iron balls, unguided by rods, which swung and banged, raising clouds of dust. After a man had grasped the cold iron handles he usually found it better to hold on than to let go. After the first few day's work the weak men were eliminated by "unnatural selection." The apparatus was too heavy.
The task of breaking up this system was very difficult. The old buildings had to be reconstructed, the apparatus remodelled and a radical change had to be made in the theories of Hygienic Education, and recreative and remedial exercises had to be devised. These were obtained through gymnastic sports, plays, free movements, developing appliances and massage.
In conclusion, Dr. Sargent said that the indifference of some colleges with regard to physical education might be borne were it not for the great prominence given to athletics. The desire of the average student for physical development should be stimulated; the zeal of the athlete discouraged. This can only be rationally accomplished by placing mental and physical efforts upon the same plane.
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Naked in the Archives