M976.54.1-2 | Clubs

1880-1900, 19th century
44 cm
Purchase from D. Dickey
© McCord Museum
Keywords:  Club (57)
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Keys to History

In the late 19th century, people became more aware of the importance of exercise in achieving a healthy mind and body. Gymnasiums were built in sports clubs and schools to accommodate the new interest in exercise.

This pair of Indian clubs was used, like dumbbells, for arm exercises. Indian clubs originated in India and were taken to Europe in the early 1800s by British soldiers who used the clubs for exercise drills. They soon became popular in Germany and in Czechoslovakia, and immigrants from those countries introduced them to North America in the mid-1800s. The clubs were used in the new school gymnasiums to teach gymnastics, part of the physical education program.

McGill University's first gymnasium was erected in 1861. At the time, only male students were allowed to use it. McGill made physical fitness classes available to women only in 1887. These classes, taught by female teachers, continued to be accessible in the assembly hall of Royal Victoria College (McGill's college for women) when it opened in 1900.

  • What

    These wooden Indian clubs have a handle with a knob that prevents the club from slipping from the hand. The oval bottom adds weight to the club.

  • Where

    Clubs would have been used in a gymnasium in single or group exercises that were sometimes arranged to music.

  • When

    These Indian clubs were made and used during the period 1880 to 1900, when the notion of physical education became more important.

  • Who

    If swung in circular patterns, the clubs helped develop muscles in the shoulder, chest, back and waist.