The Beginning

On Labor Day, September 2, 1929, the Nudist Movement began in America.  A group of German immigrants led by Kurt Barthel took an excursion to the Catskill Mountains to spend the day nude in nature.  They were seeking to replicate the life of “Freikorperkultur” to which they had become accustomed in their homeland.  They believed strongly that a person’s physical, mental and moral well-being was aided by exercise, proper diet, exposure to the sun, air and water and spending time in Nature among like-minded people in chaste social nudity.

The outing was a success, and on December 7, 1929, a core of this group decided to form an organization called The American League for Physical Culture.  They commenced regular activities including exercises and swims at a gymnasium on Manhattan’s upper west side, and membership grew.  In 1930, the League adopted the following statement of principles and standards:

Our goal is the healthy mind in the healthy body.  This is not only a creed but a way of life.  Sunlight and air are vital conditions of human wellbeing.  We believe these elements are insufficiently used in present day life, to the detriment of physical and moral health.  For the purpose of health and recreation and for the conditioning of man to his world we offer a new social practice, based on the known wholesome value of exposure to these elements and in the spirit of naturalness, cheerfulness, and cleanliness of body and mind that they symbolize.  We aim to make the fullest possible use of sun, light and air by a program of exercise and life in the open in such a way as will result in the maximum physical and mental benefit.

We believe in the essential wholesomeness of the human body, and all its functions.  We therefore regard the body neither as an object of shame nor as a subject for levity or erotic exploitation.  Any attitude or behavior inconsistent with this view is contrary to the whole spirit of the society and has no place among us.

The practice of our physical culture tends toward simplicity and integrity in all ways.  We counsel for our members the sane and hygienic life. We reserve the right to impose abstinence from intoxicants and stimulants at our meetings and on our grounds.

We invite to our membership persons of character of all ages and both sexes.  Our purposes are not exclusively physical or cultural or aesthetic but rather a normal union of all of these.  We make no tests of politics, religion, or opinion, provided that these are so held as not to obscure the purposes of the association.  It is intended that the association shall be thoroughly representative of the whole social order.

This was the beginning of organized nudism in America.  In 1932, the American League for Physical Culture furthered its success by acquiring a property in New Jersey to make it the first club in the country with its own grounds.  They called it Sky Farm, and it continues in operation to this day.

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