Hale’s Tavern, Wells River, Vermont: Circa 1910. Cardboard covers. This cardstock album contains ten pages, each with a glue-mounted photograph (most 4.5” x 6.5”). The front cover features cartoon-illustrated index. Probably provided to attendees after the event. Photos show Hale’s Tavern, J. F. Hale, the dinner, members, the president, a hat-kicking contest, a foot race, a wheel-barrow race, a tug-of-war, and F. P. Sibley’s presentation of a loving cup. Very good. Item #008639
Fat men’s clubs were one genre of the fun-loving, self-deprecating, fraternal organizations that flourished from the mid-1800s to the beginning of the 1920s. The New England Fat Mens Club was founded in 1903 by J. F. Hale, and at the height of its popularity claimed 10,000 official and honorary members, although no more than 75 ever attended one of its annual meetings. The meetings began with a weigh-in (members had to weigh at least 200 pounds), which was followed by a series of hilarious athletic events. “Once the games were over, the men got ready for the main event . . . In the hotel dining room, Hale had thoughtfully scalloped the edges of the tables so his guests could sit in comfort as they bellied up for meals. . . . One nine course menu included oyster cocktail, cream of chicken soup, boiled snapper, fillet of beef with mushrooms, roast chicken, roast suckling pig, shrimp salad, steamed fruit pudding with brandy sauce, assorted cakes, cheeses and ice cream followed by coffee and cigars. The evening was laced with large portions of wit, sarcasm and roaring laughter.” (See “The New England Fat Mens Club“ in Upper Valley Life, Tafrate, 2008. The photographer, F. P. Shibley, was employed by the Boston Globe and “admitted to membership on perpendicular measurements only;” he was 6’4” tall and weighed 160 pounds. Scarce. None in the trade, and none listed at OCLC although one example is likely in the collection of the New England Historical Society. None listed at ABPC, Rare Book Hub, or Worthpoint, although a single image of the president of the New York Fat Men’s Club sold at auction in 2014.