Paul von Boeckmann’s Pneumauxetor

A Visionary from the early 20th century — none other than the forgotten strongman and “Respiratory Specialist” Paul von Boeckmann — wishes to save you from “the terrible effects of oxygen starvation” with his “Pneumauxetor”: “a Gymnasium for the Internal Body” used by “Over 23,000” and “Guaranteed to Develop Strong, Healthy Lungs.” Lest you worry about the durability of the Pneumauxetor, please be advised, it’s “Mechanically Perfect.”

The Pneumauxetor

The Pneumauxetor

I’m not quite sure how one uses a — excuse me, the — Pneumauxetor, because in order to find out, one has to enroll in von Boeckmann’s “system of correspondence instruction,” which, he assures us, is “perfect.” No wonder: he has taught, he says, “over 23,000 persons by correspondence and [he has] long ago overcome all obstacles that might make [his] instructions less comprehensive, and less effective.” By his method, “you obtain permanent strength, permanent wind, permanent endurance.” He guarantees “a gain of not less than 30 cubic inches [in lung capacity for] anyone, young or old, in three months, or [he will give a] refund.” What a bargain!

Paul von Boeckmann, dressed snappily

Paul von Boeckmann, dressed snappily

I purchased von Boeckmann’s pamphlet for but $1.00 at an antique shop in Glen Rose, Texas. Unfortunately, I don’t know how to telephone 532 Bryant in New York, or how to otherwise contact Paul von Boeckmann, who, the pamphlet says, resides at 500 Fifth Avenue in New York.


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Paul? Paul? Paul?

There are many things one can learn for von Boeckmann’s pamphlet. To list but a few direct quotes:

  • We all know air is life.
  • Exercise does not develop lung power.
  • Such knowledge [of breathing gymnastics] can be gained only through experience, and not through theory.
  • Always breathe through the nose […] In nose breathing, the air is purified before it reaches the lungs. In mouth breathing, dust and poisonous germs are breathed directly into the delicate lung tissue.
  • A woman is as old as she looks, and if she feels old, then she is twice as old as she really is.

"A piece torn out of a full package of playing cards by Paul von Boeckmann, a performance that eclipses all other card tearing feats."

"A piece torn out of a full package of playing cards by Paul von Boeckmann, a performance that eclipses all other card tearing feats."

Von Boeckmann was a confident man:

It is needless to say that the medical profession as a whole, fully endorses my system. […] Failure is due principally to lack of stick-to-it-iveness. […] As references I might give two banks with which I transact business, and scores of business houses, and well-known physicians. Testimonials I have by the thousands, many of which I have the permission to publish. But I never present testimonials. I am the only one in my profession who has adopted this rule. I object to advertising my business at the expense of my pupils. I object to prospective pupils annoying a grateful patient by a visit, or perhaps a request to permit him to “try the Pneumauxetor.” Furthermore, I cannot believe that at the present day, an intelligent man or woman can be influenced by testimonials.

Lest you infer von Boeckmann was an arrogant man, take into consideration his confession of nervous problems:

My system is especially adapted to persons of a mental or nervous temperament, or, in other words, to those whose brain and nervous system is very large as compared to the capacity of the vital organs. A starved nervous system and a starved body go hand in hand. By strengthening the digestive and assimilative powers, through proper breathing, this abnormal condition can be remedied easily. I stand as an example of what my system can do for one of a nervous temperament. By nature I am as restless as a wolf. My greatest enemy is Hurry. To develop muscle and to retain normal weight under such conditions is usually impossible. Nevertheless, I have succeeded. I am to-day the strongest man of a nervous temperament, all other strong men being either of the motive or the vital temperament. In special feats of strength requiring a powerful grip I am the strongest person, regardless of temperament. I have not learned to control the Nervous System, but I have learned to feed it.

Paul von Boeckmann, dressed for a night out, perhaps?

Paul von Boeckmann, dressed for a night out, perhaps?

Elsewhere and at another elsewhere I have learned this Visionary has penned other pamphlets, such as Nerve Force. And he isn’t remiss in giving us his physical measurements:

  • Height: 6 ft.
  • Weight, stripped: 185 lbs.
  • Chest, normal: 45 in.
  • Neck: 17 in.
  • Biceps: 16 in.
  • Calf: 16 in.
  • Thigh: 25 in.
  • Forearm: 15 in.
  • Waist, normal: 36 in.
  • Arm Span: 6 ft.
  • Breathing Capacity: 436 cubic inches, highest registered.

You can witness all the pages of the pamphlet at my flickr site. As best as I can make out, the pamphlet — which is undated — was printed in the late 1910’s. Does anyone have further information on this mysterious Visionary, his mysterious pamphlet and mysterious correspondence course, and above all, does anyone have access to a — excuse me, the — Pneumauxetor?

4 comments ↓

#1 Kira on 08.04.09 at 9:21 pm

If you find one of those things and become rich, I can say I knew you when. This is excellent, though. I always used to get upset when I worked in the archive library when we had to throw out or cut out the crazy ads in old newspaper articles.

#2 Hunny on 08.31.09 at 8:50 pm

Ok, this cracks me up. Pneumauxeter? I think I’ve seen one of these in my attic.

#3 t on 11.19.09 at 8:27 am

boeckmann wrote a book called physique a treatise on deep breathing the the care and development of the lungs and muscular system. It was self published by Paul Von Boeckmann No 103 park avenue nyc in 1910 and pringed by manger huges and manger – also of NY

#4 vince newlin on 10.12.11 at 7:09 pm

Douglas

Going through some boxes, I found two booklets by P. von Boeckmann: Deep Breathing–Physi-Culture and Deep Breathing versus Physical Exercise. Inside one of them is a separate typed sheet from his school on Park Avenue NY, about his course. It is signed by him in a strong artistic script. No date.

Inside the other is a reprint of an article from the American Lumberman on culture and Beockmann. (Oct 9, 1909).

After I found it (my sis sent it to me a few years ago because of my athletic breathing system) I googled it to see about the machine. I found your site.

I immensely appreciate your long article and amazing consideration of the man and his works. I know zero about him. Obviously lived what he preached.

Working as a fitness trainer, with emphasis on respiration, for over thirty years, I realize that breathing, as he describes it, is a foreign language. Most people resent being shown that they don’t breathe fully. I don’t blame them, even after forcing my system on them all that time. It is a bit embarrassing and confrontive for a successful client to witness a so-called limitation, and it is, ultimately, a mis-diagnosis.

It took me so long to finally unravel the problem that exists around respiration. I think that it is taught from limited points of view by people (like me) who want to systematize it.

It becomes a right way vs wrong way, deep vs shallow, etc. The truth is that there is no wrong way or right way. Everywhere you look people are moving, living, breathing perfectly well. Because of the mysterious applications such as in yoga, martial arts, meditation, it is easy to be misled into thinking that if one isn’t meditating, he doesn’t really know the correct way.

Breathing is a basic function. It is also a manual art. That is where the fun begins. There are unlimited applications. All of the methods we see out there are applications. Breathing itself cannot be contained in any system.

Once a person realizes that he can apply breathing apps to any action-golf swing, running, power moves, choreography, the real games begin. Starting as an already skillful breather allows easy access to the innate gifts of the genius applications of breathing.

Enjoyed chatting with you.

Vince Newlin

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