Pilates Style
Joseph Pilates Image Credit: Pilates Style
Joseph Pilates Image Credit: Pilates Style

The Emigrant

In the new English translation of her book, Joseph Pilates: A Biography, German historian Eva Rincke recounts the life story of the creator of the method. In this special excerpt, she recounts his chance meeting with Clara Zeuner on the ship to New York, and how the two started a new life together in America.

On April 14, 1926, Joseph Pilates finally left Germany aboard the Westphalia, never to return. The Westphalia was a modern transatlantic liner completed by the Howaldtswerke in Kiel in 1923. It had room for over 800 passengers and had elegant dining rooms, bars and a dance floor where a band played in the evening. In good weather, the passengers could walk on deck and enjoy the spring sunshine on their faces as they sat in lounge chairs.

Although Pilates took part in the amusements, he did not really participate. He was anxious to start his new life in New York. There were more important things to do than sack races and card games! Joseph Pilates took the money from previous years and what was left over from his first trip to New York and had it exchanged in Hamburg. He had a fortune of $500. For an emigrant from Germany in 1926, that was a lot of money. Unlike his brother Fritz who, when emigrating three years earlier, had traveled in cheap steerage and had only $25 dollars to his name (the minimum required of every immigrant entering the country), Joseph traveled second class. Joseph Pilates faced a range of expenses: he needed to rent an apartment and a studio for working with clients. He needed material for equipment and exercise devices he planned to build as well as other new inventions on which he was working. In the first phase, he probably would have only a few clients, and that would not generate enough revenue to support a living, so he would have to use h

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