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American College of Physical Education

Chicago, Illinois



The University of Illinois has digitized its holdings of the American College of Physical Education.  The A.C.P.E. Bulletin from 1915 through 1920 and Views have been digitized and made available on Internet Archives


American College of Physical Education had its roots in the New York City Physical Culture Training School, established around 1905.  The A.C.P.E. was licensed in Chicago around 1910.  In 1913 the school split into two parts:  The Bernarr Macfadden College of Physcultopathy focused on prevention and treatment of physical illnesses, and the American College of Physical Education became a normal school for the teaching of physical education.


Originally a one-year course of 12 months, the A.C.P.E. program had by 1915 been extended to two years of nine months each.  Students had a choice of a certificate program, a diploma program or a degree program.  A.C.P.E. was licensed to grant a Bachelor’s of Physical Education degree.  The scope of the college was fourfold: preparation for directors of physical education, preparation for directors of playgrounds and community centers, special study for Chicago teachers seeking promotion credit, and two years of junior college work for those seeking to continue at a four-year college.  The college offered Saturday and summer classes for the benefit of local teachers.


Despite the focus of the school, it offered many of the cultural advantages of a standard college of the time.  It sponsored an orchestra, a literary society, a chapter of the Young Women’s Christian League, two professional sororities, a campus newspaper—the American—and a yearbook—the Lunkentus—and an athletic association.  The bulletin notes that the college offered a “wholesome” social life; parties were held in the College Building twice monthly, and four receptions were held in the course of the year sponsored by the president, the faculty, the juniors and the seniors.


The enrollment of the college in 1918 was around 150, counting special students.  Of these, more than 100 were women, likely reflecting the World War I culture.


In 1946 the American School of Physical Education merged into DePaul University.

Bricks and Mortar

A.C.P.E. College Building was located at 4200 Grand Boulevard in South Chicago.  It was described as being only a ten-minute walk from Washington Park and conveniently located near museums, libraries and the University of Chicago.


The building had formerly served as a Bernarr Macfadden Healthatorium.  It had an auditorium with seating for 1,500.  The gymnasium had 5,400 square feet of space to accommodate all types of physical exercise.  The building was equipped with all the German, American and Swedish gymnasium apparatus.  A swimming pool and locker facilities were located on the ground floor.


That building has since been razed.

The Bernarr MacFadden Healthatorium (Courtesy of accessed 11-3-2017


Colors: Gold and Maroon


Given the purpose and curriculum of A.C.P.E., it is not surprising that it would field numerous sports teams, having ready-made squads for almost any sport. But the low numbers and two-year programs prevented ACPE teams from being regional powers.  The exception may have been women’s basketball.  The Greensboro, North Carolina Daily News claimed that the 1928 national champion Taylor Trunk team from Chicago, winners of 35 straight games, was really the ACPE team.  The team was barred by the AAU because some of the players worked as playground instructors.





The College Football Data Warehouse shows that American College of Physical Education played football as early as 1917 up until World War II.  Opposition was provided by academies, junior colleges, junior varsities, military units, and small colleges in the Chicago area. 


The team made news in 1940 when they played a “scrimmage” against the University of Chicago, after President Robert Hutchins had banned football at that school.  Whatever the activity was called, A.C.P.E. won 12-7.

A.C.P.E. female students practice fencing  (Views, <>) accessed 11-3-2017

Note: Images are used in accordance with their “terms of use” as I understand those terms.  Recopying or republishing these images may be restricted or forbidden.

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