The Stanley Rothwell Papers
A Finding Aid to the Collection at the H.J. Lutcher Stark Center for Physical Culture and Sports
Stanley Hallum Rothwell was born on December 28th, 1904 in Wigan, Lancashire, England to William Henry and Sarah Jane Rothwell. He had two brothers, Bill and Charlie. Rothwell spent his early years in the mining towns of Wigan and Ashton-in-Makersfield. As a child, a mistreated ear infection caused him to lose hearing in one ear. In his personal writings, Rothwell lists this disability as a central cause for his poor school performance and eventual interest in physical fitness. He worked as a miner in Wigan, England for ten years before moving to London in 1928 with his brother, Charlie. In London, he initially became a manual laborer, which helped him to cultivate the strength and fitness that would lead him to bodybuilding. Rothwell became a model for fitness magazines, photographers, and artists, and was sought-after by sculptors such as C. Sargeant Jagger and Josephina de Vasconcellos. During this time, Rothwell also performed in the Quo Vadis Brothers vaudeville fitness act with his brother Charlie.
In the years after his career as a fitness model, Rothwell worked as a physical education instructor at various institutions such as the LCC College of Physical Education (1941-1943), as well as with a number of camps, including London Federation of Boy’s Clubs, The Knights’ Club for Boys, and The Christ Camp United Club. He kept extensive notes and drawings on and of the exercises he choreographed for his pupils. In late 1938, after being approached by Neville O’Brien, Rothwell attached his name to The Rothwell Chest Expander, a piece of fitness exercise equipment.
Though Rothwell was unable to fight in World War II because of his hearing disability, he served in the British Civil Defence Light Rescue, in addition to training fighter pilots in physical fitness in Lambeth, England from 1939 to 1945. During his time in London, and later in the Civil Defence, Rothwell became a painter. He worked as a visual artist throughout his life.
Rothwell was also an aspiring writer, and, most notably, wrote two books, The Roads That Lead From Wigan Pier, about miners in his hometown of Wigan, and Lambeth at War, about his experience in the Civil Defence. Rothwell continued to study the plight of miners and laborers in England throughout his life. The Roads that Lead From Wigan Pier remains unpublished but exists in both handwritten and typed manuscript form in this collection. He began his second book, Lambeth at War, during the 1940s, but it was not published until shortly before his death in the mid-1980s. Rothwell wrote screenplays, autobiographical sketches, and essays on subjects ranging from physical strength to philosophy, many of which he sent to media outlets for their consideration. He was consulted for television and movie documentaries, particularly on the subject of Civil Defence.
Stanley Rothwell married Cecilia Eliza Rothwell (nee Hart), a shop assistant, and together they had three children, including Bill Rothwell, the eventual donor of his collection. Throughout his later life, Rothwell corresponded with a number of close friends he knew from fitness modeling, including Joe Assirati, Harry Reeves, Charles Smith, and Raymond Van Cleef. Henry Reeves and Rothwell had been friends since the 1940s and their correspondence spanned decades. Topics of discussion range from their shared past and former friends to philosophical thoughts and ideas. Raymond Van Cleef was the managing editor of Health & Strength during the 40s, which Rothwell contributed to often in the form of reader comments and articles. Van Cleef and Rothwell maintained a personal relationship, and Van Cleef wrote to Rothwell about his family and included photos of his family in many of his letters. He also reconnected with Charles Smith and Joe Assirati in 1986. Smith, once a model, had become a researcher at the University of Texas at Austin and encouraged Rothwell to donate his materials to the University.
Rothwell remained in London, where he wrote and continued to be active in the Labour Party and with various political issues, until his death in 1986, months after the loss of his wife. He was survived by his son, Bill Rothwell.
6 Boxes: 115 folders, 4 Map Case Items, (1899-1998).
This collection includes materials pertaining to Stanley Rothwell’s professional career as a bodybuilder, fitness model, and physical educator; his personal correspondence with fellow models; professional photographs of Rothwell and his peers; personal photographs; extensive writings on health, fitness, philosophy, and his personal history; and his collection of press clippings and ephemera on physical culture, mining, politics, and entertainment. The materials date from his wife’s, Celia Rothwell, birth certificate from 1899, to posthumous material from Bill Rothwell in 1998.
Throughout the collection, professional correspondence for his physical education and fitness modeling careers are housed separately from his personal correspondence between friends Joe Assirati, Henry Reeves, Raymond Van Cleef, Charles Smith; assorted acquaintances; members of government; and members of the media. Rothwell corresponded about health and fitness, memories of Pre-War London, and daily life with his personal correspondents, and was an outspoken member of the Labour Party.
Rothwell’s professional career is particularly well-documented in photographs; advertisements for his vaudeville act and chest expander; in correspondence and photographs related to his work as an artist’s model; and in correspondence and hand-written exercises created by Rothwell for boys’ camps and recreational courses.
Rothwell’s photograph collection includes professional and candid photographs of Rothwell and his peers in their 20s and 30s, in addition to later family photographs, photographs documenting Rothwell’s time as a miner, Civil Defence member, and painter. The photographs also include unidentified group shots and candid shots. Photographs date from 1933 until 1981, though many are undated.
Rothwell’s collection of writings includes essays on physical prowess, war, philosophical ideals, and religion. The collection also contains unfinished notes on the same subjects, including quotations from literature, and songs. In addition to Rothwell’s manuscripts for his two completed books, The Roads that Lead From Wigan Pier and Lambeth at War, respectively based on his personal history as a miner and Civil Defence worker, the collection contains several unfinished manuscripts: “Living in an Hostile World,” “Man in the Moon,” “Searching for an Ideal in an Hostile World,” and a thesis related to Dr. Cecil Hamilton.
A short series of miscellanea contains ephemera, unidentified personal documents and correspondence, currency, business cards, and art.
Access to the Stanley Rothwell Collection is restricted to visitors of the H.J. Lutcher Stark Center for Physical Culture and Sports. No digital copies are currently available. The Stark Center welcomes access inquires and encourages research appointments. For more information, phone (512) 471-4890, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.starkcenter.org.
Restrictions on Use
The Stark Center retains the right to limit the use of the Rothwell Papers under certain conditions. No copies of any materials in the collection may be made without permission.
The user is cautioned that the publication of any of the contents of this collection may be construed as constituting a violation of literary property rights. These rights derive from the principle of common law, affirmed in the 1976 copyright act, that the writer of an unpublished letter or other manuscript has the sole right to publish the contents thereof for the duration of the copyright. Unless he or she affirmatively parts with that right, the right descends to his or her legal heirs regardless of the ownership of the physical manuscript itself. It is the responsibility of an author or his publisher to secure permission of the owner of literary property rights in unpublished writing. This material may be protected by copyright law (Title 17, U.S. Code).
Right To Privacy: Sensitive Materials Statement
Manuscript collections and archival records may contain materials with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal or state right to privacy laws and regulations. Researchers are advised that the disclosure of certain information pertaining to identifiable living individuals represented in this collection without the consent of those individuals may have legal ramifications (e.g., a cause of action under common law for invasion of privacy may arise if facts concerning an individual's private life are published that would be deemed highly offensive to a reasonable person) for which the H.J. Lutcher Stark Center and the University of Texas at Austin assumes no responsibility.
The Stanley Rothwell Papers, H.J. Lutcher Stark Center for Physical Culture and Sports, The University of Texas at Austin. [There is no space between H. & J.]
The collection was processed in 2014 by Emma Martin and Megan Carey under the supervision of Brent Sipes. For information about the content of the collection, please write
Emma Martin and Megan Carey under the supervision of Brent Sipes, 2014