Fat men’s clubs began in the U.S. as early as sometime in the 1860s. Many major cities, like New York and Boston, organized their own charters under umbrella groups like the Northeast and Northwest. Some states, like Utah, had their own autonomous groups. These organizations eventually spread overseas to European countries, too, like Yugoslavia and England. The French Fat Men’s Club was called Les Cent Kilos de Paris. A baseball team, the Fat Men’s Amusement Company, comprised completely of Fat Men’s Club members. At the height of popularity, the Northeast chapter is purported to have had over 10,000 members.
Fat Men’s clubs popped up across the US in the early 1900s, with one New England club clocking in at 10,000 members at its peak
In the New York Times, a journalist reverently wrote of the club’s president, “Mr. Dorlon is huge, he is ponderous, his obesity borders on the infinite, and the most hardened lean man cannot gaze upon his magnificent proportions without being unconsciously made purer and holier.” The event chef, “an artist in clams” from Brooklyn, baked 60 bushels of clams atop hickory logs (that is between 6,000 and 24,000 clams, depending on what kind was being cooked). Also on the menu were “wagon loads of happy Spring chickens, boat loads of cheerful lobsters, and crates of green corn and vegetables.” The whole lot was covered in seaweed and slow-cooked for hours.
Even former President William Howard Taft, who at one point weighed 340 pounds, attended one of the Fat Men’s Club meetings and was offered membership to the club, but declined. Before the success of New England Fat Men’s Club, there was the Fat Men’s Association of New York City, which first met in 1869, whose members included city officials, lawyers, contractors, and sergeants and captains with the New York Police Department, HuffPost reported.