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Studies on physical culture have grown exponentially in the past decade. Although much of this work has focused on Eugen Sandow, arguably the most famous physical culturist of the early twentieth century, attention has nevertheless been afforded to several other voices. One such voice is D. L. Dowd, who predated the American physical-culture interest by a decade. At the height of his popularity in the 1880s and early 1890s, Dowd's business empire was a forerunner for the approaches used by many of his physical culture successors. Dowd's career has, to date, been dealt with only in cursory comments. Shedding light on his previously understudied career, the following article argues that Dowd's business approaches and successes should be viewed as a precursor to the growth of the American interest in physical culture. Put another way, the article conceptualizes Dowd as a transitional figure in the popularization of personal fitness made manifest in twentieth-century America.