I was reading an issue of The Saturday Evening Post printed August 15th, 1959. There was an advertisement that featured a couch for women, that would help them “lose weight and tone up,” simply by laying on it. The ad features ten pictures of before and after of women who have struggled with their weight, and a small blurb describing the successes they have had with the Stauffer “Magic Couch.” These women happened to be among “thousands” to be picked as contest winners for having the best total body transformation.
Madonna Givens claimed, “I fought those pounds for 10 long years and nothing worked. Finally, Stauffer helped me do what I couldn’t do alone. My husband says Stauffer gave him back the girl he married!” Madonna had lost 35 pounds, clearly a success. Gorgette Pelletier said: “I feel like I’ve been released from a prison…of pounds.” She went from a size 44 to 14. Peggy Fowler “…never dreamed of a career…I was ashamed of my figure and lacked confidence. Now I have faith in myself. I’m doing the things I want to do.” Peggy represented a cosmetic firm after losing 33 pounds. Obviously, Stauffer was giving women the results they needed to become marriageable or maintain the quality of their marriages. But I had questions. Firstly, why is this product only used by women? Surely men would want to lose weight by laying on a vibrating couch. This product was clearly successful with clear picture evidence in the ad, so why have we not heard of it since? Where did it go? Or more importantly, who took it from us?
My search first led me to discover that the “magic couch” had also been targeted toward men. In this ad, the magic couch is “…the heart of the Stauffer home plan of effortless exercise and calorie reduction.” Apparently, I had just happened across an ad that only targeted women. All of the perceived benefits listed for women were mostly aesthetic with descriptions about their shrinking waistlines and weight reduction, while the benefits of a man’s usage were more therapeutic. “It’s controlled rhythmic motion helps ease away normal tensions…helps improve posture…provides deep-down exercise that no look-alike vibrator unit can possibly give.”
It seemed that there had been at least one other “look-alike” weight loss vibrating couch that had been a copy of the Stauffer magic couch. If thousands of women had entered into the Stauffer weight loss challenge, there must have been thousands of women who did not enter the contest. There must have also been some men that purchased this product as well and the consumers of the “copied” magic couch products would not be able to enter the contest themselves, regardless of their weight-loss couch purchase. Clearly there was a magic couch revolution taking place in North America in the late 50’s and early 60’s, yet I could not find a single comparable product to the Stauffer “magic couch” leading me to believe that someone has been trying to erase the “magic couch” and related products from our memory. But why?
There are two reasons. Firstly, Stauffers also sold a line of popular snacks called Animal Crackers. Stauffer Laboratories Inc., held in-house testing in 1961 to test the result of mixing their two separate products together, having subjects lay on the magic couch while they consumed animal crackers. They had hoped to sell them together in packages, and the combination would also be used to integrate magic couches for children into the market. Unfortunately, Animal Crackers happened to be very dense in calories and because they were simply “too fun to stop eating,” they had found that subject would gain weight, even after the subjects had been fitted with a colostomy bag and laid on the weight loss couch for weeks on end.
This caused an uproar among the investors. They had feared that any products that would discourage consumers from eating animal crackers were too risky to distribute, even though the weight loss measurements were astounding. A great deal of pressure had been placed upon acting executives of Stauffer to end distribution of the Magic Couch. After the production of the magic couch had ended, Stauffers made certain that such a tool never existed in the public eye to ensure the safety of their best-selling food product.
The second reason is because of the FTC, or the American Federal Trade Commission. Stauffer Laboratories received a cease and desist order from the FTC in 1964. The FTC claimed that: “…a complaint charging the petitioner (Stauffer’s) with using unfair or deceptive acts or practices in commerce and with disseminating false and misleading advertisements with respect to a certain device which it offered for sale and sold, and which it called its ‘Magic Couch’ or ‘Posture-Rest’.” Stauffer’s response to the United States Courts of appeal in 1965 stated that the magic couch’s true value lay in it’s ability to “motivate” consumers. In line 23, Stauffer’s petition states that: “Petitioner (Stauffers) contends that the Commission should have found value in a psychological or ‘motivational’ factor in the use of its couch. Petitioner notes that one of its medical witnesses expressed the belief ‘that the psychological or motivational factor is the most important.” According to Stauffer’s medical witness, the psychological factors of couch use were the most important.
The truth about the effectiveness of the couch had been revealed. In combination with a low calorie diet, the magic couch provided a powerful means of motivation to encourage consumers to lay down. Having seen the shopping network, I can personally attest to the fact that the FTC does not actually enforce business and advertising standards but acts as another arm of the government to control it’s populace. In this case, by removing a highly valuable piece of equipment from the general population.
The truth: The cease in production of Stauffers Magic Couch had been caused by NASA. Private studies of the couch in the summer of 1962 lead NASA and various branches of the United States government to believe that the couch posed an incredible advantage over the Russians in their race to the moon. It allowed astronauts to workout while they slept, saving time for calculations, statistical analysis and arts and crafts. Having the means to produce well rounded astronauts AND individuals gave the United States the competitive advantage to win the race to the moon. Pictured below, Neil Armstrong is seen using the couch while sleeping.
Now, after years of use in secrecy the Magic Couch was sold at an auction after NASA closed its space program. Today the couch is mostly used by celebrities for upcoming movie roles or albums and is strictly available to the upper echelons of society. But at least, once upon a time, the good folks at Stauffers delivered a superior weight loss products to the masses, and despite the fact that they changed their minds I am still thankful that they tried.
Fitness Engineering Inc © 2012-2013