Webster Edgerly wrote more than 50 books, some still in print, which have been read by hundreds of thousands of people - so why is he almost completely unknown?
This site examines the strange case of the Magnetism Man.
Who was Webster Edgerly?
Albert Webster Edgerly was a self-help guru, a crank and a racist bigot. Possessed of seemingly boundless energy, from his twenties until his death he wrote and published many books and founded a series of organisations dedicated to health and self-improvement, mainly under his pseudonym "Edmund (or Edmonde) Shaftesbury". As the begetter of the "Ralston Health Club" he also used the name "Dr Everett Ralston".
In about 1900, William Danforth invited "Dr Ralston" to participate in his Purina Wholefood Company. At that time Edgerly's Health Club had a sizeable following and he was noted for his pronouncements on diet, which were compatible with Danforth's own philosophy. The company took a new name, Ralston Purina, under which it still traded until relatively recently, when it was acquired by Nestlé.
Edgerly attempted in 1905 to put his utopian ideas into practice when he founded a community of Ralstonites at "Ralston Heights". As is ever the case with such endeavours, it was not a success.
His most successful venture was probably the "Magnetism Club", whose key text, Instantaneous Personal Magnetism continues to be read today.
Update: now available to buy, my new edition of Edgerly's Lessons in Acting.
Scribbled by Alfred Armstrong 15 years 10 months ago