J. I. Rodale

Jerome Irving Rodale
Born Jerome Irving Cohen
(1898-08-16)August 16, 1898
New York City, New York, U.S.
Died June 8, 1971(1971-06-08) (aged 72)
New York City, New York, U.S.
Cause of death Heart attack
Known for Organic gardening
Spouse(s) Anna Andrews (m. 1927)
Children Robert David Rodale (1930–1990)

Jerome Irving Rodale (surname accented on second syllable) (August 16, 1898 June 8, 1971), was a playwright, editor, author, and founder of Rodale, Inc.[1][2]

He was one of the first advocates of a return to sustainable agriculture and organic farming in the United States. He founded a publishing empire, founded several magazines, and published many bookshis own and those of otherson health. He also published works on a wide variety of other topics, including The Synonym Finder. Rodale popularized the term "organic" to mean grown without pesticides.[3]


Rodale was born in New York City on August 16, 1898, the son of a grocer. He grew up on the Lower East Side. His birth name was Cohen but, thinking it would be a handicap in business, he changed it to a non-Jewish one. He worked as an accountant for the New York City government from 1917-1920 and worked for the Bureau of Internal Revenue from 1920-21. He and his brother Joseph founded Rodale Manufacturing, a maker of electrical equipment, in New York in 1923. [4] He married Anna Andrews in 1927[5] and had three children: Robert Rodale (1930–1990), Nina Rodale (who married Robert Hale Horstman and then married Arthur Houghton),[6] and Ruth Rodale.[3] Rodale was already concerned with his health at this time, as he had frequent heart murmurs and had been rejected from the Army in World War I for bad eyesight. To improve his health, he read the works of Bernarr Macfadden [7] and invented an exercising device.[8]

Rodale and his brother moved Rodale Manufacturing to Emmaus, Pennsylvania in 1930 in order to cut costs during the Depression. He founded Rodale Press in 1930 to sell books and magazines. Inspired by his encounter with the ideas of Albert Howard, Rodale developed an interest in promoting a healthy and active lifestyle that emphasized organically grown foods, and established the Rodale Organic Gardening Experimental Farm in 1940.[9][10] Rodale Press started publishing Organic Farming and Gardening magazine in 1942. Organic Farming and Gardening promotes organic horticulture; later the magazine was retitled Organic Gardening. To Rodale, agriculture and health were inseparable. Healthy soil required compost and eschewing pesticides and synthetic fertilizers. Eating plants grown in such soil would then help humans stay healthier, he expounded.

One of Rodale's most successful projects was Prevention Magazine, founded in 1950, which promotes preventing disease rather than trying to cure it later.[9] It pioneered the return to whole grains, unrefined sweets, using little fat in food preparation, seldom eating animal products, folk cures, herbal medicines, and breastfeeding. It also promoted consuming more than typical amounts of nutritional supplements and forgoing nicotine and caffeine.

Rodale was also an amateur playwright, operating the Cecilwood Theater in Fishkill, NY and the Off-Broadway Rodale Theater. Rodale's plays included Toinette (1961) and The Hairy Falsetto (1964) . [4]


Rodale died of a heart attack at the age of 72 while participating as a guest on The Dick Cavett Show in 1971. He was still on stage, having finished his interview, and was seated next to the active interviewee, New York Post columnist Pete Hamill. Rodale had just bragged during his just-completed interview on the show that "I'm in such good health that I fell down a long flight of stairs yesterday and I laughed all the way", "I've decided to live to be a hundred", and "I never felt better in my life!"[11] He had also previously bragged, "I'm going to live to be 100, unless I'm run down by some sugar-crazed taxi driver."[2][12]

According to Dick Cavett, Hamill noticed something was wrong with Rodale, leaned over to Cavett, and said, "This looks bad." According to others, Cavett asked, "Are we boring you, Mr. Rodale?" Cavett himself said that he "emphatically" did not recall saying this, but one of the two physicians in the audience did remember this. The physicians (an internist and orthopedic surgeon, both in residency) rushed onto the stage to try to revive Rodale with CPR, including mouth to mouth resuscitation. (During an appearance on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson that originally aired on February 5, 1982, Cavett stated "firefighters from across the street" also attended the patient.) Although the EKG continued to show cardiac activity, they were unsuccessful; Rodale was pronounced dead at Roosevelt Hospital[13][14] The episode was never broadcast, although Cavett has described the story in public appearances and on his blog.[11]


After Rodale's death, his son Robert Rodale ran the publishing firm until his own death by car accident.[9] That work included editing the high-circulation Prevention Magazine. Robert Rodale had competed in the Olympics in rifle shooting and was inducted into the United States Bicycling Hall of Fame in 1991.[15]

Granddaughter Maria Rodale, is now chairman and CEO of Rodale, Inc. She attributes her interest in the organic food movement to growing up on America's first organic farm.[16]

See also


  1. Calta, Louis (January 13, 1962). "Rodale Will Open Intimate Theatre. Playwright Buys Building Also Plans Acting School.". New York Times. J.I. Rodale, playwright, editor, author and publisher, has bought the three-story structure at 62 East Fourth Street to convert it into an intimate playhouse, theatre workshop and acting school.
  2. 1 2 Greene, Wade (June 6, 1971). "Guru of the Organic Food Cult". New York Times Magazine. Retrieved 2007-08-21. 'I'm going to live to be 100,' says the author of Natural Health, Sugar and the Criminal Mind, 'unless I'm run down by a sugar-crazed taxi driver.' ...
  3. 1 2 "J. I. Rodale Dead. Organic Farmer. Espoused the Avoidance of Chemical Fertilizers.". New York Times. June 8, 1971. Retrieved 2007-08-21. (subscription required (help)). JI Rodale, Whose enthusiasm for organic farming (avoiding chemical fertilizers) brought, him fame and fortune in recent years through his and books, ...
  4. 1 2 The national cyclopaedia of American biography. James T. White & Company. 1967. pp. 240–241. Retrieved 8 July 2016.
  5. Parker, Christina M. (October 8, 1991). "Tamaqua Kids' Theater To Drop Final Curtain". The Morning Call. Lehigh Valley. Retrieved 23 June 2014.
  6. "Nina Rodale Engaged. She Will Be Wed in April to Robert Hale Horstman". New York Times. January 6, 1957. Retrieved 2007-08-21. The engagement of Miss Nina Rodale to Robert Hale Horstman was announced today by the prospective bride's parents ...
  7. "Robert Rodale interview Part 1". YouTube. Alternative Farming Systems Information Center. Retrieved 22 October 2016.
  8. "Physical-exercising device (Patent US1707449)". US Patent Office. Retrieved 22 October 2016.
  9. 1 2 3 "Rodale: Brief History". Rodale Press. Retrieved 2007-08-26. On September 20, 1990, Bob Rodale was killed in a traffic accident in Russia. He was there to develop plans for a long-term joint venture agreement. The first project completed was Novii Fermer, a Russian magazine devoted to sustainable agriculture. Upon Bob's death, his wife Ardath became Chief Executive Officer/Chairman of the Board.
  10. "National Historic Landmarks & National Register of Historic Places in Pennsylvania" (Searchable database). CRGIS: Cultural Resources Geographic Information System. Note: This includes Tim Noble; Shelby Weaver Splain (November 1998). "National Register of Historic Places Inventory Nomination Form: Rodale Organic Gardening Experimental Farm" (PDF). Retrieved 2012-03-05.
  11. 1 2 Cavett, Dick (May 3, 2007). "When That Guy Died on My Show". New York Times. Retrieved 2007-08-21. I brought out the next guest, Pete Hamill, whose column ran in The New York Post. Rodale moved "down one" to the couch. As Pete and I began to chat, Mr. Rodale suddenly made a snoring sound, which got a laugh. Comics would sometimes do that for a laugh while another comic was talking, pretending boredom. His head tilted to the side as Pete, in closeup as it happened, whispered audibly, “This looks bad.” The audience laughed at that. I didn't, because I knew Rodale was dead. To this day, I don't know how I knew. I thought, “Good God, I'm in charge here. What do I do?” Next thing I knew I was holding his wrist, thinking, I don't know anything about what a wrist is supposed to feel like.
  12. Harden, Mike (July 23, 2003). "Lights Off, Pounds Off ...". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. p. C2. Organic-food crusader Jerome Rodale once boasted, "I will live to be 100 unless I'm run down by a sugar-crazed taxi driver." ...
  13. Frater, Jamie (2010). Listverse.Com's Ultimate Book of Bizarre Lists. Canada: Ulysses Press. p. 400. ISBN 9781569758175..
  14. Eric White, MD was one of the physicians present
  15. Fowler, Glenn (September 21, 1990). "Robert Rodale, 60, Dies in Crash. Publisher Backed Organic Farms.". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-04-26. Robert Rodale, an exponent of organic farming and the head of a publishing empire whose magazines dealt with subjects like gardening, health and fitness, died yesterday in an automobile accident in Moscow. He was 60 years old and lived in Emmaus, Pa.
  16. Maria's Farm Country Kitchen

Further reading

Books by J.I. Rodale

External links

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