J. I. Rodale

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Jerome Irving Rodale
Jerome Irving Cohen

(1898-08-16)August 16, 1898
New York City, U.S.
DiedJune 8, 1971(1971-06-08) (aged 72)
New York City, U.S.
  • Publisher
  • author
Known forOrganic gardening
Anna Andrews
(m. 1927)
Children3, including Robert and Ruth

Jerome Irving Rodale, né Cohen (/ˈrdl/;[1] August 16, 1898 – June 8, 1971) was a publisher, editor, and author who founded Rodale, Inc. in Emmaus, Pennsylvania, and The Rodale Institute, formerly the Soil Health Foundation.

Rodale was an early advocate of sustainable agriculture and organic farming in the United States. As an author, his work included several magazines and books, including books featuring different authors, on the subject of health. He popularized the term "organic" as a term for growing food without pesticides. Rodale also published works on other topics, including The Synonym Finder.

On June 8, 1971, Rodale died after suffering a fatal heart attack while appearing as a guest on a segment, which was never broadcast, of The Dick Cavett Show. Rodale was taken to Roosevelt Hospital and pronounced dead on arrival at age 72.


Rodale was born in Manhattan on August 16, 1898, the son of an Orthodox Jewish grocer who immigrated from Poland,[2] and raised in the tenements in the Lower East Side. Due to a poor relationship with his father, whose last name was Cohen (originally Lachofsky), he changed his surname to Rodale as an ode to his mother's maiden name, Rouda. He worked as an accountant for New York City from 1917–20 and worked for the Internal Revenue Service from 1920-21.

Rodale and his brother Joseph co-founded Rodale Manufacturing, a maker of electrical equipment, in New York City in 1923.[2] He married Anna Andrews in 1927; she died in 2000 at 95.[3] They had three children: Robert Rodale (1930–1990), Nina Rodale,[4] and Ruth Rodale.[5]

Rodale was already concerned with his health at this time, as he had heart murmurs and had been rejected from the U.S. Army in World War I for poor eyesight. To improve his health, he read the works of Bernarr Macfadden[6] and invented an exercising device.[7] The Rodale brothers moved Rodale Manufacturing to Emmaus, Pennsylvania in 1930 to cut costs during the Great Depression. That same year, he founded Rodale Press, which marketed 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.[8][9][5]

In 1942, Rodale Press started publishing Organic Farming and Gardening magazine, which promotes organic horticulture; it was later retitled Organic Gardening. In 1945, he wrote Pay Dirt, the first American book on organic gardening.[10] To Rodale, agriculture and health were inseparable. He felt that soil required compost and eschewed pesticides and synthetic fertilizers and that plants grown in such soil would help people stay healthier.

One of Rodale's most successful projects was Prevention magazine, founded in 1950, which promotes disease prevention rather than trying to cure it later.[8] It pioneered the return to whole grains, unrefined sweets, using little fat in food preparation, folk cures, herbal medicines and breastfeeding. It also promoted the consumption of higher than typical amounts of nutritional supplements and forgoing nicotine and caffeine. Rodale opposed the consumption of milk and sugar, which he blamed for many diseases. He was not a vegetarian and frequently denounced vegetarianism.[11] Rodale once stated "I'm going to live to be 100, unless I'm run down by some sugar-crazed taxi driver."[12][13]

Rodale was also a playwright, operating the Cecilwood Theater in Fishkill, New York and the Off-Broadway Rodale Theater at 62 East Fourth Street in the East Village of New York City. His plays included Toinette (1961) and The Hairy Falsetto (1964).[2][14]


Some medical experts have described Rodale as a promoter of quackery.[15][16] For example, Rodale accused sugar of "causing criminals," and blamed various diseases including bronchitis and pneumonia on the consumption of bread. He also believed that consumers of cola drinks would become sterile.[16]

Rodale was an anti-vaccinationist.[17] He also made dubious claims about cancer. In his book Happy People Rarely Get Cancer (1970), Rodale said, "Negroes get less cancer than whites, for the Negro is a happy race. True, there is their problem of segregation, but the Negro race being what it is, I think a Negro sings just the same, and is not going to let segregation dampen his spirits as much as a similar problem would do to the white person."[17]

It was reported that Rodale took 70 food supplements daily. He was criticized for promoting unsubstantiated claims about vitamin supplements.[16] Stephen Barrett of Quackwatch commented that Prevention magazine was filled with "nonsense promoting dietary supplements... many articles contained therapeutic claims that would be illegal on product labels."[16]

The Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America noted that the agricultural establishment "dismissed Rodale as a quack, crank, a gadfly, and a manure-pile worshiper."[18]


On June 8, 1971, Rodale was a guest on an early-evening taping of The Dick Cavett Show in New York City. The episode was slated to air later that evening. During his interview, Rodale said that he had "never felt better in his life!", and made quips like "I'm in such good health that I fell down a long flight of stairs yesterday and I laughed all the way" and "I've decided to live to be a hundred".[19] He had previously said, "I'm going to live to be 100, unless I'm run down by some sugar-crazed taxi driver."[12][13] Rodale's last interaction with Cavett before dying was "offering the host his special asparagus boiled in urine".[20]

After his interview, Rodale remained onstage and was seated on a couch beside the next interviewee, New York Post columnist Pete Hamill. Rodale suddenly made a "snoring sound" and slumped over.[19] According to Dick Cavett, Hamill leaned over to Cavett and said, "This looks bad." Cavett initially believed that Rodale was feigning disinterest for comedic effect; some in the studio recalled him joking, "Are we boring you, Mr. Rodale?", though he denied any memory of saying this.[19] Upon realizing the severity of the situation, he asked if there were any doctors in the audience. An internist and orthopedic surgeon, both in residency, rushed onto the stage and tried to revive Rodale with cardiopulmonary resuscitation.

During an appearance on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson that originally aired February 5, 1982, Cavett and Carson discussed the incident. Cavett said that "firefighters from across the street" also came to Rodale's aid. Although an electrocardiogram continued to show cardiac activity, Rodale could not be revived and was pronounced dead on arrival at Roosevelt Hospital, aged 72.[21][22] The episode was never broadcast, although Cavett described the story in public appearances and on his blog.[19]


After Rodale's death, his son Robert Rodale ran the publishing firm until his own death in a car accident in Moscow in 1990.[8] That work included editing the high-circulation Prevention magazine. Robert had competed in the Olympics in rifle shooting and was inducted into the United States Bicycling Hall of Fame in 1991.[23]

Rodale's granddaughter Maria Rodale became chairman and CEO of Rodale, Inc. She attributes her interest in the organic food movement to growing up on America's first certified organic farm.[24]

In October 2017, New York City media giant Hearst announced it would acquire the magazine and book businesses of the 90-year-old Rodale Inc. for an undisclosed sum.


  • Pay Dirt: Farming & Gardening with Composts, 1945.
  • The Synonym Finder, 1978. ISBN 978-0-87857-236-6
  • How to Grow Vegetables and Fruits by the Organic Method, 1961. OCLC 171305
  • The Word Finder, 1947. ISBN 978-0-87857-138-3 OCLC 174829
  • The Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening. OCLC 5288851
  • Stone Mulching in the Garden.
  • Vegetables.
  • The Healthy Hunzas, 1948, Rodale Press, Emmaus, PA. 255 p.
  • Are We Really Living Longer?
  • Arthritis, Rheumatism, and Your Aching Back.
  • Cancer, Facts & Fallacies.
  • Happy People Rarely Get Cancer, 1970.
  • The Complete Book of Composting.
  • The Hairy Falsetto: A One-Act Farcical Social Satire.
  • The complete Book of Vitamins, 1966. OCLC 804785
  • The natural way to better eyesight 1966.
  • The Prostate 1967, Rodale Books, Inc., Emmaus, PA. D-739; Harald Taub, Designer and Editor; Sowers Printing Co., Lebanon, PA.
  • Sugar: The Curse of Civilization, 1967.
  • Lower your Pulse and Live Longer, 1971.
  • Magnesium, the Nutrient that Could Change Your Life, 1978.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "How J.I. Rodale Started Organic Gardening Magazine - Story told by Patricia Bragg - Interview 1/12"
  2. ^ a b c The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography. James T. White & Company. 1967. pp. 240–241. Retrieved July 8, 2016.
  3. ^ Parker, Christina M. (October 8, 1991). "Tamaqua Kids' Theater To Drop Final Curtain". The Morning Call. Lehigh Valley. Retrieved June 23, 2014.
  4. ^ "Nina Rodale Engaged. She Will Be Wed in April to Robert Hale Horstman". New York Times. January 6, 1957. Retrieved August 21, 2007. The engagement of Miss Nina Rodale to Robert Hale Horstman was announced today by the prospective bride's parents ...
  5. ^ a b "J. I. Rodale Dead. Organic Farmer. Espoused the Avoidance of Chemical Fertilizers". New York Times. June 8, 1971. Retrieved August 21, 2007. JI Rodale, Whose enthusiasm for organic farming (avoiding chemical fertilizers) brought him fame and fortune in recent years through his and books, ...
  6. ^ "Robert Rodale interview Part 1". YouTube. Alternative Farming Systems Information Center. Archived from the original on December 13, 2021. Retrieved October 22, 2016.
  7. ^ "Physical-exercising device (Patent US1707449)". US Patent Office. Retrieved October 22, 2016.
  8. ^ a b c "Rodale: Brief History". Rodale, Inc. Archived from the original on December 20, 2008. Retrieved August 26, 2007. 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.
  9. ^ "National Historic Landmarks & National Register of Historic Places in Pennsylvania". CRGIS: Cultural Resources Geographic Information System. Archived from the original (Searchable database) on July 21, 2007. Retrieved March 7, 2012. Note: This includes Tim Noble; Shelby Weaver Splain (November 1998). "National Register of Historic Places Inventory Nomination Form: Rodale Organic Gardening Experimental Farm" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on October 12, 2018. Retrieved March 5, 2012.
  10. ^ Andrew n. Case (2014). "Idealizing an Organic Landscape: J. I. Rodale, the Rodale Press, and the Pennsylvania Countryside". The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography. 138 (1): 73–98. doi:10.5215/pennmaghistbio.138.1.0073. JSTOR 10.5215/pennmaghistbio.138.1.0073.
  11. ^ Greene, Wade. (1971). "Guru of the Organic Food Cult". The New York Times. Retrieved February 10, 2019.
  12. ^ a b Greene, Wade (June 6, 1971). "Guru of the Organic Food Cult". New York Times Magazine. Retrieved August 21, 2007. '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.' ...
  13. ^ a b 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." ...
  14. ^ 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.
  15. ^ Deutsch, Ronald M. (1977). The New Nuts Among the Berries. Bull Publishing Company. pp. 305-309. ISBN 978-0915950089
  16. ^ a b c d Barrett, Stephen; Jarvis, William T. (1993). The Health Robbers: A Close Look at Quackery in America. Prometheus Books. pp. 382–384. ISBN 0-87975-855-4
  17. ^ a b McGrath, Maria. (2014). "The Bizarre Life (and Death) of “Mr. Organic”". The New Republic. Retrieved February 10, 2019.
  18. ^ Smith, Andrew F. (2012). The Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America, Volume 1. Oxford University Press. p. 148. ISBN 9780199734962
  19. ^ a b c d Cavett, Dick (May 3, 2007). "When That Guy Died on My Show". New York Times. Archived from the original on October 22, 2007. Retrieved March 10, 2018. 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.
  20. ^ Mann, Charles C. (2018). The wizard and the prophet : two remarkable scientists and their dueling visions to shape tomorrow's world (First ed.). New York. p. 180. ISBN 978-0-307-96169-3. OCLC 999673749.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  21. ^ Frater, Jamie (2010). Listverse.Com's Ultimate Book of Bizarre Lists. Canada: Ulysses Press. p. 400. ISBN 9781569758175..
  22. ^ Eric White, MD, was one of the physicians present.
  23. ^ Fowler, Glenn (September 21, 1990). "Robert Rodale, 60, Dies in Crash. Publisher Backed Organic Farms". The New York Times. Retrieved April 26, 2008. 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.
  24. ^ Maria's Farm Country Kitchen

Further reading[edit]

  • Jackson, Carlton. J.I. Rodale: Apostle of Nonconformity. (New York: Pyramid Books, 1973). This biography details most of the material in the article above.
  • Perényi, Eleanor. "Apostle of the Compost Heap". Saturday Evening Post, July 16, 1966: 30-33.

External links[edit]