New Plymouth’s United Gymnastic Club was officially opened on 31 October 1905. Members were instructed by William Lints, a local tobacconist and hairdresser, and performed at shows and events around the region.

The club, sometimes known simply as the Gymnasium Society, held annual carnivals at the Theatre Royal (today’s TSB Showplace) featuring up to 100 performers. Photographs like this would be displayed in store windows as advertisements and attendees were promised “no weary waits” between acts which included everything from elaborate pyramid formations to tumbling. Lints’ young sons Ronnie and Gordon also took part, wowing crowds with their performances on horizontal and parallel bars from the age of four.

Newspaper reports of the club’s opening ceremony mentioned plans to establish a ladies’ class and women did take part in certain exercises, including Lantern Marching and Fire Clubs, during which the venue’s lights would be turned off and up to a dozen flaming clubs swung in formation.

Other gymnastic clubs, often connected to churches, were soon formed around the region, including in Hāwera, Pātea, Ōpunake, Kaponga and Waverley.

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