Mail Order Muscles

by Dennis Mitchell

Joe Bonomo

Many old time strongmen supplemented their income by offering a muscle building course by mail.  The most successful being Charles Alas.  A contemporary of Charles Atlas was Joe Bonomo.  He learned the mail order muscle business from Charles.  Joe Bonomo was born in Coney Island on December 25, 1901.   His parents were Al and Esther Bonomo, who ran an ice cream and candy shop on Coney Island.  Due to his father’s business, Joe had a very sweet but nutritionally poor diet.  In spite of lots of ice cream, candy, and other sweets, Joe was a very skinny child and had the nick name of toothpick.  Joe was pretty much of a loner and spent a lot of time exploring the attractions of Coney Island, Dreamland, and Luna Park.  He was fascinated by the various carnival attractions.  It was while exploring the various attractions that he met, Ladeslaw, a Polish strong man.  Ladeslaw took a liking to Joe,and told him that he could become strong if he would work hard, start eating right, and have a positive attitude.  Following the Strongman’s advice, Joe rapidly went from “Tooth pick” to the school’s star football player, and a very good gymnast.  Living on Coney Island Joe met every strong man and wrestler who came to perform, including Eugene Sandow, and Charles Atlas who became his friend and mentor.  There were also people from many other attractions, including movie stars, dancers, and show people.  He grew up in a world glamor and make believe.  He felt that to be a success he would combine his physical, mental, and spiritual abilities.

This was one of the many books written by Joe Bonomo in order to give lifting pupils "mail order muscles".

After he graduated from school he entered a talent search for “The Modern Apollo”.  With the help and guidance of Charles Atlas he was able to beat out over 5,000 other contestants and won a part in a motion picture.  This led to parts in many motion pictures as both an actor and as a stunt man.  He even played the part of Tarzan in 1928 movie.  He became so popular that he had to hire people to help him answer his fan mail.  Much of his mail was requesting information on how he developed his body.  This was the beginning of his mail order muscle building courses.  With the advent of the talkies (Joe had only acted in silent movies) Joe, even with voice and elocution lessons could not get rid of his Brooklyn accent.  Sadly his stunt man career ended when he broke his hip in a car crash scene.  He had broken thirty seven bones during his stunt man career.  Leaving the glamor life of Hollywood was very hard for Joe.  More adversary followed when Charles Ludwig, the man who ran Joe’s mail order muscle building business, died.  Shortly after, Joe’s father also passed away.  Joe took over running both businesses.  Always looking for new ventures Joe teamed up with Tony Bruno, a well known Hollywood photographer.  They settled in New York and put out a magazine called Beautify your Figure.  This was in 1939.  It was so successful that they published another magazine called Figure Beautiful.  It not only had information on diet and exercise, but also skin care, dancing instructions, social instruction, and information on romance and feminine fulfillment, and most important, how to have an alluring bust.  He also published many “Mini-books”, which were small size books that could fit in your pocket.  They sold for twenty five cents.  They covered muscle building, make up, how to be a better host, birth control, the evils of drug use,  and how to simplify house work.  Some of his books stayed in print for thirty tears.  One of his last books was, “What I Know About Women, By Joe Bonomo”.  It contained sixty four blank pages. He continued publishing into the 1970’s, until the Joe Weider publications overtook him.

Joe Bonomo, man of many talents, died in Los Angeles March 20,1979.

Jack LaLanne

by Dennis Mitchell

Jack LaLanne

Francolis Henrl LaLanne, better known as Jack LaLanne, was born an September 28, 1914, in San Francisco, California. His parents, Jennie and Jean LaLanne came to the United States from Oloron Sainte-Marie, France.  It was his older brother Norman who nicknamed him Jack.  He grew up in Bakerfield and Berkeley, California.  As a child he showed no indication that he would become a “Fitness Guru” or lead a healthy life.  As a youngster, he said that he was addicted to sugar and junk food, had a really bad temper, and was “A miserable goddam kid”.  He suffered from headaches and bulimia, and at the age of 14 dropped out of school.  The change in Jack’s life started at age 15 when he heard a lecture by Paul Bragg on health and nutrition.  He started working out and changed his diet.  He went back to school, and played football.  After high school he went to college and earned a degree of Doctor of Chiropractic.  In 1936 he opened his first health and fitness club in Oakland California, where he gave instructions on nutrition and exercising with weights.  This was quite radical at this time, as the medical profession felt that lifting weights would cause heart attacks and make you musclebound, and cause you to lose your sex drive.  He eventually had a chain of over 200 health clubs called The European Health Spas.  He later sold his clubs to another company and the name was changed to Bally Total Fitness.

Jack is credited with inventing the leg extension machine, pulley machines, weight selector equipment, and the forerunner of the Smith machine.  In the late 1930’s he had a short wrestling carrier.  Jack had a television program where he gave advice on exercise, diet, and healthy living.  The program lasted for 34 years.  He wrote several books, made exercise videos, sold vitamins and exercise equipment, and the Jack LaLanne Power Juicer, which is still being sold.  Jack set many endurance records in swimming, push ups, and chin ups into is 70’s.  He continued his daily two hour workouts of lifting, walking and swimming into his 90’s.  Jack LaLanne passed away on January 23, 2011 at his home in Morro Bay California.   He was 96 years old.

Catherine Brumback aka Sandwina

by Dennis Mitchell

Sandwina breaking a chain, which was a common act in her performances.

Catherine Brumback was born in Viena, Austria in 1884.  She was the first of fourteen children born to Philip and Joanna Brumbach, who were acrobats who performed in circuses and theaters in Europe.  Her father stood six feet tall and weighed 260 pounds, and had a 56″ chest.  Her mother had 15″ biceps.  Her father could snatch 80 kilograms with one hand, which was a very good lift in the 1800’s.  At the age of fourteen Catherine, who was now called Kathe, stood 5′7″ tall, and weighed 167 pounds.  She had been performing with her parents for quite some time.  She could clean and jerk 50 kg with one hand, and 70 kg with two hands.  By age of sixteen she had also become a very good wrestler.  Her father offered 100 German marks to any one who could defeat her.  At one performance a young 19 year old strong man named Max Heyman accepted the challenge, thinking the publicity would help his career.  Max was rather slight, weighing only 155 to 160 pounds.  Kathe had no trouble quickly defeating him.  Afraid that she had hurt him, she picked him up and carried him to her tent, a most unusual way to start a romance.  Three years later they were married.  They performed together under the name of Les Sandwenes.

As time passed Kathe grew to 5′9″, weighed 200 pounds, had a 44″ chest, a 29″ waist, 16 ” calves, and 14″ arms.  She could bend bars, brake chains, and juggle cannon balls.  She could support a 1200 pound cannon on her shoulders.  Another one of her acts was to lie on a bed of nails while someone from the audience would pound an anvil she supported on her chest.  She was earning $1500 per week.  For a time she had an act with her three sisters, Eugenie, Marie, and Barbara. They performed under the name of the Braselli Sisters.  At a performance in New York City she challenged anyone in the theater to a weightlifting contest.  Eugene Sandow was in the audience and accepted the challenge.  Kathe cleaned and jerked 300 pounds.  Sandow could only  lift it to his chest.  After this contest Kathe changed her name to Sandwina, which said was a feminine version of Sandow.  During her career she performed with several circuses, the most notable being the Barnum and Bailey circus.  After she retired from preforming she and Max opened a cafe in Queens New York . She passed away January 21, 1952.

The Brothers, Good

by Dennis Mitchell

The Brothers, Good - Walter, Bill and Harry

Bill Good was born May 14, 1910, in Reemstown PA.   He was the strongest of the three brothers.  He won seven National Championships, and competed in two Olympic Games, placing fourth in the 1936 games held in Berlin Germany.  He was the first American lifter to clean and jerk 350 pounds.  He was featured on the cover of one of the earliest Iron Man magazines.  Brother Walter was born Jan. 27, 1908.  He also competed in the 1936 Olympics in the 75 kilo class.  He was also featured on the cover of several body building magazines in the 1930’s.  Harry Good, no date of birth could be found for him, was the best in grip strength, and could do a one finger lift of 450 pounds.  Another of his feats was to do a self loading leg press of 380 pounds, balancing the weight on one foot.  He claimed to be the American Professional Weightlifting champion in 1933.  He also established the Good Barbell Company, and published a barbell training course.  The Good Dumbbell, the worlds heaviest dumbbell weighing 2,150 pounds, at one time belonged to Warren Lincoln Travis.  Bill could do a harness lift with it until he was over 90 year old.  He passed away April 19, 2007. Brother Walter died July 8, 2001.  No date could be found Harry.

Max Sick (Maxick)

by Dennis Mitchell

Maxick demonstrating his "muscle control".

Max Sick was born on June 28, 1882 in Bergenz Austria.  As a youngster he suffered with lung trouble, rickets,and dropsy.  At the age of ten he made his own weights and started working out.  His parents were against weightlifting and destroyed his weights.  In order to keep working out Max started doing muscle control exercises.  He was very successful and to this day is remembered mostly for his muscle control ability.  Although Max, who later changed his name to Maxick, claimed to have developed his very fine physique and strength using only muscle control, he did some very excellent lifting, leading us to believe that he trained quite a lot with the weights.  He was capable of a continental and jerk with double body weight.  Maxick stood 5′3.75″ and weighed between 145 and 147 pounds. Some of his other lifts were:

Right hand military press – 112 pounds

Right hand snatch – 165 pounds

Right hand swing with dumbbell – 150 pounds

Right hand jerk (two hands to shoulder) – 240 pounds

Two hands military press – 230 pounds

Two hands clean and jerk – 272 pounds

Two hands continental and jerk – 340 pounds

He was also a very good gymnast and hand balancer, and was unbeatable in “Finger pulling” beating men who weighed over two hundred pounds.  Maxick was also a very good business man.  He wrote many books on muscle control and was business partners with both Monti Saldo and William Bankier (Apollo).  His muscle control courses were still being sold into the 1970’s under the name of Maxalding.  Maxick died in Buenos Aires in 1961, where he ran a gym and health studio.  He was active even on the day that he died.  That morning he had been wrist wrestling with a friend and then rode his bicycle home.  He was later found lying on his back with a note under his heal, that stated,  “My heart is beating rather slow, I feel extremely cold, I think it will be over soon. Remember the infinite is our freedom manifested through our consciousness”.  Dated, May 10, 1961 22 hours.

Alfred Monte Woolaston – AKA Monte Saldo

by Dennis Mitchell

Monte Saldo - displaying a very muscular pose

Alfred Monte Woolaston was born in 1879 in Highgate, London England.  His father, Fredrick Woolaston was a shoe manufacturer, a Methodist preacher, and a faith healer.  Alfred developed an interest in strength at an early age and in his early teens was a member of the London weightlifting club, where he came in contact with many notable lifters.  His family encouraged him, especially his uncle a police inspector, who being very prominent socially, managed to arrange for him to become an apprentice to Eugene Sandow at Sandow’s gym.  Alfred was a hard worker and not only improved his strength, but learned much about performing, while helping Sandow in his stage performances.

In 1900 Alfred teamed up with Ronco, an Italian strongman, and they became “Ronco and Monte” ( Alfred was now known as Monte Saldo ) and opened at the Cafe Chantant, Crystal Palace,  where they were very successful.  After their engagement at the Crystal Palace they went on a tour of Europe where their act so impressed an English theatrical agent they got a six month contract to appear at the Royal Aquarium in Westminster, London.  This was during the “Golden Years of Strongmen”.  It was common for strongmen performers to offer large amounts of money to their spectators if they could duplicate any of their feats of strength.  While they never had to pay anyone, their challenges did result in setting up a contest between Monte and a lifter named Charles Russell.  Russell was the British amateur 140 pound champion.  Russell could not duplicate any of Monte’s stage lifts, however he did challenge Monte to the five lifts used in amateur competition.  Monte accepted the challenge, even though he did not train on these lifts and Russell was the winner.  Monte learned his lesson and never went into another contest until he trained on the contest lifts.  Ronco and Monte’s act was so successful their performance was extended beyond the six months.  At the end of their engagement at the Royal Aquarium, Ronco and Monte ended their partnership.  Ronco went back to Italy and Monte and his brother Frank formed their own act and performed in Dresden, Amsterdam, Hamburg, Saxony, Prague and in Parism where they were regulars at Professor Desbonnet’s gym.  During a performance in Hamburg they were offered a full season contract by Frank Glennister to perform at the London Pavilion.  It was at the Pavilion that Monte would support a car, with passengers, in the support known as “The Tomb of Hercules”.  An amazing feat for a man weighing only 144 pounds.  For a time Monte did a solo act, but in 1906 he and his brother Frank joined up again to perform a new act called “The Sculptor’s Dream” .  The act began with the sculptor admiring his latest work, a statue of a muscular athlete.  The statue was placed before a mirror so that the audience could see both it’s front and back.  The sculptor, tired from his work fell asleep on the studio couch.  At this point the statue came to life and went through a series of poses in front of the mirror so the audience could view both the front and back of the statue.  Suddenly the statue reached through the mirror and pulled out his reflection (his brother Frank) and they did acrobatics, hand to hand balancing, lifting each other and wrestling, all synchronized to music.  As the sculptor woke up the statue and his reflection returned to their original position as the act ended.

Next in the career of Monty, he teamed up with William Bankier (Apollo) and opened the Apollo Academy in London. Their Academy attracted many of the famous lifters and wrestlers of that time.  It was at the Academy that Arthur Saxon did a bent press with 386 pounds.  It was weighed and witnessed by the editor of Health and Strength magazine, Bill Klein, also John Murry and William Bankier (Apollo).  Monte was hailed as one of the best trainers, and next teamed up with Max Sick, who was professionally known as Maxick.  Together they marketed the Maxaldo Method of Muscle Control which was a method of training using no equipment, to improve muscle development, speed and stamina.  The name was later changed to Maxalding, and the course was sold  into the 1970’s.

Monte was active in organizing the British Amateur Weightlifting Association, (BAWLA) and served on the committee for professional lifters.  Monte weighed 144 pounds, stood 5′5″, had a 17″ neck, 45.5″ chest, 16″ arms, 13″ forearms, 30″ waste, 23″ thighs and 15,5″ calves.  He could bent press 230 pounds and was the first man in England to do a one arm swing with more than body weight, doing 150 pounds.  He is credited with showing that the swing was best done with a dumbbell loaded unevenly, with more weight on the back end of the bell.

Monte was a very well educated man.  He was a very good musician, and was fluent in several languages.  World war II was very devastating for Monte’s family.  His wife was killed during a bombing raid on London.  Monty and his daughter, Theresa, were seriously injured, and his son was killed during the invasion of Europe.  Monty never fully recovered from his injuries and the loss of his wife and son.  He passed away at the age of seventy in 1949.

Apollo – William Bankier

by Dennis Mitchell

A classical strongman pose by William "Apollo" Bankier.

William Bankier was born in Banff Scotland, December 10, 1870.  His parents were school teachers.  As a youngster he was fascinated by the circus, and at the age of twelve he ran away from home to  become a laborer at a circus.  This lasted only a short time as his father soon caught up with him and took him back home.  After a few months at home William once again ran away to get  employment on a ship.  A shipwreck ended this job and he ended up in Montreal Canada where he got a job working on a farm.  It was hard work and low wages.  He was now fourteen years old.  He had an opportunity to join Porgie O’Brien’s road show, so he left the farm and once again he ran away.  One of the acts in the show was a strong man and William spent any free time he had watching and learning from him.  William was now fifteen years old.

While the strong man was a good performer he was also a heavy drinker, and one day was unable to perform.  William performed in his place, and while he was not as accomplished as the strong man he put on satisfactory show.  As the strong man missed more shows, William continued to perform in his place and continued to improve and progress as a performer and strong man.  He stayed with the O’Brien show for about a year, and then joined William Muldoon’s entourage of athletes.   Muldoon changed William’s name, and he now became, Carl Clyndon the Canadian Strong Boy. At this time he also added wrestling to his act.  After a time he felt it was time to move on and he teamed up with Jack Kilrain, a former heavy weight boxing champion.  He remained with Jack until he was seventeen years old, and added boxing to his other talents.  His next move was to team up with “Buffalo Bill Cody’s” wild west show.  From there he joined the Ginnett Circus for three months, and once again was on the move.  While still performing as Carl Clydon  he was spotted by one of the owners of the Bostock Circus, known for having the best performers and acts.  It was with the Bostock Circus that he became a truly polished and outstanding performer.  One of  his most outstanding acts was to do a harness lift with a full grown elephant.  No tricks were used, it was a true lift.

While in Bournemouth England, at the suggestion of Sir John Everett Millais, who later was President of the Royal Academy, Carl Clydon changed his name to Apollo.  He traveled around the world  performing to large audiences.  He was an excellent performer and hailed to be as good as Sandow.  This was in 1899.  He even challenged Sandow to a contest in weightlifting, wrestling, running, and  jumping.  Sandow did not accept his challenge.  Apollo opened his act with a posing display.  He was not a big men standing 5′6.5″, weighed 175 pounds, had a 47″ chest and 15.75″ arms.  His legs were exceptionally well developed.  In the event known as the “Tomb of Hercules” he could support a piano with a six person orchestra and a dancer.  He could jump over the back of a chair either frontwards or backwards wile holding a 56 pound weight in each hand.  He would end his performance by offering ten English pounds to anyone who could carry a large sack off stage.  Many people tried, including Arthur Saxon, and could not do it.   Apollo would finish his performance by carrying the sack off stage.  The sack weighed 475 pounds.  After retiring from the stage, Apollo became a wrestling promoter, and later teamed up with Monte Saldo ( who we will write about in an other article ) and opened the Apollo-Saldo Academy.  Many well known amateur and professional wresters, boxers , and jiu-jitsu competitors trained at the Academy.  William Bankier, better known as Apollo, died in 1949 at the age of 80.

Luigi Borra

by Dennis Mitchell

Luigi "Milo" Borra posing at around 28 years of age.

Luigi Borra was born in Milan Italy, January 14, 1866.  As a young man he was active in gymnastics, wrestling and weightlifting.  At the age of twenty three, he gave up employment as a telegraph instrument maker and joined the circus as a wrestler.  From there he joined the Folies Bergere also as a wrestler.  He had a good physique and was a good poser. He performed throughout Europe in music halls and theaters, combining gymnastics, posing, and feats of strength. It was while performing that he met Louis Attila.  Attila convinced Luigi to return to England with him so that Attilla could manage and promote him and arrange for bookings.  However, Attila’s motives were not only for Luigi’s benefit.  Louis Attila had been traveling and performing with Eugene Sandow.  A quarrel between Sandow and Attila caused their break up.  Attila went to Paris and later returned to England with Luigi.  He intended to use Luigi as a new performer to dethrone Sandow.  Luigi was a small man and unknown in England.  Attila knew that Sandow would not meet any well known performer and hoped to get revenge by having Luigi challenge Sandow in wrestling and in feats of strength. Sandow, after his defeat by the McKann brothers was not accepting any challenges, and there were quite a few of them. Attila claimed that Sandow would not meet Luigi, as Luigi had defeated Sandow in wrestling in Italy.  However Attila could not show any proof of this.  Some years later (1894) when Attila opened his Broadway gym, they became friends again.

One of Luigi’s acts was to place a 200 pound barbell on his shoulders.  Six 56 pound block weights were attached to a harness that Luigi was wearing, and two men would hang onto the ends of the barbell.  The total weight being over 1,000 pounds.  Luigi would turn around three times while supporting the weight.  He would also hang by his teeth while doing a crucifix with a pair of 50 pound dumbbells.  He would juggle an 80 pound kettlebell and with the left hand, would clean and bent press 225 pounds.  He only weighed 160 pounds.  He would press up into a hand stand while lifting 200 pounds with his teeth.

Brinn "the Cannon Ball King", aka Luigi Borra, supporting a a 500 pound motorcycle by a chin pole.

He continued performing under Attila’s management, and as many strongmen did, changed his name to Milo.  For a short time he did some exhibitions with Louis Cyr.  With the rising popularity of the Saxon Trio, Luigi stopped performing for a while, but later reappeared as Brinn – The Cannon Ball King.  His act opened December 28, 1903 at the Hippodrome Theater in Liverpool.  His act consisted of juggling, hand balancing and balancing a cannon or a motorcycle at the end of a pole on his chin.  He was able to do this with a 400 pound cannon.  He not only performed in England but also in Germany and Italy.  He was an excellent performer, and showman, well liked, and performed for many years.  After retiring from performing he ran a bar called the Grafton Arms.  At the weight of 167 pounds he stood 5′5.25″, chest 46.5″, biceps 15.75″, thigh 23.5″, and calf 15.75″.  He died January 19, 1955 at Twyford in Berkshire, England.  He was 89 years old.

Charles Batta

by Dennis Mitchell

Charles Batta

Charles Batta, whose real name was Charles Estienne, was born August 17, 1866 in Lille France. It was evident even as a young boy that he had unusual strength. Batta never wanted to be a competitive weight lifter. His ambition was to be strongman performer, and he started his career at age fifteen performing in local cafes. His earnings came from the donations of the patrons. He later joined a troupe of traveling athletes. It was not an easy life, and there was no guaranteed income. They traveled by wagon from city to city performing at fairs and celebrations. He considered this to be his apprenticeship. He was quite successful and became quite famous as a strong man. This, however, made some of the bigger and more experienced performers envious of his success. One performer became so angry that he broke a chair over Batta’s head. Batta’s earnings progressed from the spectators donations to a salary of one franc per day, then to 25 francs per week, and by the time he was nineteen yeas old, to 50 francs per day. Again his success had the disadvantage of enraging one of his fellow performers, a giant of a man named Lepi who forced Batta into a fight. Batta was never a person who would back down from a fight or a challenge. He beat Lepi so badly that he was never bothered by any other performer. While performing in Brussels at the Alcazar Cafe Concert, he was earning 70 francs per day. On day while the performers were at dinner, Louis Attila walked in with one of his pupils who was seeking employment at the Alcazar. While waiting for the manager to return Attila’s pupil started to demonstrate the strength of his grip, using chairs and other objects at hand. He stated that no one could duplicate his feats of hand strength. Batta took the challenge and duplicated all of his lifts. Attila’s pupil did however go on to become quite famous under the name of Eugen Sandow. One of Batta’s demonstrations was, while seated, to hold his hand, palm down about one half inch over an upright needle. A forty four pound block weight was placed on the back of his hand. He would hold it there at arms length for about eight seconds, and then stand up still holding the weight at arms length. Though primarily a performer Batta could one arm snatch 154.5 pounds, put over head 209 pounds with one hand, and hold by the ring a weight of 55 pounds at arms length. During his performance he would lift 259 pounds over head with ease.  One of Batta’s challenges was to place a glass of water, a bottle, some gold rings and other jewels plus some gold coins on the seat of a straight back chair. He would then lift the chair with one hand at arms length by one of the horizontal rungs and not spill any of the water. He offered what was on the chair to anyone who could duplicate his lift. No one ever did. Batta’s performance included lifting a horse, a muscle control demonstration, lifting weights and people. In the support known as the “Tomb of Hercules” he would support a loaded cannon which was then fired by an assistant. The only contest that Batta did not win was against the famous Apollon. He did duplicate one of Apollon’s feats by lifting four 44 pound block weights over head with one hand, each weight tied to a finger. He also cleaned (not jerked) Apollon’s rail road wheels. Apollon was so impressed with Batta that they remained friends for life. No strong man article is complete without a list of his measurements. At the age of nineteen Batta stood 5′9.5″, weighed 194 pounds, chest 49″, biceps 17″, forearms 14.5″, waist 33.5″, thighs 25″, calves 16.25″ neck 17.25″, and wrists 8.5″. Charles Batta died June 7, 1931 at the age of 65 yeas.

Hall of Fame Biography – John C. Grimek class of 1993

by Dennis Mitchell

John Grimek - This photo is from the cover of the February, 1969 issue of Muscular Development.

John Grimek was born June 17, 1910 in Perth Amboy, New Jersey. He got his interest in weightlifting and body building from his older brother George. John stated that his brother was bigger and stronger than he was, but just didn’t have the interest in the Iron Game that he had. John’s first competition in weightlifting was in 1934 where he took a first place as a heavy weight in New Jersey with a total of 710 pounds. Later that same year he entered his first National meet in Brooklyn. His press of 242.5 pounds was the highest of the meet. However he failed to total due to his lack of training in the snatch and clean and jerk. The following year he placed second to Bill Good in a five lift meet with a total of 1,072 pounds. The five lifts were the one hand snatch, the clean and jerk which had to be done with the opposite hand used in the snatch, the two hands press, snatch and the clean and jerk.

John then moved to York PA. to improve his training. In the 1936 National meet in Philadelphia he pressed 285.5 pounds, snatched 220 pounds, and clean and jerked 308 pounds. He placed first in the heavy weight class while weighing just two pounds over the light heavy limit. His press was a National record. Later the same year he competed in the Olympics in Germany. Though he did not place he lifted more than any other American lifter. In 1937 he reduced to the light heavy weight class for the Sr. National meet in Detroit. In this meet he was to light and was not at his best. But in 1938 he won the Jr. National meet with an 810 pound total in the light heavy weight class. At this time, before physique contest were added to the lifting meets, John continued to compete in lifting. In 1938 still lifting as a light heavy weight he made a total of 830 pounds. (261 press, 245 snatch, and a 325 clean and jerk). John’s best meet was in the 1940 Sr. National meet held in Madison Square Garden, where he did a 285 pound press, snatched 250 pounds and a clean and jerk of 325 pounds. He placed third behind Steve Stanko and Louis Abele. However he did win the Mr. America physique contest, and at this point decided to put his efforts into body building.

In 1941 he once again won the Mr. America contest. The AAU then made a rule that once you won the Mr. America contest you could not enter it again. The first Mr. Universe contest was held in 1947. John could not enter because the AAU said that he was a professional because of his work with the York Barbell Co. However the 1948 contest was open to both amateurs and professionals and he became Mr. Universe. In 1949 he won the Mr. USA contest in a highly publicized meet as it had become a battle between the IFBB organization and the York Barbell organization.

John died November 24 1998, having never been defeated in a body building contest.

The Saxon Trio

by Dennis Mitchell

The Saxon Trio

Back in he late 1890s Eugene Sandow was the king of strength in England. A gentleman by the name of Arno Saxon (His real name was Arno Patschke) saw the interest that the public had for strong men acts and also the possibility of making a good living by forming his own strongman act. Arno was a German wrestler and strongman. Traveling back to Germany in 1897, he formed the first Saxon Trio. Arno Saxon teamed up with  Oscar Hilgenfeld and the 19 year old Arthur Hennig, who later changed his name to Arthur Saxon. The three traveled to England and put on a genuine strong man act. There were no false weights, tricks, or illusions. Just honest lifting, supporting and juggling heavy weights.
The first to leave the trio was Oscar Hilgenfeldt. He joined with Albert Attilla to form their own act called The Attilla Brothers. His place was taken by a man named Somerton. Somerton stayed with the trio only a short time and was replaced by another German named Adolf Berg. More changes were to come when the originator of the group, Arno Saxon left. Arthur Saxon had his 17 year old brother, Hermann, take his place. Once again the ever changing trio changed again when Adolf Berg left and was replaced by Arthur’s youngest brother, Kurt. We now had the true Arthur Saxon Trio. But not for long as Hemann decided to do a solo act and once again Adolf Berg returned. After a time Hermann returned and once again the three brothers were billed as the Arthur Saxon Trio.


Arthur was born April 28, 1878. Hermann was born March 17,1882 and Kurt, March 11,1884. All were born in Leipsic, Saxony. They started training at an early age using stone weights, and putting on shows in their back yard when Arthur was 15 years old, Hermann,11, and Kurt 8 years old. They offered ten Pfenning (2.5 cents) to any one up to the age of 15 who could defeat them. When Hermann was still 16 years old he could bent press 100 kilos by holding together two 50 kilo kettle-bells. Kurt at the age of 11 could swing 50 kilos. Even as the members of the trio kept changing they were quite successful and traveled with the Wirth Brothers Circus through Europe and India. Not only did they lift weights but were quite skilled in wrestling.


Other than their outstanding lifting the Saxon Brothers were “Strong Eaters.” At a typical breakfast they would eat 24 eggs, 3 pounds of smoked bacon, porridge with cream, honey, marmalade and tea with lots of sugar. Lunch served at about 3PM consisted of 10 pounds of meat, with vegetables, sweet fruits, sweet cakes, salads, pudding, and tea with lots of sugar. Supper was usually smoked fish and cold meat. There was never any whiskey or brandy, but they did drink some beer. The stories of their beer drinking were greatly exaggerated. After their 3 o’clock meal they would rest for a couple of hours. During this time Kurt would do the shopping for their next days food. He was the cook.
It was now time for their workout. They never did a light workout and did a large variety of lifts with ring weights and barbells. They would warm up with leg presses. (No leg press machines) The bent press was done at every work out, doing as many as thirty lifts at each training session. The only non lifting exercises the did was jumping and swimming, and sometimes wrestling. They trained six days a week for four hours.


When Arthur died, August 6, 1921, Hermann and Kurt continued the act for a wile with great success. However Hermann did not have the heart to continue, as it was not like the old days. Kurt continued on his own until he was injured August 24, 1924, when a bridge and car that he was supporting collapsed and put an end to his career as a strong man. He then worked at the University of Leipzig as a trainer, and for a wile ran his own gym until it was destroyed during the second world war. Kurt died September 5, 1952, and Hermann, February 12, 1961. Arthur was best known for his bent pressing, an official lift of 371 pounds, and the two hands any how lift of 448 pounds. Listed here are some of Herman’s and Kurt’s lifts.

Kurt                          Hermann
Right hand snatch                                                        213 pounds                  206 pounds
Left hand snatch                                                           189 pounds                  202 pounds
Right hand bent press                                                332 pounds                   332 pounds
One hand clean & bent press, right hand             275 pounds                  272 pounds
Kettle bell swing right hand                                         187 pounds                  196 pounds
Two hands clean and jerk                                            341 pounds                  330 pound

Below is a comparison of their measurements taken by Dr. Sargent of Harvard University.

Kurt               Hermann                    Arthur
Height                                       68.1″               67.6″                         69.5″
Neck                                         15.5″               16.0″                         16.5″
Chest                                        43.0″               45.0″                         45.7″
Hips                                          36.0″              36.5″                          36.5″
Biceps                                       15.5″              16.0″                          16.5″
Forearm                                    14.2″               14.5″                         14.2″
Wrist                                         8.2″                 8.1″                           8.1″
Thigh                                        23.0″               22.0″                         23.2″
Calf                                          16.0″               15.0″                         15.7′
Weight                                    164 pounds      163 pounds                204 pounds
Age                                          26 years          28 years                     32 years

Joe Rollino – The Last Coney Island Strongman

by Dennis Mitchell

Joe Rollino

Joe Rollino was born in New York, March 19, 1905. He was one of ten children. By age ten he had developed an interest in being strong. His first sport love was for boxing, after he saw Jack Dempsey knock out Jess Willard. As a boxer in the 1920s he had over 100 bouts. Because of his small size, 5′5″ and weighing under 135 pounds, he fought men much bigger than himself. He stated that in spite of this he was never knocked out. He fought under the name of Kid Dundee. He credited his strength and long life to being a vegetarian, and never smoked or drank alcohol. Along with boxing he was an avid weight lifter and swimmer. He belonged to the Iceberg Athletic Club, and swam daily in the ocean regardless of the weather. In his prime he could lift 475 pounds with his teeth, do a one finger lift of 635 pounds, and a hand and thigh lift of 1500 pounds. He is credited with a lift of 3,200 pounds “On his back”. He had a physique that would have placed him very high in any body building contest. He performed for many years at Coney Island and in the circus. During the second World War he served in the Pacific area for five and one half years, and was awarded three Purple Hearts, a Silver Star, and a Bronze Star. At the age of 104 years he could bend a quarter in his teeth, and stated that when he was younger he could do the same with a dime. For many years he was a member of the Association of Oldtime Barbell and Strongmen. On January 11, 2010, on his way home from his daily three mile walk, he was hit by a Mini Van and died a few hours later . He would have been 105 years old in March of 2010.

Siegmund “Zisha” Breitbarth – The Ironking

by Dennis Mitchell

Siegmund "Zisha" Breitbarth

Siegmund “Zisha” Breitbarth was born in Starwieschtch, City of Lodz, Poland in 1883 in an orthodox Jewish family. He was the second of seven children. His father was a blacksmith. The first evidence of his strength was at age three. While playing in his father’s shop, a heavy bar fell on him and he was able to lift it off and free himself. By age four he was helping his father with his work. He was a bit of a trouble maker and was expelled from several religious school for demonstrating his strength on his fellow students.

During the first World War he served in the Russian army and was a prisoner of war in Germany. After the war he remained in Germany and made his living by performing as a strongman in the market place. It was there that he was spotted by the manager of “Circus Bush”, the largest circus in the world at that time. He traveled with the circus performing as a clown, acrobat, and as a strong man, and was featured as the opening act. From the circus he went into vaudeville, performing in Vienna. At that time political events were quite unsettled. The emerging Nazi Party was active as a result of France’s occupation of the Rue. There were many bloody confrontations. Even with the anti-Semitism, hostility, and prejudice at a post war high, Siegmund was very popular in Vienna, more than any other entertainer or sports figure at that time.

In 1923 he emigrated to the Unite States, and in 1924 became a citizen. He continued to work in vaudeville and was reported to be earning $7,000 a week, an unbelievable amount of money in the 1920s. His act consisted of bending iron bars (that’s where he got the name “Ironking”), breaking horse shoes, pulling a wagon full of people with his teeth, supporting an elephant in the event known as the “Tomb of Hercules”, and carrying a baby elephant up a ladder. He would support a car full of people on his chest while lying on his back. He could drive a spike through a thick plank with his bare hands.

He wrote a book called Muscle Power, and also sold a mail order body building course. He thought of himself as a modern day Samson, and wanted to train an army of strongmen in order to free Palestine from British rule. While touring Europe he pierced his leg with a rusty spike while driving it through a plank with his hand. He developed blood poisoning, and in spite of two surgeries, died in Berlin Germany Oct. 12th, 1925 at the age of forty-two.

At the age of thirty-one he had the following measurements: Chest 50″, neck 19″, arms 15.5″, waist 35″, and calf 17″. There are no records of what Siegmund could lift with either barbells or dumbbells. He said that the audiences were more interested in his supporting events and bar bending.

George Barker Windship, MD

by Dennis Mitchell

One of the very few pictures of George Barker Windship, MD (Courtesy of the Massachusetts Historical Society)

George Barker Windship was born in 1834 in Roxbury, Massachusetts, and entered Harvard University at age 16. He stood five feet tall and weighed one hundred pounds. Because of his small size he was constantly teased and tormented by his classmates. He started practicing gymnastics at the Harvard gym in an effort to build himself up. He spent some time every evening after classes at the gym doing chins, dips, and working on the rings and various bars. By the time he graduated he was well known for his strength. He could chin twelve times with one arm, and do a one arm chin with either arm using just his little finger.

On a trip to Rochester New York, he saw a lifting machine and lifted 420 pounds in what was similar to a Hand and Thigh Lift. After returning home he made his own hand and thigh apparatus, lifting a barrel that he would fill with rocks and sand. He became a dedicated weight lifter.

He returned to Harvard University and following in his father’s, grandfather’s, and great grandfather’s foot steps entered medical school. However, he stated that his main reason for medical school was to learn about the human body in order to improve his lifting.

He graduated in 1857, and had increased his Hand and Thigh Lift to 1208 pounds. He also fashioned a yoke type apparatus similar to the Harness Lift and could lift 2200 pounds. At this time he also added dumbbells to his training and in time could press a pair of 100 pound dumbbells. He also added barbell lifting with a globe barbell that he could vary the weight from 141 pounds to 180 pounds by adding shot to the globes. He was never a very big man reaching the height of 5′7″ and weighing 147 pounds.

This is a lifting apparatus designed and built by George Barker Windship, MD. It was patented in 1893, and is a forerunner of the Universal Machine.

Dr. Windship had his gym next to his medical office, and would tell his clients that if they would spend more time in his gym they would spend less time in his medical office. Dr. Dudley Sargent, the head of the Harvard Physical Education Department, after watching Dr. Windship work out, stated that, “he was exceeding strong and that he used very heavy weights in a number of different movements and angles with both weights and on machines that he invented”.

Dr. Windship gave many lectures on the health benefits that would come from being strong, and would end his lectures with a demonstration of his strength. He preached that heavy lifting was a form of medical therapy.

He had patents on various equipment. He made a dumbbell that could be adjusted in half pound increments from eight pounds to one hundred and one pounds. He invented the forerunner of the Universal Machine, and invented a leg and hip machine. his training methods were quite modern and he stressed very heavy short workouts with ample rest between training sessions. One of his patents in 1870 was for a machine that used compressed air in a piston for resistance in a rowing machine and a cable apparatus used for working the chest.

On September 12th, 1876, at the age of just 42, Dr. Windship died of a massive stroke. There were those who were against heavy lifting stating that it was dangerous, and used Dr. Windship’s death as proof. It did have a negative affect on lifting and for some years lifting was looked on as being dangerous.

Cyprien Noe Cyr – World’s Strongest Man

by Dennis Mitchell

Louis Cyr

Cyprien Noe Cyr was born October 10, 1863 in Saint Cyprien Napierville Canada ( now Quebec ). He was the second child of seventeen children born to Pierre and Philomene Berger Cyr. He was never a frail or slight child as he weighed 18 pounds at birth. His father was quite strong and worked as a lumberjack and farmer. However Cyprien Noe inherited his exceptional physical power from his mother who stood 6′ 1″ tall and weighed 265 pounds, and could toss around 100 pound sacks with ease. At the age of 8 years, it is reported that he carried a calf in from the field when it did not want to return to the barn. He went to school from age 9 to 12 years, and then went to work in the lumber camps in the winter, and on the farm in the summer. Though gentle by nature, he soon had the admiration of his fellow workers for his unusual strength. Legion has it his mother decided he should let his hair grow long like Sampson in the Bible, and was said to curl it regularly. In 1878 the Cyr family moved to the United States in hopes of greater financial gains. It was at this time that Cyprien Noe changed his name for a more American of Louis. By age 17 he weighed 230 pounds, liked to play the violin, dance and work out with weights. In spite of his size and strength, his chubby pink cheeks and long blond curls gave him a babyish look, and made him the butt of jokes and teasing. At the age of 18 he entered his first strongman contest in Boston where he lifted a full grown horse off the ground. The horse stood on a platform that had two handles attached. The total weight was three quarters of a ton. There were no more jokes or teasing. His family moved back to Quebec in 1882. He was married that year to Meline Comptois and for a while worked as a lumberjack. From there he and his wife moved to Saint-Helene, where his parents had moved to. They soon organized “The Troupe Cyr” and performed through out the province with great success. For about two years he worked as a policeman, and for a short time owned a tavern. But soon organized another troupe of wrestlers, boxers, and weightlifters. He later defeated Canadian strongman David Michaud in one hand lifting and by lifting 2,371 pounds on his back. He also worked for Ringling Brothers Circus for a year and then with Horace Barre opened their own circus, with jugglers, strongmen, and acrobats. They performed for five years. In 1900 Cyr’s health started to fail. His over eating and large size and the onset of Brights disease put an end to competition and performing. He died at his daughter’s home November 10, 1912 at the age of 49. Dr. Dudley Sargent of Harvard University measured Cyr when he was 32 years old. He measured him at 5′8.5″, neck 20″, biceps 20″, forearms 16.3″, wrists 8.2″, chest 55.2″(expanded 60″) waist 47.4″, thighs 28.5″, and calfs 19.2″. His weight at that time was 291 pounds. He did reach the weight of 365 pounds later. Some of his bests lifts were: 500 pound one finger lift, back lift 4,337 pounds, bent press (more of a side press) 273 pounds, hand and thigh 1897 pounds, crucifix 94 pounds right , 88 pounds left, one hand dead lift with 1.5″ bar 525 pounds, and a “Platform” squat of 2,371 pounds.

Mr. Deadlift – John Robert Peoples

by Dennis Mitchell

Bob Peoples with his amazing deadlift.

Bob Peoples was born Aug. 2nd, 1910 in Northern Tennessee. He stated that no one in particular started him lifting, and that he always admired men who were strong and that his father was locally noted for his strength. He started lifting his father’s 50 pound dumbbell and anything else that would give him a challenge. He lived on a farm and trained outside or in one of the out buildings. Eventually he moved to his own house and had a gym in his basement that was referred to as “The Dungeon”. Other than lifting, Bob’s favorite sport was horse back riding and he spent many hours riding the mountain trails.

Bob was quite strong and was never a 97 pound weakling. When he started lifting he could deadlift 350 pounds and clean and jerk 160 pounds. At first he followed no set system of training as he was unaware that there were actual training systems. Later he followed the advice given in the different lifting magazines.

Much of his equipment was home made, although he did have a Milo Duplex Barbell set. He would use 50 gallon drums that he would fill with rocks. Later he added a Jackson International Olympic set with plenty of extra plates. He was unhappy with his progress in the Olympic lifts. As a middle weight in 1937 he did a 150 pound press, a 160 pound snatch and a 205 pound clean and jerk. It was at this time he started to experiment with different training ideas and is credited with making the first power rack.

Bob’s most outstanding lift was the deadlift, and in 1940 after winning the Tennessee State Olympic Lifting meet he made an official deadlift of 600 pounds, which was a “Southern” record.

Bob’s progress was interrupted by some health problems and during the war years the demands on farmers limited his training. However by the time of the Tennessee State championships in 1946, Bob was doing quite well and won the light heavy weight division with a deadlift of 651.25 pounds at a bodyweight of 175 pounds, which was a world record, beating Jack Hope’s record of 624.25 pounds. Later that same year at a show put on by Bob Hise, Bob lifted 700 pounds, only to find out when the bar was weighed it was 699 pounds. The newspaper photographer missed photographing the lift so Bob did it again so he could get the photograph. Later that year he did break the 700 pound barrier with a lift of 710 pounds. He did not get official credit for this lift as it was not weighed, as was the rules at that time.

Bob’s top deadlift was 728 pounds at a body weight of 178 pounds. He did all his lifts with an overhand grip, and of course at that time there were no power suits.

Other outstanding lifts that he made included deadlifting 500 pounds 20 times, a deadlift off of high blocks of 900 pounds, a 530 pound full squat, a 300 pound bench press, alternate standing press with a pair of 130 pound dumbbells, and cleaning a pair of 110 pound dumbbells for 10 reps.

He is in the U. S. Power lifting Hall of Fame, the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame, and the Upper East Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame. He was also very active in local civic and political issues.

Bob was married for 53 years to Junta Wills People. They had one daughter. Two grand daughters and one great grand daughter. Bob passed away in 1992.

Friedrech Wilhelm Muller

by Dennis Mitchell

A classical picture of Friedrech Wilhelm Muller (better known under his stage name of Eugen Sandow).

Friedrech Wilhelm Muller was born April 2, 1867, in Konigsberg, East Prussia. His father was a German army officer and his mother was from Russia. He also had an older brother who was a professor at the University of Gottingen. Friedrech was an excellent student, and even though he described himself as a delicate child he grew to be quite proficient as a gymnast and was a good all-round athlete. His parents had hopes for him to enter the clergy.

After his father retired from the military, he went into the jewelry business. He would take young Friedrech with him on some of his business trips. It was on a trip to Italy, when Friedrech was ten years old, that he saw the sculptures of the Roman athletes. It was from these that he first desired to get physically strong and have a well developed body.

Even though his father had been an officer in the German Army, Friedrech left East Prussia to avoid military service. He could never return or he would have been arrested for avoiding his military obligation.

He made his living by being an acrobat in the circus. It was on his second trip to London, England that he met Professor Louis Attila. Attila saw Friedrech’s great potential and coached him, and taught him how to perform as a professional strongman. He learned so well, that Attila and he traveled together performing strongman acts in various theaters, music halls, etc. It was at this time that Attila thought that Friedrech should change his name, as was the custom of most strong men performers. One story is that he took his Russian mother’s name Sandov, ( the V being pronounced as a W) and became Eugen Sandow. They had a very popular and successful strongman act. After a while Attila returned to his gym in London and Sandow continued to perform alone.

Florenz Ziegfeld saw Sandow performing his strongman act a circus side show and hired him for his own carnival show. After a wile it became apparent that people were more interested in Sandows muscles than how much he could lift, and a “Muscle display performance” was added to his show.

There was a very popular strongman act in London at that time by the name of Samson and Cyclops. At every performance they would offer one hundred English pounds to any one who could duplicate the feats performed by Cyclops, and one thousand English pounds to any one who could beat any of Samson’s feats. Sandow returned to London and with Attila watched several of their performances. When Attila felt the time was right Sandow accepted their challenge and defeated them both. Sandow was not only a very good showman but was also a very strong and capable lifter, and his reputation was made.

In 1894 Sandow once again joined with Florenze Ziegfeld and performed at the World’s Colombian Exposition, in Chicago. The only exhibit more popular than Sandow was “Little Egypt”.

Sandow was married in 1894 to Blanch Brooks Sandow. They had two daughters.

There were many different claims made as to Sandow’s measurements. I will list the ones taken by Dr.Sargent of Harvard University: height, 5′7.25″, expanded chest,47″, waist, 32.75″, thigh, 23″, upper arm, 17″, and he weighed 180 pounds.

There were many conflicting claims about his strength. He did have an official bent press of 269 pounds and an unofficial lift of 280 pounds.

Sandow’s greatest contribution was that he inspired many people to be physically fit, and taught that the average person could improve their strength and the development of their body. He ran the Sandow Institute of Physical Culture and also published Sandow’s magazine of Physical Culture and British Sport.

Eugen Sandow died on October 14, 1925. Again, there were various accounts of what caused his death, but the one generally accepted was he broke a blood vessel in his brain while lifting his car out of a ditch after an accident.

The Mighty Hermann Goerner

by Dennis Mitchell

Hermann Goerner at age 36. This picture was taken around 1927, when Goerner was in his weightlifting prime.

Hermann Goerner was born April 13, 1891, in Haenichen, Germany. At birth he gave no indication that he would grow to be one of the worlds strongest men, and he eventually reached a weight of 245 pounds at 6′ 1′. He had 18.25 inch biceps, 16″ forearms, 27″ thighs, and an expanded chest of 52″.

Hermann Goerner started lifting weights at the age of ten, though never stated what got him interested in lifting. By the age of fourteen he had grown to five feet six inches tall and weighed 185.25 pounds, and could swing with a straight arm a 110.25 pound kettlebell. He participated in running, jumping, swimming, and acrobatics along with boxing and wrestling. He also enjoyed playing the piano and was a good billiards player. He continued swimming throughout his lifting career. At age eighteen he was working as a stove fitter. He had developed a fine physique and supplemented his income by posing for artists and sculptors.

He gained some local recognition, in 1911, by winning both the Middle Germany and the Brandenburg Province weightlifting championships. In 1912, he won a National contest in Berlin. Like many strongmen of that time he formed a trio with his brother Otto Goerner and friend Otto Brauer. They performed throughout the cities of middle Germany. Their act consisted of lifting, supporting feats, and juggling kettlebells. In 1913, at the age of twenty-two, he took third place in the German Weightlifting Championships. At that time five lifts were contested – the one hand snatch, the one hand clean and jerk, the two hands press, the two hands snatch, and the two hands clean and jerk. In 1920 a match was arranged between Hermann and Karl Morke, who was then world heavy weight champion. Hermann was out to redeem himself after his third place in the German National meet. Again the five lifts were used, plus a sixth lift of the lifters choice. Morke chose the squat and Hermann chose the dead lift, the lift that he was most noted for. Hermann totaled 214 pounds more than the champion. In 1922 Hermann turned professional, where he earned far more than he did as a stove fitter. In that year he also married Elsie Jwifel. The two of them performed with the Pagel’s Circus and traveled through South Africa. In the late 1920s, with the help of W. A. Pullum, he performed in England.

Hermann is best known for his one hand dead lift of 727.25 pounds. This lift has never been equaled or surpassed by anyone else since. He also did a 793.75 pound two hands dead lift using an overhand hook grip, not an alternate grip like what is used by most deadlifters today . He was outstanding in many lifts, too numerous to list here. He had a “Challenge ” barbell of 330 pounds that had a thick 2.75 inch diameter bar that he would clean and jerk at every performance. He was exceptionally good at curling, having done 242.5 pounds in strict form. In spite of being badly wounded in the first world war, in which he lost an eye, got shrapnel in his legs, and for a time was a prisoner of war, he did these remarkable lifts.

Hermann Goerner passed away in 1956.

Louis Attila, The Professor

by Dennis Mitchell

A Classic Picture of Louis Attila, The Professor

Louis Attila, whose real name was Ludwig Durlacher, was born July 2,1844 in Karlsruhe Germany. He was a well educated young man having studied with Professor Ernst, in Berlin. He played the piano and had mastered five languages. The significant change in his life came when he saw the Italian strongman Felice Napoli perform. Many strongmen at that time made their living by performing in theaters, music halls, and the circus. Young Ludwig became Napoli’s student, and learned all about the strongman profession. Staging, costumes, posing, showmanship, and performing. It seemed that there were two types of strongman shows. One where the performers were truly very strong and impressed the audience with lifting and supporting heavy weights, breaking chains and horse shoes. etc. Other strongman acts depended more on showmanship and staging, than on strength. Ludwig learned his craft well and worked with Napoli for a time, but in 1863 at the age of 19 he set off on his own. It is not clear how long he worked by himself as after a time he teamed up with “Valerie the Female Gladiator“. He also toured in both Europe and America. Ludwig, who now called himself Louis Attila (he took his name from the leader of the Huns), is also credited with inventing the Roman Chair, the shot loading globe barbell, the “Human Bridge” stunt that later became a regular part in many strongman acts. He was also the inventor of the Bent Press and was the first person to do 200 pounds in this lift. Other than lifting Attila was a very good all round athlete, and excelled in track and field and swimming. Although being only 5′ 4″ tall he had a very good physique,weighing 175 pounds with a 46″ chest, 17.5″ neck, 16.5″ calves, 25″ thighs, and a 36″ waist. His career was very successful and he performed in the capitals of Europe to standing room only crowds. In many of the cities where he performed he was asked to help and give advice to people on how to exercise. In approximately 1886-1887 he began to cut back on his strongman shows and opened his first gym in Brussels. It was at this gym that he first met Friedrich Muller, who is better known as Eugene Sandow. Attila was credited with discovering Sandow and coached him, and also performed with him. However this is material for another article. Attila opened another gym in London, and because of his success as a performer and his knowledge as an instructor he was very successful. Over the years he had many of Europe’s royalty as clients. Attila immigrated to New York City in August of 1893. New York had a large German population and he felt opening a gym there would attract them, having a German speaking owner. He also said that New York was full of office workers who were in need of rejuvenation. He named his gym, “Attila’s Athletic Studio and School of Physical Culture”. He was very successful and was the first to use weight training to help athletes improve themselves for other sports, particularly boxing. One of his students was boxing champion James J. Corbett. He was also among the first to encourage women to engage in muscle building workouts. He ran his gym until his death, March 15, 1924, at which time his son-in-law Seigmond Klein took over.

Siegmund Klein, A man of Two Eras

by Dennis Mitchell

Siegmund Klein was a well-rounded strength athlete and early day bodybuilder.

Siegmund Klein was born on April 10, 1902, in Kronisberg Germany, also known as West Prussia. His family moved one year later to Cleveland Ohio. He still has family living in the greater Cleveland area. Siegmund was never a 97 pound weakling and was a sturdy healthy child. His father was a strong and muscular man, and Siegmund said he got his desire to be strong and well built from his father. At age 12, his first set of dumbbells were two discarded iron weights used to counter balance the raising of windows. He got his first set of real weights when he was 17, and trained in his secret attic gym. Siegmund was a true All-Rounder, not only doing the standard lifts but the odd lifts as well. He was a physique man, an excellent poser, and muscle control artist. He was an admirer of Professor Louis Attila, the man who invented the Bent Press. The Professor died before Siegmund could meet him. However he did meet his widow and with her permission took over running the gym which was located in New York City. He also married their daughter Grace. He eventually opened his own gym. His gym was a show place known through out the weightlifting world. It was equipped with the old time globe barbells and dumbbells.

Sig Klein was also a very accomplished tumbler and hand balancer. Klein owned and ran one of the most popular gyms of all-time in New York City for over 50 years.

He is credited with inventing some new equipment – the “Feet Press Machine, The Iron Boot, and the ‘In-Klein’ Board”. Somehow he managed to be friendly with the two barbell super powers – Bob Hoffman’s York Barbell Club, and Joe Weider’s IFBB organization. He wrote articles for both organizations and was not only written about in their magazines but his photographs were on their magazine covers. He also was on the covers of Iron Man, Vim Magazine, LaCulture Physique, and Macfadden’s Physical Culture Magazine. He even published his own magazine, The Klein’s Bell, from June 1931 to December 1932. After that he wrote for Hoffman’s Strength & Health magazine. He was inducted into Joe Weider’s Bodybuilding Hall of Fame in 2006. At a body weight of between 147 to 150 pounds he did the following lifts: Strict military press 229.25 pounds, strict press behind head 206 pounds, one arm snatch 160 pounds, one arm clean and jerk 190.5 pounds, crucifix 126.75 pounds (total), alternate dumbbell press with two 100 pound dumbbells for ten reps, a bent press of 209 pounds and a side press of 174 pounds. He also did 10 reps with 300 pounds in the deep knee bend. Notice that I did not say squat, as in his day they were done on your toes, not flat footed. The Association of Old Time Barbell and Strongmen began with a birthday celebration for Siegmund. It was so well received that they have been meeting yearly since then. Siegmund Klein passed away May 24,1987. The end of an era.

Hall of Fame Biography – Howard Prechtel class of 1993

The Life of Howard Prechtel

by Dennis Mitchell

Howard Prechtel and one of his favorite lifts - the Hip Lift

Back in the late 1940’s Howard Prechtel was competing in Olympic Lifting. At that time it was the only way to compete. However, his real love in lifting was the odd lifts. That was what the All-Round lifts where called then. As power lifting became more popular he competed in that also. With the organizing of All-Round lifting Howard was in his true element. He still competed in both Olympic and Power lifting, while competing in All-Round meets, setting many National and World records. Besides competing he was active as a referee and meet promoter for both National and World meets. He organized the Gold Cup Record Day, which has become an annual event. For many years he held the Buckeye Record Day every February. He has been both the National and World President. Howard is also known for his ability as a “Bone Setter”. Though he had no formal training, he learned his skills from a fellow lifter who was a medical professor, and taught him the art of manipulation.

Howard Prechtel in his earlier days competing in Olympic Weightlifting

Here are some of Howard’s lifting accomplishments. At age 52, he did a Harness lift of 1,910 pounds for 22 reps in 30 seconds. At age 57, he broke Warren Travis’ record set in 1927, by lifting 1,111 pounds 5,460 times in 3 hours and nine minutes. What lift? The Travis lift! At age 62, he did a Roman Chair sit up with 908 pounds. At age 70, he did 105 reps in 75 seconds with 1,102 pounds, in the Travis lift. Other than his lifting accomplishments Howard was a decorated Marine in the second world war, where he served for four years in the Pacific. He took part in several invasions and was wounded twice. He seldom talked about this except that it was very horrible and it was best left in the past.