Henry Holtgrewe was born in Hanover, Germany in 1862 but came to live in the United States at an early age. He settled in Cincinnati, where he ran a saloon in the Over-The-Rhine area of the city, near down town. In his spare time, he delighted in performing feats of strength, especially lifting barbells and dumbbells with thick handles — which not only confounded smaller-handed competition, but also allowed Henry Holtgrewe to build a tremendous 15-1/2 inch forearm in the process.
Holtgrewe also out “pressed” the great Louis Cyr with a single-arm lift of 287 pounds. It was said that each time Eugen Sandow performed in Cincinnati, Holtgrewe challenged to a lifting contest — and each time Sandow refused.
In 1904, Holtgrewe backlifted two opposing baseball teams at Redlands Field in Cincinnati. The combined weight was estimated at 4103 pounds easily placing him among the strongest backlifters of all time.