Henry Holtgrewe: The Cincinnati Strongman

Posted on Friday, July 12th, 2013 by John Wood

Henry Holtgrewe: The Cincinnati Strongman

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.

Luigi “Milo” Brinn

Posted on Thursday, January 24th, 2013 by John Wood
Luigi 'Milo' Brinn
Milo Brinn (born Luigi Borra) performed feats of strength and took on all comers as a wrestler at the famous Folies Berger in Paris. Brinn’s act at the Folies consisted of tumbling and gymnastics, hand balancing, figure display, heavy juggling and feats of supporting and carrying weights. He could perform a crucifix with 66lb. in each hand and could do a one-leg squat holding 60 kg.

As a wrestler, Brinn won the amateur world’s title in 1887 and supposedly once defeated Sandow in a match.

Sandow and Goliath

Posted on Sunday, January 20th, 2013 by John Wood
Goliath and Sandow
In the Autumn of 1890, Sandow appeared at the Royal Music Hall, London, with the Giant Goliath (who had previously been working as a stone quarryman.) Goliath was aptly named as he stood 6 feet 6-1/2 inches tall, and weighed 370 pounds, with hands big enough to fit pillow cases and chest, arms and head of phenomenal proportions.

In the act, Sandow played the proverbial “David” initially assailed by the massive Goliath but triumphing in the end and actually lifting his foe and a large cannon with one finger. Their act concluded with Sandow supporting on a board, on his chest and knees, a total weight of 2400 pounds.

All Contents, Including Images and Text, Copyright © 2005-2021 by John Wood and Thunderdome Media Inc., Not to be reproduced without permission, All Rights Reserved
Author: John Wood. All contents, including images and text, copyright © 2005-2021 by John Wood and Thunderdome Media Inc. Not to be reproduced without permission. All rights reserved. We will most likely grant permission but please contact us if you would like to repost. IMPORTANT: Equipment and books, courses etc. pictured in blog posts are generally not available for sale unless specifically noted.

Sandow’s Somersault

Posted on Sunday, July 29th, 2012 by John Wood
Sandow's Somersault

Here’s one you probably haven’t seen before… Behold, one of the few images of the great physique star Eugen Sandow doing something athletic: performing a back somersault. Sandow used to do a back somersault was often the exclamation point to finish his act, showing the audience that his muscles weren’t just for show. In fact, many people are more impressed by a back somersault than lifting a heavy weight.

Sandow could perform a back somersault with a 56 pound dumbbell in each hand which is pretty amazing when you think about it.

Like many early strongmen, Sandow’s early training consisted of basic gymnastics movements, calisthenics and hand balancing — all of which continued to serve him well throughout his career.

All Contents, Including Images and Text, Copyright © 2005-2021 by John Wood and Thunderdome Media Inc., Not to be reproduced without permission, All Rights Reserved
Author: John Wood. All contents, including images and text, copyright © 2005-2021 by John Wood and Thunderdome Media Inc. Not to be reproduced without permission. All rights reserved. We will most likely grant permission but please contact us if you would like to repost. IMPORTANT: Equipment and books, courses etc. pictured in blog posts are generally not available for sale unless specifically noted.

French Weightlifting Club, circa 1906

Posted on Monday, July 16th, 2012 by John Wood

FRench Weightlifting Club, 1906

A rare look at a French weightlifting club, and their awesome training equipment, circa 1906.  One thing is for sure about the French lifters: they certainly had plenty of style.  Their equipment is basic: globe barbells, globe dumbbells, block weights, chest expanders etc, but undoubtedly more than enough to get it done.  Note the Sandow poster on the back wall. The president, Msr. Gustave Dechelpretre sits in the center.

Launceston Elliot, The First British Olympic Champion

Posted on Wednesday, June 6th, 2012 by John Wood

Launceston Elliot - The First British Champion

Already a strength star in his teens when he won the British national Championships, in 1896, Launceston Elliot traveled to Athens, Greece to represent England at the very first modern Olympic Games. Elliot had been trained by Eugen Sandow and bared quite a resemblance to his mentor. Things were a bit different back then in weightlifting: they contested two events: the “one-hand lift” and the “two-hands lift” (i.e. the “clean and jerk.”)

In the first contest, the “two hand lift” Launceston tied with Viggo Jensen of Denmark when each lifted 111 kg (244-1/2 pounds). The Gold medal, however, was awarded to the Dane because the judges thought he lifted the weight “in much better form” than his English competitor. In the one-hand event, Elliot lifted 71 kg to the Dane’s 57 and thus Britain’s first Olympic Gold medal winner was crowned!

At the 1896 games, Elliot also competed in the 100m dash, wrestling, and rope climbing events. Elliot performed credibly well in each even but did not match his weightlifting success. After his Olympic achievements, Elliot returned home to England, won the first major physique contest ever held and toured the country as a performing strongman.

Charles A. Sampson

Posted on Monday, February 27th, 2012 by John Wood

Charles A. Sampson

Charles A. Sampson was a turn-of-the-century strongman who, unlike any of his contemporaries, claimed his great strength came not from physical training but a result of having been struck by lightning as a small child!

As noted in Physical Training Simplified by Mark Berry, Sampson could perform a Harness Lift with 4008 pounds and frequently collaborated with the famous coin breaker Franz “Cyclops” Bienkowski.

Sampson and Cyclops were both handily defeated by Eugen Sandow in a famous challenge match in 1889.

Professor Attila

Posted on Friday, January 20th, 2012 by John Wood

Professor Louis Attila

Professor Attila — real name Louis Durlacher — was the mentor of Eugen Sandow and the man who invented many of the feats of strength that we know of today: The Roman Column, The Roman Chair, supporting feats in the human bridge position and tearing packs of playing cards. It was Attiila’s idea to make globe barbells and dumbbells shot-loadable so that their weight could be adjusted. Attila invented the bent-press and was the first man to perform the lift with over 200 pounds.

In 1894, Professor opened his famous Studio of Physical Culture in downtown New York city and it became a hotbed for learning the strongman trade. In addition to Sandow, Professor Attila could list many other famous strongmen among his students: Warren Lincoln Travis, Anthony Barker, Horace Barre, Arthur Dandurand, Lionel Strongfort, George Rolandow, Louis Cyr, Bobby Pandour and Adolph Nordquest.

Attila’s daughter, Grace, later married Sig Klein.

Sandow’s Medal

Posted on Thursday, December 1st, 2011 by John Wood

Sandow's Medal

The great Eugen Sandow won this fine medal, not in a test of strength, but for his wrestling skill. It was awarded to him by the Athletic club of Florence, Italy in commemoration of his having handily defeated three opponents in one match, one of whom was the Italian champion Basilio Bartoletti. Sandow was quite proud of this achievement and wore this medal often, it can be seen on his chest in many of of his most famous photographs such as the one above.
All Contents, Including Images and Text, Copyright © 2005-2021 by John Wood and Thunderdome Media Inc., Not to be reproduced without permission, All Rights Reserved
Author: John Wood. All contents, including images and text, copyright © 2005-2021 by John Wood and Thunderdome Media Inc. Not to be reproduced without permission. All rights reserved. We will most likely grant permission but please contact us if you would like to repost. IMPORTANT: Equipment and books, courses etc. pictured in blog posts are generally not available for sale unless specifically noted.

The Sandow Health and Strength Cocoa Token

Posted on Sunday, October 9th, 2011 by John Wood
Sandow's Health and Strength Cocoa
Eugen Sandow was bodybuilding’s first superstar and lent his likeness to a number of different products, including cigars, pins and a chocolate cocoa drink.  Sandow’s Cocoa didn’t last long. Some of other big chocolate manufacturers saw Sandow’s brand as a threat. They who lowered their prices and forced Sandow out of the market. The factory, which opened in 1913, shut down production in 1916.

Tokens, like the one shown above, were used for the promotion of Sandow’s Cocoa and are quite rare. The image shown here has been enlarged to roughly twice the size to show detail.

All Contents, Including Images and Text, Copyright © 2005-2021 by John Wood and Thunderdome Media Inc., Not to be reproduced without permission, All Rights Reserved
Author: John Wood. All contents, including images and text, copyright © 2005-2021 by John Wood and Thunderdome Media Inc. Not to be reproduced without permission. All rights reserved. We will most likely grant permission but please contact us if you would like to repost. IMPORTANT: Equipment and books, courses etc. pictured in blog posts are generally not available for sale unless specifically noted.