Ben Darwin, of Houston Texas was billed as “The Man With Iron Teeth” due to his unique ability to bite through chains. Mr. Darwin once helped a ship’s engineer out of a difficult situation by chewing through a chain that had become tangled. A career in Vaudeville followed shortly. “Iron Teeth” were not his only talent, Mr. Darwin also had unusually strong hair, and was a world speed bag punching champion.
There are many examples of strongmen who were famous in some parts of the country but virtually unknown elsewhere. One great example is Harry F. Griffin, “The Strongman of Engine Company 13” who was a local legend in Los Angeles and throughout the west coast. When he wasn’t fighting fires, Griffin performed many traditional strongman feats, twisting horseshoes, nail driving, chain breaking, bending spikes etc. His specialty, however, was jaw strength, as you can see in this rare picture from 1913. Griffin was said to have the strongest jaw of any man alive
We specialize in bringing you content that you won’t find anywhere else, and here’s a great example: pictured above you’ll find Great Beckett “The Five-Plank Marvel.” How did he get this nickname? His act consisted of hammering a large nail through (count’em) five thick wooden planks… then pulling out the nail with his teeth. Needless to say, the strength of neck, jaw, gums and teeth required for this performance is prodigious.
Signor Lawanda, born Hugh David Evans in Bethlehem, PA, was the possessor of one of the strongest jaws of all time. Rightfully billed as “The Iron Jawed Man” Lawanda famously lifted a barrel filled with water then allowed as many as four men to sit astride it. Lawanda could also bite silver dollars in half, and caught P.T. Barnum’s eye when he lifted a 1400 pound horse via a harness clenched in his teeth. Needless to say, training for these unusual types of feats also led to unusual development in the musculature of Lawanda’s neck and jaws.
John J. Hajnos, originally from California, became a professional strongman after serving in the Navy in World War I. He performed a number of traditional feats but his most well-known is pictured here, supporting a fellow officer (in this case J.F. Kaska, who weighed 175 pounds) seated in a chair clenched between his jaws – an incredible test of balance as well as neck/jaw strength. Hajnos was a student of Lionel Strongfort’s “Strongfortism” system and actually once defeated Warren Lincoln Travis at an impromptu contest held at Coney Island.
Many of the Oldtime Strongmen used teeth lifting in their performances and also as a neck developer. If you do decide to incorporate this lift into your training, please do so safely. Here’s a classic shot of Jim Murray, managing editor of Strength and Health Magazine, using a York Barbell Company custom-made mouthpiece to lift a 200-pound dumbbell.