Pete Reynolds performed for many years on the Vaudeville and night club circuit as Little Samson – The World’s Strongest Small Man. Standing only five feet tall and weighing 107 pounds, he certainly fit the bill, among other feats, he ripped phone books in half… then quarters… then eighths! You won’t find many heavy weights who could accomplish such a feat. Samson attributed his great strength to his healthy diet, and after he retired from the road, opened a health food store in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Dave “Bull” Bonvicin, from Oakland, California, was a performing strongman with many different talents. Among them was spike bending — he didn’t just bend these spikes in half but liked to make various designs and shapes out of them. “Bull” also had some pretty sweet equipment. (Is that a kettlebell I see in the background?)
A look at a rare show bill for the Mighty Atom’s August 12, 1934 appearance at the Saratoga Springs Convention Hall. Sharing the bill was the Atom’s 10 kids, one of whom, Mike Greenstein, is still performing feats of strength today into his 90’s!
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
he land down under has had its fair share of great strongmen and one of the most well known was Don Athaldo from New South Wales. Athaldo (born Walter Joseph) overcame a sickly childhood and injuries incurred during World War I to become a circus strongman. Athaldo had a flair for performing, often donning tiger-skin outfits, gladiator boots and a fiery red cape. Athaldo performed a number of unusual feats, including carrying a horse up a ladder with the use of a harness and supporting an automobile in the “leg press” position. Athaldo also wrote a number of training courses which were very well received.