Believe it or not, strength “machines” have a history that goes back even further than barbells and dumbbells. This “Semi-Circle Strength Developer” was manufactured by Spalding in the late 1890’s. This was actually a fairly common style of machine and several different companies had their own version.
What is lost upon many people is that “machines” have as much of a history with strength training as barbells and dumbbells do. Shown here is an interesting piece, The Spalding Grip Machine, circa 1914. This looks like a very well designed machine, one that would be just as effective (and important) nearly a century later.
Here’s an interesting one from days-gone-by: The Spalding Special Friction Wrestling Machine, or, in other words, two long handles attached to a friction brake. For combat training purposes one would bend or pull this way and that, with resistance of course, focusing a great deal on the muscles of the waist and trunk (what they evidently call the “core” these days.) This might even fall under the “functional” training designation today. Regardless, I’d say this design has many interesting possibilities. By the way, the $12 price tag would equal over $300 in today’s money when adjusted for inflation.
A look at a vintage Indian Club training course, put out by Spalding about a hundred years ago. The Spalding Company put out dozens of similar booklets highlighting tips and techniques for the many types of equipment they featured in their catalog – Indian Clubs obviously being among them.