Joe Roark's

The HUGE library of Iron History compiled by Joe Roark.


Welcome to Iron History with Joe Roark!  

Joe Roark has been studying the iron game since 1957, and by 1970 began a systematic gathering of information on index cards. By the time his first computer was acquired, there were several hundred thousand references to be typed into it.

For a few years he published his own newsletter called MuscleSearch: The Roark Report. By 1992 he was appointed as the IFBB Men's Bodybuilding Historian, and began writing about history for FLEX in his column Factoids. For ten years he contributed to Iron Game History from the U of Texas at Austin. Recently he also began writing All Our Yesterdays for FLEX.

His passion has always been the period between 1880 and 1920, with particular emphasis on the oldtime strongmen of that era. Joe will be offering bits of history for Cyberpump once per week, and the text will be relevant to the dates of the calendar for those events of yesteryear relevant to the coming week.

In this column, readers will also be able to ask Joe questions or comment on his posts.  Note: The comments are solely for interaction between Joe and the readers only -- not reader to reader.

Iron History March 1-7, 2002

Wednesday, February 27, 2002

Mar 1, 1902 George Hackenschmidt arrived in England and stayed for two years

Mar 1, 1903 Charles A. Hise married Amy Banta (were Joe Hise's parents) Joe was born Aug 10, 1905 in Scottland, IL., though it is now spelled Scotland.

Mar 1, 1936 Peary Rader married Mabel Kirchner in Torrington, WY. Later that year they began Ironman magazine.

Mar 1, 1947 John 'Osmo' Kiiha born. He published THE IRON MASTER from March 1989 thru April 2000 for a total of 29 issues. T.I.M. started with four page issues and ended with 60 pages of well researched and very detailed information, and our sport is poorer with its absence. Many issues would detail the career of a specific lifter by listing contest histories and providing an interview with the lifter. The average reader probably did not realize how much work went into such a publication.

Mar 2, 1912 Prof. Szalay, who was Hungarian, was sometimes called 'The Father of British Lifting'. By this date his financial status was unsound, and several strongmen put together a performance to raise money for him. Max Sixk, Edward Aston, W.A. Pullum, Carquest, and W.P. Caswell staged the show at the Marborough Hall of the Regent Street Polytechnic. Szalay stood 5'5" tall and weighed only 132 lbs.
He lost a court case brought against him by Sandow in regard to grip dumbells, and this loss caused his financial plight. His friends organized this benefit in London without first checking with the proud man. Pullum sought and gained permission to participate because he was an amateur and the others were professionals, and WAP lifted in the Two Hands Anyhow with barbell and ringweight a total of 241 lbs.

Mar 3, 1930 Charles Rigoulot became the first man after Apollon to lift the Apollon Wheels overhead . Rigoulot used a clean and jerk- as has every man who succeeded with the wheels- until recently.
NEWS: On Friday February 22, 2002 at 3 pm in the Convention Hall in Columbus, Ohio, a replica set of the Apollon wheels was on hand as part of the inaugural Arnold Strongman contest. This set weighs 365 pounds and nine ounces, but we shall simply refer to it as 366. Seven men were on hand to try to become the fifth man to lift the wheels overhead: the others being Apollon, Rigoulot, John Davis, Norbert Schemansky.

Unfortunately, whoever provided the notes to Kaz, the M.C., or perhaps Kaz winged it for part of the presentation; whatever, some unfortunate statements were made. To wit, Norbert Scemansky was referred to as Norman. It was stated that Apollon himself had never lifted the wheels. And the audience was not prepped in regard to the rules of the lifting of the wheels.

If a weight is cleaned to the shoulders the bar cannot touch the body on the ascent- that is why the word clean (meaning clear) is used. If a bar is Continentaled to the shoulders then the bar may touch the body on the ascent, and may be rested on bodyparts for a re-grasping and repositioning of the bar. Many Continental lifters employed a large-lipped lifting belt for this very reason- a stopping place for the bar. In this contest for some unknown reason, the bar was not allowed to stop on the belt- but could stop on the abs, near the sterum, or wherever else the lifter selected.

So the attempts began on the 366 pound nearly two inch non-revolving bar. Not in order here are the results: Brian Schoonveld performed a Continental but could not jerk the weight overhead. Phil Pfister performed a Continental, which unfortunately touched his belt; no matter he could not jerk the bell overhead. Svend Karlsen perfomed two Continentals but could not jerk the bell (a two minute time limit allowed as many attempts as each lifter wanted). Brad Gillingham CLEANED the bell twice but could not jerk it. Andy Bolton apparently did not qualify to participate because backstage he had not been able to lift a second set of dis-similar wheels which weighed 325 lbs. Raimonds Burgmanis attempted five times to bring the wheels to the shoulder but could not.

Two men succeeded with the wheels: Mark Philippi Continentaled the wheels then jerked them for a single rep. At 3:20 Mark Henry's chance came. He was announced as 390 lbs in bodyweight, and thus would be the only man in history to outweigh the wheels. He cleaned the wheels and jerked them for one rep. Then sat them back onto the stage and did it again. Then sat them back on the stage and did it again, thus winning the competition. He cleaned them as [apparently] easily as if they had been on standard sized Olympic bar! His three successes had left time for a fourth attempt, but he declined.

NEWS: Saturday February 23, 2002 during a break in the men's bodybuilding contest, several of the strongmen came out on stage to try a hand (literally one hand) at putting an Inch dumbell replica overhead. The replica has a 7.75" circumference handle and weighs 172 lbs. A couple of men could not get the bell off the floor, a couple got it a few inches off the floor.

Jumping to the confusion. The competition was for $1,000, and was NOT a part of the Arnold Strongman show, but a separate task. Only one hand could touch the bell. The money was to be awarded for the highest elevation of the bell with one hand- so, if two men each pulled the bell to knee height, as in a one hand deadlift, by definition, the taller man would win- a glitch in the rules that the organizers may not have anticipated. Anyway, Mark Henry twice pulled the bell to about pec or shoulder height, but in each case his hand was in the position of an upright row- that is, his hand was on top of the bar, and he was in no position to turn it and finish the clean because gravity had an urgent message for those 172 lbs. Nonetheless, Mark won because he pulled the bell highest with one hand.

But in my view, Phil Pfister stole the show, and only a momentary touch of the bell with his free hand prevented him from winning. Here's how Phil tried: He one hand deadlifted the bell to his right knee, and then squatted down so that his right thigh was about parallel to the floor. At this point the Inch replica was vertical, and Phil's thigh, being rounded in this position caused the bell to tip toward his left side, so he for an instant touched the bell with his left hand to balance it. He did not hold it or require more than a moment. Nonetheless this is a rule violation and David Webster gave the thumbs down sign for Phil to cease the attempt. But Phil was having none of that, even if the lift did not count, this audience was going to see a brutish demonstration of strength! Now the crowd was shouting encouragement and Phil 'walked' the bell along his thigh toward his torso. Then carefully standing he kicked upward with his right thigh while pulling/hammer curling with his right arm, AND HE HAD CONTINENTALED the Inch replica. Now the crowd was frenzied! He had the bell at his right shoulder, steadied his position, and jerked the bell to locked-arms-length above his head. The place went nuts!! And even Arnold himself was so impressed that he awarded a $1,000 to Phil also! Phil told the crowd 'Wait till next year, I'll get it!" And we call you sir, sir.

Mar 3, 1941 The 'First Negro Perfect Physique Contest ever held in the South' was won by Ismael Albert,

Mar 4, 1881 Jacques Roumageon born in St. Poursain-sur-Sioule. Unofficially one-hand snatched 15 lbs over bodyweight, doing 202.75 lbs., and squeezed 391 lbs on the Regnier dynanometer.

Mar 4, 1933 Dick DuBois born; became Mr. America in 1954 and Mr. USA in 1957. Later became a minister.

Mar 4, 1937 Julian Schmidt born. An absolutely wonderful man who has been writing and working for Weider for decades. He has a vocabulary that stretches the imagination. I once saw a criticism of Julian that said that anyone could write as does Julian if a thesaurus was handy. So, Julian and I were having supper following the 2001 Arnold Classic, and I asked him what he thought of such a criticism. He softly replied, "I don't have a thesaurus", and went on to explain that he does not like them, that his vocabulary began when a teacher challenged the students to learn new words. He did, and does, and always will, be learning new words. Also, his skill as a writer does not depend only on his vocabulary- he has other skills at editing behind the scenes that most will never be aware of.
Julian is very persuasive. We had earlier eaten at a German restaurant and he was able to convince me to temporarily abandon my my Spartan diet and try a German cream-puff. Oh, mama!

Mar 4, 1967 Carl Hempe and Jettie Peugh were married in Carson city, NV. Hempe is now living in California. On June 10, 1939 he won the medium class at America's Best Physique. In Nov 2000 he described to me the current state of bodybuilding as he sees it, "I think they're going at it the wrong way now. Too much equipment they have to use now. They don't use the old system. It would be better to use just barbells and dumbells. Try the old ways. It has become very commercial, it is simpler than they try to make it now."

Mar 7, 1933 Hermann Goerner two dumbells swing while sitting in a chair, total 200.5 lbs.

Mar 7, 1938 Joe Zimmerman flat on the ground looking up at his brother Dick standing atop a six foot ladder holding a 50 lb dumbell in each hand. Dick then jumped onto Joe's abs. Impressive.

INCH 101: Part 4 Some Memories, Estimates, Guesses, Regarding Thomas Inch:

First a reference frame: Because Inch was born Dec 27, 1881, he turned age one on Dec 27, 1882. but for only five days of 1882, so it is more communicative (if no specific date is offered by history) to refer to 1882 as when he was (mostly) age one. So when Inch moved to London at age 21, then he moved there either the final five days of 1902, or more probably, he moved there in 1903, which is when I place him as moving from Scarborough to London.

Here is a list of the four dumbells which appeared to be identical is size and shape but varied by more than 129% in weight: Inch referred to the 75 lb bell as weighing 'less than 80 lbs', then pins the weight down to 75 lbs. I have been unable to determine the date the 75 was made other than to know that it was before March 1907, because it was on hand when Maurice Deriaz visited Inch to try his hand at lifting the 172.

1897 acquires the 140 pound bell 1902/1903 manages to deadlift the 140 with one hand 1904 acquires the 153 pound bell 1906 acquires the 172 pound bell pre 1907 acquires the 75 pound bell oddly, there is a 'new' dumbell mentioned circa 1930, and I can find no more details about it beyond that it was mentioned. Also there has been mention of a 130 lb bell, but I have found no reference to it. This new bell was puzzlingly referred to as a barbell.

Inch recounts in Health & Strength magazine in the Jan 21, 1922 issue about Deriaz: "One day I received a letter from his manager asking if Deriaz could try the thick- handled dumb-bell, with a view to winning my L100. I agreed at once. Deriaz had heard of it, and he could not see what would prevent his lifting it, especially WHEN I QUITE OPENLY DECLARED THE WEIGHT OF THE BELL" [emphasis mine] This is the only time I have found when Inch acklnowledged that the weight, 172, was revealed to anyone. Are we expected to believe that Deriaz did not inform fellow lifters of the bell's weight?

Deriaz arrived from Paris and Inch tells two versions of the story.

First version: Inch found Deriaz likeable and extremely muscular in the thighs, upper arms and neck, but, "He could not stir the dumb-bell, and after many futile efforts asked that I should show him how." Now, please notice what Inch showed Deriaz: "I picked up the bell and actually carried it round the garden, a distance of perhaps 150 feet!" No overhead. A farmer's walk.

Second version from Strength & Health May 1939. Inch refers here to the one bell at 80 pounds but we learn elsewhere it weighed 75: "I had a practice bell a little lighter [yes 97 lbs lighter] for my left hand and picked up BOTH bells carrying them around a large garden one in each hand; ever after Maurice always gave me a very good word for grip strength." Allow me to guess something here. We know the bells looked identical, with the 75 being hollowed out, so Deriaz shows up at Inch's house, sees two identical dumbells. If he had grabbed the 75, Inch would have said, 'That's my left hand practice bell, the other bell is the Challenge bell." But, what if Deriaz grabbed the 172 first, and assumed the identical bells were of the same weight? Then after he failed and watched Inch pick up both bells to walk the garden perimeter, would not Deriaz have assumed that he was witnessing a farmer's walk with 354 lbs? Again, no overhead lift.

Both these versions refer to March 1907, the same month Inch signed papers to contest against W.P. Caswell for April 20, 1907, which as previously mentioned was the debut to a London audience for the 172. Inch no doubt felt confident after Deriaz failed to move the bell. So we know the 75 also existed at that time.

HELLO LONDON I CHALLENGE YOU: In the May 10, 1930 issue of H&S (23 years after the match) the story is told of that inaugural challenge following the Inch/Caswell match. "At the end of the match I introduced for the first time to a London audience the Inch challenge dumbell." He continues, "The bell did not look very heavy or difficult to lift, and when the audience, mainly composed of strong men (the venue for the match was the German Gymnasium) learned that L100 would be given to the first man to raise the bell overhead, there was a rush to the stage." Inch requires that the bell be lifted overhead to gain the L100, yet we have no evidence that Inch himself had ever overheaded it.

Then he leaves the bell for others to struggle against, and goes to his dressing room, where word reaches him that the audience is clammouring for him to lift it to show that it can be done. "...I went up to the bell and raised it with ease." Overhead, two hand clean, deadlift? He writes in such a way that closure demands the reader assume he lifted it as the audience had been required to. Did he, with ease? Why then in the match with Caswell was Inch able to hoist in the one hand clean only 203.5 lbs on a regular, much easier, one inch diameter bar? There are literally dozens of men who can one hand clean 203.5 lbs these days but do not have a prayer agaist the 172 thick handled bell.

To confuse the issue Inch reveals, "The best attempt was made by a tall man who gave me his name and received a prize." How does one judge the best effort unless the bell left the floor? Yet after this Inch always insisted that no one had ever been able to lift the bell off the floor, and that remained his story forever after, except for the other occasion mentioned in a previous Iron History where two men did not get it very far off the floor, which is to say, of course, that it left the floor. These two men were also removed from the story later. In SUPERMAN May 1941 he recalls "During a period of over forty years [so pre 1901?] it has never once been lifted an inch from off the ground, except my myself..."

TRICKS OF THE TRADE? In S&H May 1939 Inch tries to explain why the bell is so difficult to lift: "I can state right away that it is a combination of weight and a thick handle which, acting together present an almost insurmountable difficulty to the lifters, and many thousands have made the attempt." In some doublespeak he continues, ...and I developed 'will power' and the ability to put forth a terrific effort just for the moment, to an unusal degree." How then could he walk 150 feet around a garden with the 172, or stand addressing an audience while holding the bell in his hand, if the required strength level was so extreme that he could summon the will power only for a moment?

And where was the will power in 1931 when the Pathe Film Company shot footage of him lifting the bell? Again in S&H May 1939 he refers to the 1931 film, but says that the film 'is about to be released'- eight years after being made? In the film Inch is shown, he says, "...lifting the dumbell and bringing up another [dumbell] to make a two dumbbells anyhow of 276 lbs." So if the 172 was employed, the other bell would have to weigh 104, and therefore could not have been one of his other thick-handled challenge bells.

In SUPERMAN May 1941 he remembers: "Only a few years back, when well over fifty years of age, I went into training and lifted it for the Pathe Frere Film Company. I made a supreme effort, got it up after warning that operator that he must make no mistakes as I would never lift it a second time, then put it down with a bang. Judge my consternation when I heard him say, 'Sorry, Mr. Inch, I was terribly interested, I forgot to turn the handle.' I used some language, and it took me several hours before I could get it up again, in fact, I would never have done so if it had not been for Wally May's help with massage, at which he is a past master." Inch turned 50 in 1931, and by that time had lost his ability to summon instant strength. Also, notice that he had to go into training to be able to lift the bell, so how long a period had he been out of shape and unable to lift it? Yet some insist on believing that Inch was able to lift it eighteen years later at age 68 (circa 1949).

Perhaps he had forgotten his endorsement for Bovril in 1929 in which he stated that after becoming tired in trying for a successful lift he drank some hot Bovril and "...I felt a new lease of energy and achieved the record at the very first attempt."


In H&S March 2, 1929 Inch wrote, "I am out for a title before I grow too old amd would like to hear from heavy-weight lifters on the matter, also from your numerous readers. I want to make it definitely clear that I claim to life (sic) more One Hand Anyhow, Two Hands Anyhow, Two Dumb bells Anyhow, than any other British heavy-weight, and on this I base my claim to a title."

Apparently, around 1929 Inch also began holding competitions with his competition bell, not his challenge bell. The competition bell weighed 140 and contestants were required to clean the bell (two hands were permitted) and then repetition jerk it as many reps as they could using only one hand. Not surprisingly, several men were able to manage this imposing requirement. I miss some issues of H&S, and hopefully any of you who may own them can correct or amend the following which stands correct so far as I know from the sources I have examined.

In H&S October 8, 1932 Inch outlines plans for his tour involving a challenge with dumbells (plural).

By 1933 Inch was holding a 'South vs North' competition regarding the 140, but there is a puzzling statement "Mr. Inch gave an excellent lecture, and also ran a competition on his new mystery barbell." New? Barbell? This is one of two references I have seen about a barbell challenge, and frankly, it must have been a mis-statement, because references following this all revert to dumbell. SUPERMAN Nov 1933 was announced as the M.C. at an upcoming event and it was remarked that he may "...possibly run his barbell competition." It is un-nerving that writers for H&S and SUPERMAN would confuse a dumbell with a barbell, but I fear that's what happened.

H&S June 3, 1933 regarding April 27, 1933 "Two special gold medals were won by Mr. Chowles of the Pembroke Club, and Mr. Spacey, of the Greenwich Club, for special feats with the dumb-bell in an endeavor to follow Mr. Inch's example of lifting the bell all the way single-handed OFF THE BELT" [emphasis mine]. This is in regard to a continental lifting belt which was used for a rest stop and repositioning during a lift. The larger the buckle, and this buckle must have been large to accommodate the 140 for a stopping place, the more dangerous the buckle could be as Inch discovered on another occasion during a barbell continental attempt when he inaccurately gauged where the bar was and brought it up under the bottom half of the buckle forcing the top half of the buckle to pivot into his heart area. This is why some lifters would place a thick cloth beneath the buckle- to lessen the 'sharp' impact which of course would work in reverse if you successfully continentaled to the top of the buckle thus forcing the botton of the buckle to pivot into your lower abdomen.

So were two hands allowed to the buckle, from where one hand alone was required to bring the bell to the shoulder? This does not seem to be the case in some of these 140 competitions, but it does seem to be the situation in others. I simply don't have enough source material to make a call.

But Inch "wishes to impress upon everyone interested that it is not the famous Inch Challenge Dumb-bell (retired two years ago). It is a competition bell which can be lifted as Messes. Newman, Chowles, and Spacey have proved." This was a point that Inch again made not too much later in H&S Oct 21, 1933. Apparently the bells were so identical in appearance that onlookers and competitors at first assumed it was the Challenge bell. By March 31, 1934 H&S reported that W. Newman ...has lifted the Thomas Inch Dumbell-(single handed jerk from the shoulders) 7 times in succession. Not the TI Challenge bell but weighed about 140. On Mar 17, 1934 Fairbrother lifted it 6 reps.

The condition was that the competitor had to lift the bell in the same method as used by Inch, and because two hands to the shoulder were allowed, what can we conclude but that is how Inch overheaded the 140?

So at this point we are aware that two dumbells existed, and that makes Willoughby's mention in SUPER ATHLETES bewildering regarding a 1956 incident at Aberdeen, " developed that there was a second Inch dumbbell. somewhat smaller than the 'number one' [i.e. the 172], and weighing 153 pounds. It also had a 2-1/2-inch handle. This dumbbell is said to be (or to have been, in 1956) owned by a Welsh amateur lifter named Tom Fenton, who was formerly a pupil of Inch's". So, wait! This is now the third, not second dumbell, and how is it that those participating at this event were not aware of the events and competitions in the early 1930s? Baffling.

It was this 153 that John Gallagher and Jacobus Jacobs one hand deadlifted in 1957. On a separate occasion Hubert Thomas also managed that lift.

Tom Fairbrother died in 1973; he was an Inch pupil often featured at Inch's lectures and John Valentine, a friend of Fairbrother's who once attempted to lift one of the Inch bells says that Fairbrother "...was never very gossipy on the subject." It turns out that Valentine was trying to lift the 172 because he traced it to David Prowse.

So, there were four Inch dumbells, which either experienced lifters did not see lined up together, or saw a different one on different occasions, and because of their similar sizes, thought it was the same bell. I suspect Inch never brought the 75 out very often because certainly it would have been conquered by many, and would have exposed the fact that it existed. If a lifters fails to move the 140 off the floor, then certainly it could weigh 240 and he wouldn't know the difference (except of course for size in this case).

Question: Has any reader seen the 1931 film of Inch lifting? If so, please contact me.

And: Anyone have any info on whatever happened to Wally May?

Posted by Roark @ 06:33 AM CST

Iron History Feb 22-28, 2002

Thursday, February 21, 2002

Feb 22, 1893
Wilhelm Turk, who in 1898 would become World champion weightlifter in the heavyweight class, on this day performed a two hands Continental and jerk with 331.79 lbs.

Feb 22, 1975
The New Jersey awards dinner was held at Gabby's restaurant, 168 Belmont Ave., in Haledon, and weightlifter Norbert Schemansky was honored.

Feb 23, 1933
The Rochester, New York, Strength Show was held at Art Gay's School of Physical Culture on this Thursday. Art's daughter Gertrude, 13, performed some dance steps, and 9-year old son, Jack, at 81 lbs pressed 35, snatched 35, and C&J 50. Several adult lifters also participated at 252 East Ave.

Feb 23, 1964
At Malick's Gym in Louisville, Ralph Wilson won Mr. Louisville

Feb 23, 1966
Carol Semple was born in Atlanta. She would become known in fitness contests for performing those contorted pushups with calves over her shoulders extending forward past her ears, so that her whole body was above her triceps as she went up and down for the pushups. Semple, right?

Feb 24, 1932
Gene Wells born. Four tries at Mr. America: 1956-17, 1959-22,1963-11,1966-13. Won Mr. North America Nov 7, 1964, and several other titles.

Feb 24, 1951
Roy Hilligenn won Mr. Northern California. Roy was a native of South Africa, which is well documented thru the decades, but in more recent years there have been assertions that he was born in America, but even though he won the AAU Mr. America on June 16, 1951, he was not a citizen, as Health & Strength pointed out in the April 16, 1953 issue. Which makes it easier to understand how he won the Mr. South Africa title in 1946.

What Roy WAS in fact was very strong, around 1958 at a bodyweight of 178 he C&J 320. When he wrote to Strength & Health in April 1945 (from Johannesburg, South Africa) he hoped to someday be good enough to make the cover of S&H. He made it four times: April 1948, October 1951, March 1953, and Feb/Mar 1977, as well as being coverman on several other magazines.

Feb 24, 1993
Chuck Sipes died; born August 22, 1932. We'll have more on Chuck on his birthdate.

Feb 25, 1939
Charles Atlas claimed that after contemplating about how muscular wild cats were, and how they don't really use Nautilus machines, they just stretched now and then, he came up with dynamic tension- pitting one body part against another. He apparently did not notice that the lions also ate freshly killed, uncooked meat, and did not eat regularly. Glad he didn't issue a cook book!

Anyway, on this day a cease and desist order was issued against Atlas and is mentioned in Strength & Health June 1939 p 12.

Feb 25, 1961
Pat Casey would become famous among the bench press fraternity for his 1967 landmark shattering of the 600 pound barrier. He benched 615 while weighing 329. He was also the first man to reach a 2,000 lb total in powerlifting. But it all began on Feb 25, 1961 when at an inter-gym contest he began competing and at a bodyweight of 265 benched 460. His six year journey forever placed him in the record books.

Feb 25, 1976
Although another date is sometimes given, it was on this Wednesday that Arnold posed at the Whitney Museum in NYC. While impressive to those who might frequent such venues, he was not in his best shape by any definition (pun intended).

Feb 26, 1898
Setting the stage: Arthur Saxon had been performing at the Grand Music Hall in Sheffield, England. He was age 19. Also in town, world famous Eugen Sandow was performing at the Empire Palace. Word of Saxon's challenge to any man in the world, with special reference and mention of Sandow, reached Sandow's attention, and on Feb 26, 1898 the 30-year old decided to teach the teenager some manners. Bad move, Sandow.

There are some ingredients to this story- mercury being used in the handle of Saxon's barbell for one ( which was not the case ), but let's not get sidetracked in situations that did not happen.

'Jumping the stage' was a phrase that meant whenever a challenge was issued by the performer on the stage, that a member of the strongman profession (or anyone actually) could literally come up on the stage and try to duplicate or even out lift the man making the challenge. So, Sandow jumped the stage on Saxon. As just mentioned, not wise. Though Arthur was young at this time, the strength that would later put him into a class with no neighbors was blossoming and to show Eugen the mess he had jumped into, Arthur took a kettle-weight weighing 110 pounds to his shoulder, and there holding it with just his little finger, and with a 160 pound man sitting on his hand and the kettle-weight, Arthur bent pressed the whole to arms length for a successful lift. Sandow refused to even try. He was bold, not stupid.

Arthur then shouldered a 180 pound kettle-weight with ONE HAND and Oscar Hilgenfeldt, who weighed 188 sat on it, and again Arthur bent pressed the whole. Sandow refused to try this. At this point the audience may well have been wondering, "Excuse me, Eugen, why did you jump the stage- just want a better view of Arthur's massive strength in motion"? (Please notice: Saxon bent pressed 368 pounds with one hand at age 19 !)

Arthur had a 264 pound barbell which he used for foot balancing and was not used to lifting a barbell with one hand- he mostly used kettle-weights and other bells. But Sandow insisted, so on his second attempt Saxon succeeded in bent pressing the bell. Sandow required five attempts and could lean away from the bell to the low position, but as strength fans know, the lift was not complete until the man stood erect with the bell on extended arm overhead. So Saxon won, and advertised that fact, which of course did not enhance Sandow's box-office appeal. Saxon, after all, had performed two lifts which Sandow would not even TRY, then Saxon made a lift he was not used to, and Sandow, who was used to the lift, could not match it even after 5 tries.

Later, Sandow sued Saxon for misrepresenting what had happened, and in a marvelous example of blind 'justice' the judge, not understanding the rules of lifting deemed that Sandow had lifted the bell overhead, which of course is true, but the judge did not see as material the fact that Sandow did not stand erect with the weight. And Sandow who later came into possession of the barbell in question argued that quicksilver or some other substance in the bar gave an unfair advantage to Saxon. It was eventually found to contain sand, but by that time an unfair judgment by an ignorant judge had already ruled in Sandow's favor.

Saxon would go on to setting records in one handed lifting that have not yet been surpassed. Sandow would go on with his 'performances' and though a very strong man, was not at all in Saxon's class. One suspects Sandow thereafter experienced a case of stage-fright if Saxon was already on the stage, because he knew in his heart that Arthur was his superior.

Feb 26, 1939
Warren Lincoln Travis was called by Ray Van Cleef 'The Dean of American Strongmen' and on this date an affidavit was signed by several witnesses attesting to some of WLT's (as he was called) lifts done on this date, which was also 5 days after his 63rd birthday. The feats attested to were: tearing together two phone books whose total pages were 1,604, and lifting off the floor with his teeth 300 lbs. This of course, to newcomers wondering whether Travis bit the barbell, involved a mouthpiece attached to the weight. (oh, and no, there was not a division called a tooth lift, for those who neglected dental hygiene). Okay, back on track: his greatest feat was a backlift which the affidavit describes thus:

"I lifted on my back 1000 pounds one thousand and nine times in 26 minutes..." and then, whatever this means, "This lift was made on a tested 1000-pounds Capacity Fairbanks Platform scale with Weight Lifting frame." I don't have a clue what that means, but it impressed authorities such as Anthony Barker, and George Weaver enough to sign as witnesses. Could it mean that he raised up under a frame while standing on the scale, thus forcing the scale to register 1,000? Help me out here! (anyone with further understanding on how this was done? However it was done, it involved one rep every 1.5 seconds on average. Though I suspect it was done in spaced rapid sets allowing for rest)

Feb 27, 1906
After a glorious life in strength which earned him to be named by Prof. Desbonnet as one of two of the world's strongest men, Louis Cyr on this date had a strength contest against Hector Decarie. It was an unfair challenge because Louis was 43 years old and Hector 26. (Leo Gaudreau mentions that Cyr was 44, but that is not correct)

Decarie had everything to gain and Louis nothing, by participating in the match to be staged in Montreal at Sohmer Park where Cyr once resisted the pull of horses.

Each man chose four lifts. And each man scored four points resulting in a tie, with Cyr retaining his title, but no doubt partly to avoid another challenge by a young man, Louis declared Hector the new champion, so challenges would be issued to him.

An analysis of the lifts shows that Decarie won those that required balance, while Louis was superior in brute strength moves, as was evidenced by the final of the lifts: the backlift. 2,879 lbs was the amount, and years earlier Cyr would have almost have taken this amount for granted but his health was not what it once was, nor certainly were his years as few as they once were, but Louis showed the crowd what massive strength was, and lifted the platform. Decarie failed in the lift, as he did in his composure when, in spite of being the champion, Louis transferred the title to him as a badge of honor.

Thus Louis who had been considered by his fellow Canadians as The Strongest Man in the World since 1891, relinquished his title. Decarie held the title for many years, defeating Wilfred Cabana in 1920 and apparently retired holding the title. Decarie later claimed a backlift of 3,640 lbs which is extremely doubtful. He was 5'6" in height and at his heaviest 195 pounds. Decarie died at home in Montreal in 1954 on June 30 at age 74

At the time of the Cyr/Decarie match, Willoughby estimates that Cyr was only 66% of his former, younger, strength.

Feb 27, 1911
Jospeh Curtis Hise had a sister with the nickname 'Boots'. Her real name was Beulah and she was born on this date. She married Montel Torbit and they had a daughter named Barbara with whom I spoke in 1986 and gained valuable information about Joe Hise, whom everybody in his home town of Homer, Illinois called Curt, which was short for his middle name Curtis.

I spoke to the couple that purchased the former Hise home in Homer at 706 S. Church Street- it was demolished in 1981 but I saw where it stood when Curt lived there and propped those tree-branch-power-racks against the back shed. The couple who bought the land felt sure they had an old photo of the Hise house, but were unable to find it, though I did buy Hise's autographed copy of SUPER STRENGTH in which he lists his measurements circa his high school days. I also have a copy of the ONLY family photo showing Curt with his parents and siblings, and had, though I cannot now find it, a 45 second to one minute film showing Curt circa 1946 juggling the kettle-bells that Andy Jackson made for him. Also bought the Jackson 1-A set of barbells that Andy Jackson remembered making especially for Hise in the early 1950s. I no longer have this set.

Beulah died in 1970. Curt died on Spetember 27, 1972 according to his death certificate, not on the days that have otherwise been reported.

Feb 27, 1911
Oscar Heidenstam born. He would become the Bob Hoffman/Joe Weider/Robert Kennedy of British bodybuilding. There is now an awards ceremony each year on the third Saturday of March named in his honor. Oscar died March 21, 1991.

After George Greenwood stopped writing the 'Bodybuilder's Forum' in Health & Strength magazine, Oscar took over with the Feb 19, 1953 issue and wrote it until at least April 18, 1963 (my collection of H&S falters so can anyone supply more details?). He also began writing NABBA Notes on April 12, 1956, and Bodybuilding For Beginners on Sep 15, 1955, and The ABCs of Bodybuilding on Jan 10, 1963, as well as hundreds of other articles thru the decades.

In 1939 Oscar won The Best Developed Man in Europe.

Feb 27, 1992
Paul Anderson was honored as strongest man of century. Anderson was one of the most amazing success stories in American lifting, but his weightlifting records have been surpassed literally hundreds of times, so it is puzzling how in 1992, it could be deemed appropriate to attribute an award for strongest man of the century, when almost a decade was left in the century which had already seen his lifts frequently surpassed.

Following more modern weightlifting is not my strong suit, but correct me- and I am sure you will- if wrong, but Paul's best official press was about 409 lbs and Gary Gubner pressed 412 in 1965. Paul's best snatch was 335 and Norb Schemanksy snatched about 344 in 1961. Paul's best C&J was 440 and Dave Ashman C&J 444 in 1960. Since then all those records have continued to be elevated.

No doubt the award was based on Paul's unofficial lifts such as a 6,270 lb backlift, which we now know could not have exceeded 5,070 since Paul's daughter had the safe that was used in the backlift weighed, and it weighed approx 2,300 lbs and not the 3,500 lbs that was used in the totaling for the backlift. It is my view that the given weight for the platform upon which the weights were placed was too high. In Paul's first bio the paltform was described as over 1,000; in his second bio, the weight given was about 1,800 lbs. Adding 1800 and 3500, yields 5,300 lbs. So if those two ingredients were accurate, then less than 900 lbs of additional weight would be needed for the 6,270 lb claimed total.

Remember that when on May 27, 1896, Louis Cyr lifted 18 men on a platform for a total backlift claim of 4,300 lbs, that the platform used on that occasion weighed only 255 lbs. (yes, 255) And that it needed to be big enough for a dozen and a half men! So, speculating here, if Paul's platform weighed 500, then the backlift must be reduced by another 1,300 lbs, ending with a lift of about 3,770. The platform is long gone, but one does wonder why the platform would have had to weigh about 75% as much as the safe sitting dead center over his back on it.

But, if percentage of bodyweight lifted is not factored in, then certainly Paul, simply by amount of weight lifted was very strong, and in regard to squats without wraps and special clothing etc., he was so far ahead of the other lifters, as to be laughable, doing repetitions in the squat with 700 or 800 at a time when no one else could do a single rep with that much. In my view, we have not seen his equal yet so far as walking into a gym, loading on 600 or so pounds for the WARMUP set, explaining that the first few reps would not be very deep until he got warmed-up, and then knocking off a set or two with a weight that would literally stop anyone else on the planet from matching. His feet were not spread three feet apart, his blood was not saturated with half the local pharmacy's steroids, and he was not wrapped in enough clothing to sew into a suspension bridge. He was truly raw, even sometimes, barefoot. York made a special 2" bar for him to squat with. He did not have to 'peak' for weeks to accomplish these squats- he could almost summon the power needed at will.

It was as though a sprinter ran the 100 meters in 8 seconds or a pole vaulter soared 25 feet. He WAS that much stronger in the squat.

Now that the century in question is completed, it would be appropriate, to call him the strongest raw, repetition squatter for that period.

Feb 28, 1933
Ray Schaefer born. How good was he? When he posed March 18, 1956 at the Mr. Northern Indiana, "Many of the old-timers at the meet said that now he looks better than Grimek." That was shortly before he won the 1956 Mr. America, and the 1956 Mr. Universe. Ray wrestled for a while under the name Samson. I spoke to Ray back in 1987 on Feb 4. Sadness had enteered his life. His son Raymond III was killed when police were chasing a drunk driver and Ray III could not avoid the accident. At that time Ray was working construction and arising at 5am. It seems I heard somewhere that Ray has moved. Anybody know where he is? He would be celebrating birthday 69 today.

Feb 28, 1939
Writer Linda Henry born. Began writing for Muscle and Fitness in April 1991 and continues to contribute. Linda attended Eiferman's funeral Feb 15, 2002.

Feb 28, 1947
The first offical Pacific Coast weightlifting championships for women were staged at the South West Arena in L.A. The judging was done in the same manner as in men's lifting, using the press, snatch, and clean and jerk. The bar used is the bar that Pudgy Stockton still uses these days and was custom made for her in 1944. Her words: " Olympic set in miniature. The bar is six feet long and one inch in diameter instead of a seven foot length and one and a sixteenth diameter. The largest plate weighs nineteen pounds and is fourteen inches in diameter..." "Thus a girl with her smaller hand and less strength can handle the smaller bar with greater ease." Pudgy's husband, Les, (this man SHOULD WRITE A BOOK!!!, great stories) told me on February 13, 2002 that Pudgy's bar used to be a favorite for Joe DePietro because he had small hands. Anyway, Pudgy edged out Winefred Rieneke 340 to 335 in the total to win the event.

INCH 101: Part 3 The 'Famous' Inch Challenge Dumbell; the 172 pound bell:

In the February 22, 1913 issue of Health & Strength magazine in England, the Thomas Inch Challenge Dumbell is referred to as famous. The bell, if my figures are correct, had been in existence for only seven years by that time. The author of the following is not credited from that issue:

"This dumb-bell has become famous as the dumb-bell which no man can lift (except, of course, its owner, Thomas Inch). It has been referred to as the 'lucky' dumb-bell. The M.C. at a recent display was asked to explain how it came to be called 'lucky,' and he promptly replied, 'Well, you'll be lucky if you lift it."

Now notice that the bell may be soon retired from public opportunity: [it was not apparently retired until 1931, then brought out of retirement. And maybe used for WW II factory demonstrations. But by April 8, 1933, H&S was reporting that 'thousands' of men had tried and failed to lift the 172]. But the possible 1913 retirement was announced:

"We hear that it will be in evidence at the weight-lifting meeting at the London Weightlifting Club on Friday, Feb. 28. It is just possible that this will be its last appearance in public and the last occasion on which Mr. Inch will make his different offers to the man who should be fortunate enough to lift it."

The last statement was a reference to the cash that Inch had offered to those who could elevate the bell even inches off the floor. The text continues, and keep in mind the level of lifters who have failed with it, and who is NOT mentioned as having failed with it, among the 2,000 or so men who have "...tried and failed, including among the better known- i.e., the ones with titles- Edward Aston, Maurice Deriaz, W. Harwood, Strongfort (from Denmark, not America), W. Caswell, S. Croft, etc. etc."

Was Saxon among the etc. etc.? If one wished to show the utter challenge this bell was to lift, then why not list Saxon among 'those with titles'? Inch does not mention in print (that I have located) any mention of Saxon failing with the bell until after Saxon passed away. Was there anyone more of a scientific lifter than Saxon? Why was Inch worried about the general herd of lifters if Saxon failed with the 172? Indeed in another place Inch uses Saxon as his brute barometer and says that because Saxon failed with the 172, Inch felt confident that he was safe in offering cash to lesser men.

In regard to the men listed however: :"When the above made their attempts, Mr. Inch's offer was L50 (fifty pounds British money) and L1000(sic) but now that such progress has been made in the science of lifting..." the prizes were reduced to "the man who lifts it in the same way that Mr. Inch does..." or to an amateur "lifting it to his knees". The reward was lowered to L25 for a pro and a similar value clock for an amateur.

A man named C. Maw was mentioned who "It seems for several years [so how long?] Maw has been giving an exhibition with a similar dumb-bell to Mr. Inch's, and for some months has specialized on the lift, and he backs his confidence by traveling a journey of 500 miles (total) to make the attempt." Special mention was made to include Edward Aston in the challenge. (Again, was it expected that some men might be able to elevate the bell a few inches but that Saxon could never get it off the floor? This is insulting to anyone who knows lifting history. Especially in view of the assertion by Inch that Arthur tried for fifteen YEARS and never succeeded, even though Inch himself claims to have mastered it in about six to ten years. If you believe that is possible, then there really is no point in you reading any more of what follows. David Willoughby, strength historian considered it 'unthinkable' that Saxon take a back seat to Inch in grip strength.)

INCH'S TRICK LIFT; ASTON'S COUNTER-CHALLENGE: Aston replied in the March 1, 1913 issue of H&S: "Re: Inch's dumb-bell challenge, I thought I had made it clear that I did not want challenges directed at me for exhibition TRICKS [my emphasis], but Inch is so persistent in this direction that I will accept his L25 offer, and now do so conditionally on his making an attempt to lift a dumb-bell that I shall bring with me." Remember that Aston was in Inch's employ for some time and that Aston had frequent occasion to try all of Inch's four bells, and never could master the 172, so why did he feel confident that Inch would fail one-handed with a dumbell that he (Aston) provided? This was to be a plate loaded dumbell, with standard bar.

Aston continues: "I will lift my dumb-bell with one hand and lower it with one, and will leave it lying there for Inch to follow suit, and shall be glad if he will leave his in a like manner for me to lift." One of the tricks of oldtime strongmen was to lift a lighter, hollow, weight and carry it off stage into the wings, then come back on stage with an identical, but solid weight, and then make a challenge to the audience to lift what they [thought they] had just seen the strongman lift. [This practice began, at least in France with a man named Wolff who billed himself as 'The Rock of Luxembourg' and who Prof. Desbonnet refers to as '...the first to use phony weights in France." Some of Wolff's weights were actually half their claimed poundage.

Two important points in Aston's challenge, in which of course, he knew he would fail with the Inch 172. He was confident that Inch would also fail with the dumbell that he planned to bring. Why? For one thing Aston was better at the one hand clean than Inch, and laid this stipulation as part of his own challenge: one hand up, one hand down, leave it sitting there, no bell switching. Aston made Inch an offer of L50- twice what Inch was offering for success with his bell! Aston was not a fool, and given his years of acquaintance with Inch and the bells, must have felt his money was very safe because of either Inch's weakness, or the stipulation that Inch's bell remain in sight on stage.

Does this not appear to imply that Inch was using two hands to get his bell to the chest? Or that if he were using one hand for the clean then Aston suspected Inch was switching to one of the lighter bells?

Now regarding Feb 28, 1913, H&S covered the event in the March 8th issue: And I admit that this puzzles me because of missing details. Was it two hands? Which lift? The text: Inch "lifted his famous dumbbell without the slightest difficulty. E.Aston, W. Watson, A.C. Maw, and several amateurs, amongst them an Indian gentleman, all tried to lift the dumbell, but none were (sic) successful." That was on page 260. Six pages later Aston relates how Inch claims that he was lifting injured, but still tries to break records. Aston sees this as a no-win situation for himself. If he wins he has defeated an injured man. If he loses 'a cripple will have defeated me'. Aston's strength level as of March 13, 1913 was a one hand clean of 250.5 lbs! And in the November 15, 1913 issue of H&S the published list of Official British Weightlifting Records gives two to Inch (both overhead movements) and a dozen to Aston. Inch lifted it 'without the slightest difficulty'? Which lift? What happened to Aston's dumbell challenge to Inch? Too many missing details. And my collection lacks many of the issues of H&S from this time period. (can anyone fill in the gaps here?)

In the January 17, 1914 issue Aston writes a letter to the editor to demonstrate the extreme measures Inch will take to be recognized as the champion:

"Sir, Lately several references have been made with regard to Inch's lift of 304-1/2 lb, all of which refer to it as a single-handed lift, and it's being described as such is likely to cause confusion with my own single-handed lift of 300-1/2 lb. Inch's single-handed lift stands at 245-3/4 lb.

"His 304-1/2 lb. lift was done by taking the weight with two hands to the shoulder and then bent pressing it overhead. Only those weights lifted all the way with one hand can justly be described as single-handed lifts. My 300-1/2 lb. was a genuine single- handed lift, inasmuch as it was lifted all the way with one hand.- Yours faithfully, E. Aston."

In a monumental example of doublespeak to H&S, the referee of Inch's lift, Mr. Croft 'has described it to us as a single-handed bent press from the shoulder two hands being employed to raise it to the shoulder. It was a single-handed overhead bent press." Anybody ever heard of a double-handed overhead bent press"? THAT would take flexibility!

The point of all this is to show that Inch would stoop so far as to re-name lifts so he could reclaim records in that lift, even though he violated the rules and was not in fact performing the lift for which he seeks the record! Sorta like deadlifting to gain the bench press record...Is it such a surprise that someone who would misrepresent lifts in this way, would also misrepresent which of his four bells he was lifting?

David Prowse wrote to me when I was publishing MuscleSearch, The Roark Report: His letter dated April 17, 1989 from which this excerpt: "...and to be perfectly honest, I am very skeptical as to whether Inch ever lifted the dumbbell successfully himself. I say this because Edward Aston, who worked for him, told me when Inch was challenged to lift the dumbell he ALWAYS [emphasis mine] substituted one of the lighter ones, as they all looked similar."

I am missing most of the issues of H&S from 1914 to 1920, so ignorance is all that I can offer from that period. In 1920, however, Inch tried to make a comeback at age 38. Then in 1921 in the November 26th issue of H&S Inch wrote about some of the strongmen he had known. He mentions that John Grun Marx never attempted to lift the 172, but that Arthur Saxon, who co-incidentally had died three months before this was penned by Inch: "But, on the other hand, Saxon was even stronger than Marx, and had a huge hand and was also used to lifting thick bars; and, as he could do nothing with my dumb-bell, I fail to see where Marx'schance came in."

Marx's chance came in because he had deadlifted the 226 lb Desbonnet dumbell which had a handle of 2.36" instead of the 2.38" of Inch's 172 bell. The diameter is not a factor when 54 pounds less is being lifted on a bar only .02" thicker! And remember Inch did not list Saxon among those who failed with the 172 when Saxon was living! Marx had died in 1912. Inch also claimed that the other Saxon brothers, Hermann and Kurt repeatedly failed with the bell. Inch added that the Saxons had a bell similar to his made, and took it on tour offering money to anyone able to lift it. The Saxons mastered their own bell but when they returned to try Inch's 172 after the tour, they all again failed. Isn't this wonderful fiction! Arthur's hand length at 9" would have negated the thick handle, and his hand width, we now know, was not a hindrance. In my view, Saxon would have handled the 172 with success.

Marx's hands were 8.5" long. Other feats ascribed to Marx show that he would have lifted the Inch 172 if given a chance; to wit:

Marx one hand snatched 154.25 lbs on a bar whose diameter was 2.75". (much thicker than a modern 12 ounce can of soda or beer) And Marx himself offered for challenge a couple of dumbells, whose weights were 132 and 143 lbs, each bell having a handle diameter of 2.75" which was wrapped in metal foil to make it even more slippery. It is generally conceded that Marx was second only to Apollon in all round hand/grip strength. The 226 lb bell with 2.38" handle that Marx could deadlift with one hand, Apollon tried to snatch with one hand, but lost his grip as the bell was going overhead and the bell landed (not rolled) several feet behind him. Marx, and Apollon, whose hand length was nine inches, would have toyed with Inch's 172.

Regarding Marx, Inch wrote, "Personally, I don't think he could have lifted it, though I remember Pevier once told me that he would have swung it." The reference is to 'The Swing' lift, in which one could always lift less than in the clean, so Tom Pevier meant that Marx would have had no difficulty in cleaning the 172.

For reference, here is a list of those who tried and never tried, to lift the 172:

Those who Inch claim failed:

Maurice Deriaz
Strongfort (Denmark)
Edward Aston
Harold Wood
Max Sick
Monte Saldo
Hindoo wrestler 6'6"
Wilfred Diamond

Those who never tried:

Primo Carnera
John Grunn Marx
Leon See
Jim Pedley
Louis Cyr
Vansittart (Vansart)
Saxon (belongs in this list in my view)

As any strength fan knows, the 'never tried' list contains the very names of the strength athletes MOST LIKELY to succeed with the 172! These were the grip masters of the day.

Inch's deliberate confusion regarding which bell was being lifted would return to haunt him as we shall see in future installments.

Posted by TheEditor @ 06:09 PM CST

Iron History Feb 15-21, 2002

Wednesday, February 13, 2002

The original purpose of this column was to offer calendar-related bits of history. Usually, more information will be given on the birthdate of a given lifter. Some readers have asked for more fully expanded stories, and fewer blurbs. I will try to accomodate that request, but for the next few weeks will be concentrating on explaining in detail the results of my investigation into Thomas Inch and his dumbells. We will entertain a Q & A section if you wish. My time is limited but if the info is handy in my files I will offer an answer simple questions. By that I mean that questions such as: "Who was the second lifter to set a clean and jerk record on a rainy day in Paris after having just healed from a cut lip." will not be entertained. Thanks!

NEWS: George Eiferman, Mr. America 1948 and IFBB Mr. Universe 1962 passed away on Tuesday, February 12, 2002 at 6:30 pm. Memorial and funeral service will be held Friday, February 15, 2002 with burial at Veteran's Cemetery in Boulder City, Nevada. George had lived in recent years with his ex-wife Bonita who tended to him as his heart problems worsened. I met George at Bonita's house in Las Vegas and George was inducted into the Weider Bodybuilding Hall of Fame in the February 2000 issue of FLEX. George was a wonderful person, a champion bodybuilder, and an ambassador for the sport who literally drove all over the 49 contiguous states speaking to assemblies of high school students. His smile was a perfect match for his sense of humor which never left him. George was born on November 3, 1925.

Feb 15, 1861
Martin 'Farmer' Burns the famous wrestler born; died 2-9-37

Feb 15, 1887
Charles A. Sampson in Detroit backlifted a canon

Feb 15, 1892
Eugen Sandow bent pressed 269 lbs right hand on a barbell consisting of several various weights hanging from it on a chain.

Feb 15, 1902
George Hackenschmidt did 50 reps in the Hack squat with 110.25 lbs and did a crucifix with 90.25 lbs in his right hand and 89-1/8 lbs in his left hand.

Feb 15, 1933
Weightlifting exhibition staged in Harrisburg, PA., by the York team. Dick Bachtell, who had totaled 555 in the Olympics, and 572 in the Nationals, managed a personal best of 601.5 total for the press, snatch, and clean and jerk.

Feb 15, 1941
The Mr. New York City contest included two facts not seen in current summaries: Each contestant's address and measurements. Winner Frank Leight, aka Frank Stepanek, had his arms measured at 17" by Jack Carton. Take a tape measuring tape to a current bodybuilding show and ask for proof of claimed measurement and see how huge brutish men become painfully shy...

Feb 15, 1942
British weightlifter Jim Halliday becomes a P.O.W. on this date.

Feb 15, 1944
Joe Douglas Dube born in Altha, Florida. His best official olympic lifts would later be: Press 464.75, Snatch 369.25, C&J 473.75, Total 1300.25

Feb 15, 1948
Alan J. Paul born. He has worked on several bodybuilding magazines. The Bodybuilder, Muscle & Bodybuilding, Muscle Up, Sleek Physique, Muscular Development (Mar 1989-Apr 1996). Is now involved in other publishing ventures.

Feb 15, 1953
Peter B. Cortese one hand deadlifted 359.5 lbs at 117 lbs bodyweight. IRON GRIP, David Horne's grip magazine featured Cortese in the Jan 2002 issue.

Feb 15, 1955
One of the nicer ladies in bodybuilding, and a former powerlifting champion, Bev Francis, was born. A warm-hearted lady of class.

Feb 15, 1969
Mr. Muscles: 1. Joe Sasso Feb 15, 1969 Mr. Hercules: 1. Len Bosland Feb 15, 1969 Mr. Denver: 1. Roger Long

Feb 16, 1897
Robert B. Snyder born. Was a pupil of Alan Calvert. His article on the 'Tiger Bend' prompted Sig Klein to train until he mastered the feat. Later Klein would defeat Synder in lifting, but Sig always spoke highly of Snyder who died Sep 17, 1978.

Feb 16, 1936
John Grimek bent pressed the 209 lb. Rolandow dumbell. The whereabouts of this bell remains a mystery. The Rolandow barbell is in the York Barbell Hall of Fame, but the dumbell has vanished. Any leads to it will be appreciated. A suggestion to those who have not yet visited the York Barbell Hall of Fame: it may be a good idea to visit soon...while it exists...

Feb 16,___
Lonnie Teper, writer for Ironman magazine. Lonnie declined to tell me his birth year. Teper began writing in various magaziones with the following issues: Sports Fitness, April 1985; Muscular Development, December 1987; Flex, September 1984; Muscle & Fitness February 1984. His current News & Views column began in January 1987. He also emcees many bodybuilding shows.

Feb 16, 1984
Walter Podolak 'The Golden Superman' died. Was known as a wrestler and lifter, but competed in the 1975 WBBG Pro Mr. America Over 60 and won it.He was born in either Aug or Sep on either the 18th or 19th in 1909. (Have found both dates)

Feb 17, 1917
Joe Nordquest on back with barbell, bridge 388 lbs using no belly toss. This surpassed Saxon's 386, though the 19" diameter plates Joe used made the lift easier to get into position with than the 11" diameter plates Saxon used.

Feb 17, 1934
Harry Good weighing 172 lbs performed a two hands any how of 300 (301.5) in York, PA., at the gym on a usual Saturday gathering. He lifted 230 lbs with two hands, transferred the bell to one hand, reached down and grabbed a 71.5 lbs kettlebell and pressed it overhead for the lift.

Feb 17, 1940
John Grimek Continentaled 320 lbs and then pressed it.

Feb 17, 1968
James Morris won Mr. Eastern Shores

Feb 17, 1968
Ed Corney won Mr. Northern California. Corney is the man about whom Schwarzenegger says in the movie PUMPING IRON, "Now, THAT'S what I call posing."

Feb 17, 1968
The third annual Mr. Denver was won by Dennis Yahlich

Feb 18, 1892
Louis Cyr jerked with two hands, 301 lbs.

Feb 18, 1895
Karl Abs died. He was NOT named for his best bodypart! For reasons other than forearms and legs, Abs reminded Prof. Desbonnet of the Frenchman Apollon. Abs was only age 43 when he died of typhoid fever. Unfortunately, legend replaced facts after he died, and he has been credited with inflated capabilities, although he MAY have been the first GERMAN to Continental and jerk 330 lbs. He was born Sep 12 (or 17th?),1851.

Feb 18, 1962
Julie Strain born. Though more recently known for some of her Andy Sidaris movies, she was featured in Natural Bodybuilding magazine in the early 1980s and placed 5th at the Ms. Natural America. To my knowledge, her last appearance in the bodybuilding mags was March 1984 when she modeled some fashions for STRENGTH TRAINING for BEAUTY magazine.

Feb 18, 1968
The inaugural WBBG [World Body Building Guild] Testimonial Dinner was staged and Sig Klein was honored at the Granada Hotel in NYC. Bob Russell was the emcee.

Feb 19, 1892
Louis Cyr tried to bent press 273.25 lbs in London, but the bell touched his leg (which in a contest was a disqualification).

Feb 19, 1898
Ernest Edwin Coffin was born in Terra Haute, IN. Became knowledgeable about Eugen Sandow and wrote about him in YOUR PHYSIQUE from Aug 1944 to Aug 1946 in a dozen articles. Before that he wrote about Sandow in THE SUPERMAN in 1939 and 1940. He also became quite a Sandow collector before dying June 28, 1954.

Feb 19, 1960
Thwarted date for Paul Anderson's boxing debut. Both Anderson's boxing and wrestling careers were very short-lived.

Feb 19, 1968
George Hackenschmidt died; born 8-2-1878. We will say more about Hack on Aug 2 later this year.

Feb 20, 1900
Tom Pevier right hand clean and bent press of 220. 5 lbs at the London Weightlifting Club 9, Argyle Street.

Feb 20, 1960
Doug Hepburn, whom Peary Rader suspected was the match of if not the superior to, Paul Anderson in upper body strength, pressed 423 lbs in Everett, WA. at a bodyweight of about 285 lbs.

Feb 20, 1967
My friend Bryan Frederick and I were at the Arnold Classic some years ago. In a restaurant having breakfast, we noticed Bill Pearl and went up to introduce ourselves. Bill had, many years ago, responded to a letter to Bryan's brother offering training tips, and Bryan reminded Bill of that. Frankly, Bill had done this so many times for so many people that he did not recall this specific letter, but Bryan's brother had never forgotten the kindness. Another person who is well acquainted with Bill's pleasant side is Judy, his wife, and they were married 35 years ago today.

Feb 20, 1971
Mr. Pacific Coast: 1. Chuck Amato

Feb 20, 1986
Jason Horne born to David Horne and Marie Davies. Jason is on track to follow in his father's hand strength lineage.

Feb 21, 1898
Arthur Saxon was performing on this date at the Grand Music Hall, Sheffield, Yorkshire, England. Saxon at this time was 19 years old, and he had issued a world wide challenge to anyone to compete against him in strength, and he took care to mention Eugen Sandow by name. A challenge Sandow would suddenly accept about a week later. More on this in next week's Iron History.

Feb 21, 1933
Hermann Goerner performed a snatch with 220.50 lbs using only the thumb and little finger of each hand. Grab hold of a broom handle using this grip and have someone pull against you. This was an incredible feat! Try to deadlift this much using this grip.

INCH 101: Part 2 Hengler's Circus/Apollon/Padoubny and the 172 Challenge Dumbell.

CONFUSION: So much conflicting information has has been written about Thomas Inch and his 172 lb challenge dumbell that the amount of inconsistency is almost baffling. For the same incident, details vary in important nuances. Those readers aware of only one or two accounts may have found consistency among details, but those who have read accounts spanning decades will find it harder to untangle than Crystal Gayle's hair in a wind storm.

Thomas Inch retold the story of his 172 in the American magazine Strength & Health in May 1939: After he left the bell at Hengler's Circus in London, "I did not go near the place for two weeks when I visited again with my friend Arthur Saxon, whose idea it was, and we asked who wanted the L200." It so happens that the wrestling championships going on at the time at Hengler's also offered a first place prize of L200. Inch continues his story indicating that some of the other wrestlers had also tried, "With one accord they all said no one could lift the d--d thing and invited me to try, which I did, carrying the bell out of the arena to a waiting hansom cab outside." [no overhead lift, and this would have been the perfect time to demonstrate to the wrestling community that even though none of them could get the bell off the floor, Inch could put it over his head. That did not happen.]

As an example of misinformation, look at Norman Miller's account of this same occasion when Thomas Inch left the 172 at Hengler's Circus, London, as recounted in Strength & Health magazine April 1936, starting on page 11.

Miller wrote that Inch "had a very neat little dumbell of 250 pounds or so, with a handle so thick "that no one but Inch could lift it". Actually Inch had another bell which weighed 153. But that is not the bell that was left at Hengler's. So even if the 250 was a typo for 153, the wrong bell was being described.

Miller wrote that "With Hengler's Circus, the famous Continental show that was visiting London at the time, was Ivan Padoubny..." Hengler's Circus was not a travelling, visiting, circus, it was stationed in London. Years earlier other cities also had housed a Hengler's Circus branch. Ivan Padoubny was not 'with Hengler's'- he was competing in the Titan's Tournament wrestling championship that was taking place at the Hengler's permanent location.

Miller wrote that Inch left the dumbell, implying a 250 pound dumbell, with Padoubny for Ivan to try to lift. But Inch left the 172 pound bell.

Miller wrote that Inch and Arthur Saxon returned to Hengler's later that same day to see how Ivan had handled the bell. Ivan had not moved the bell off the floor, so Miller writes that Inch picked it up with one hand and walked away. "Needless to say Ivan was a bit surprised and indeed so was Saxon." Really? Why was Saxon surprised? According to Inch, Arthur had seen Inch lift the bell many times. Futher, according to Inch, Arthur himself had tried for years but could never lift the bell. Inch walked to a waiting vehicle, so however far this farmer's walk with the 172 was to that vehicle, it must have been an impressive feat. If it happened.

One more factor: We know that Inch presented his 172 to a London audience for the first time on April 20, 1907, which fits the scenario. This was the day that Inch defeated Caswell in lifting. Perhaps Inch introduced the 172 elsewhere- though I can find no reference to that happening- but we know that April 20, 1907 was the first time the bell was shown to the public in London. And one other important point about which almost no one with any lifting knowledge or experience will argue (hopefully): Any lifter can clean much more on a standard diameter bar than on a 2.38" diameter bar. One of the lifts contested was a Two Hands Clean and Bent Press. Inch managed 235 pounds, and failed with 271. Now, on the ONE HAND CLEAN and bent press, Inch managed 203.5 pounds. As anyone with any experience at thick handled lifting will tell you, if you can clean only 203.5 on a standard (1") bar, there is no way you can clean 172 pounds on a 2.38" bar. (assuming you have average sized hands; and Inch claimed smaller than average). Probably no way you can clean 140 pounds on a 2.38" bar. So if Inch lifted the 172 on this occasion, it was a one hand deadlift, not a clean, and the contemporary accounts say nothing about a clean, or an overheading of the bell, just that he 'lifted' it. Inch claimed to have invented the one hand deadlift at about the time World War I began, so perhaps that's why the thick handled bells were described only as being 'lifted'. Notice please, not 'lifted overhead'. The bell was 'picked up' and carried at Hengler's.

APOLLON/PADOUBNY: Thomas Inch wrote in Health & Strength magazine in the January 28, 1922 issue about Apollon: "When I met him he was past his best..." So when would that have been? Apollon was born January 21, 1862 and David Willoughby, the noted iron historian asserts that Apollon was at his best from 1889 to 1892. Terry Todd, another noted historian offers 1889 to 1897. So, it's fair to say that anytime after 1897 would place Apollon 'past his best'. So let's jump ahead 11 more senior years...

In 1908 three dates become important: February 10, 12, and 18. At that time there was a wrestling championship taking place at Hengler's and both Padoubny and Apollon were there. On Monday the tenth, they wrestled each other to no decision. On Wednesday the twelth Padoubny defeated Apollon, or so the judges called it, but Apollon and many in the audience raised very loud objections, and Apollon withdrew from the tournament. So it was decided that on the following Tuesday, February the 18th that, separate from the tournament, a re-match between Padoubny and Apollon would take place. Again 36 year-old Padoubny defeated 46 year-old Apollon at the Titans' Tournament. Was Apollon 'past his best'?

So near as I can determine, the 172 was not manufactured until 1906 (contrary to popular understanding), so sometime between April 20, 1907 and December 26, 1910 was the Padoubny incident. I have been unable to ascertain whether Hengler's Circus was remodeled and then renamed the London Palladium, or whether Hengler's was razed then replaced by the Palladium. In either case, we must backdate from December 26, 1910 (The opening day as the London Palladium) to allow time for either remodelling or for new construction, so it may be that the window for the Padoubny incident was from after April 20, 1907 to, say, the end of 1909.

So this was the occasion when Inch left the 172 for Padoubny to try. February 1908, when Padoubny tried to lift the bell. Why didn't Apollon try- his 9" long hands and massive strength would have toyed with the bell- as he had toyed with heavier, thick bells?

SPORTING NEWS: SPORTING CHANCE: Some of the information above was from the SPORTING NEWS, a British publication, and a friend sent to me the accounts of the times, which I am reading about 94 years after Thomas Inch probably read those same accounts. It is my belief that Inch read the report, or otherwise became informed of the fact that Apollon had dropped out of the tournament after Wednesday's loss, (and would therefore not be on hand at Hengler's). So I am guessing that Inch took the bell to Hengler's probably Feb 13th or 14th and either left it for the day, or a week as one account says, or for two weeks as another account says. I suspect one day because we know that Apollon returned about a week later and nothing stimulated his strength energy like being told he could not lift something- plus it would have been a way to show superiority over Padoubny. Also Arthur Saxon was performing his strongman show at Hengler's and his show was reviewed on February 22 and mentioned as 'the other night' The wrestling did not begin until 10pm, so Saxon's show was earlier in the evening as part of the program called The Grand Circus Programme. One suspects that Inch would have gone to see Saxon's performance at least once, but how would that fit into the scenario Inch claims about not going near Hengler's for two weeks?

Another possibility is that Inch took the bell to Hengler's after the match on the 18th, if Apollon was to no longer be on hand for the remainder of the wrestling tournament. This would allow for the one week or two week period for the bell to be left. On March 13 Saxon was in Brussels, and I do not know how long he had been there. So, the bell had to be retrieved by Inch and Saxon before then. But we can confidently place this event between Feb 13 and March 13, 1908, for the reasons given above. And my conclusion is probably Feb 13 or 14, for one day only.

Other world class wrestler's were at Hengler's for the tournament, and though Inch does not mention them by name, one wonders if any of them tried to lift the bell. Names such as Giovanni, Hansen, Woldt, Steadman, de la Calmette, Hints, Schoot, Cameron, and Mahmoud were there for that tournament according to SPORTING NEWS. Perhaps it is to these men he refers in his May 1939 Strength & Health article.

If the Inch 172 was not manufactured until, so near as I can determine, about 1906. Inch had previously mastered a regular 100 pound dumbell with normal size handle and ordered another to weigh about 50 lbs more. [again another account says that he mastered a regular dumbell that weighed 140 lbs before he ordered a 'much heavier bell'. But 153 is hardly much heavier than 140 in strongman terms, so he mastered the 100. This is supported by his other abilities in other lifting accounts at the time. Plus, had he mastered the 140 and ordered a bell about 50 lbs heavier, we would have a 190, which never existed.]

JUGGLING BELLS: Many have assumed this was the bell that ended up weighing 153, but in fact it was the 140 pound bell. We know that Inch's inaugural thick handled bell led to the famous unliftable (172) being manufactured later. And since it took Inch 5 years to master the 140 bell, that takes us to 1902 when according to Inch who then weighed only 140 lbs, he could put the 140 lb thick handled bell overhead with one hand. Really? In 1902 when he won Britain's Strongest Youth he could one hand clean and bent press 130 pounds- so are we to believe that he could clean the heavier thick handled 140 at that time? Again, if he lifted the 140, it was what we would now term to be a one hand deadlift.

Also Inch said in MUSCLEMAN magazine in August 1953 that as he grew older and heavier he had other bells (plural) made which were thick handled. If the 153 and the 172 followed the 140, we have the plural explained. But if the 153 was the first bell then what other bell over 153 was there that we don't know about?

W.A. Pullum, writing in Health & Strength magazine on July 10, 1952 recounts how the first bell was made, which keep in mind, Inch said was a 'mistake' with the thick handle. Pullum writes: "He commissioned a local foundry to cast him a solid thick-handled dumbell, giving his own specifications as to size and weight." Inch ordered a thick handled bell and gave specs! It was no accident. Unable to lift the heavy bell at the time of its manufacture in 1897, Inch then suggested to the foundryman that the balls be made smaller, but was informed that was not an option. "He was then in turn advised to have the diameter of the grip reduced to get over the difficulty that way, but to this he was not agreeable, as it was EXACTLY the THICKNESS HE WANTED". [emphasis mine]

Contrast the above paragraph with what Inch had written in Strength & Health in May 1939: "So you will see I had some fun with my bell, made entirely by accident when I was a boy". Inch then adds regarding the design and specs of the bell, "The foreman at the iron factory worked things out for himself." Inch then misleadingly refers to this first thick-handled bell, "That was how the Inch challenge dumbell came into being and it was very many years before I could lift the bell myself. I often thought it was going to prove impossible." In fact this was the first of his challenge bells but not the one that ultimately became famous as THE challenge bell. As a matter of fact when Inch began holding competitions circa 1929/1930 using this same 140 bell it was referred to as the COMPETITION bell, and because several men were able to bring it to the shoulder with two hands and then put it overhead with one hand for REPS, Inch adamantly insisted that this was NOT his famous challenge bell. His trickery had returned to haunt him.

A side point. When Inch referred to how long the 172 had been offered up for a challenge, the time span is too long. But certainly, if men failed with the 140 or the 153 then there was no chance for them to succeed with the 172, so his point, though misleading as to how long the 172 was offered, is valid in regard to the strength levels needed to lift it.

Pullum goes on to explain how Inch eventually overheaded that bell: "...he could raise the bell in one straight pick up to 'end on' rest at top of the thigh. From where, to take it to the shoulder was easy, to put it then overhead, easier still". So Inch used a Continental method, allowing the bell to rest on his thigh, after a deadlift to the knee probably, then kneeling down and shifting the bell higher on the thigh where leg thrust could help raise the bell upon standing. Remember that the British form of deadlifting in those days allowed for a bar rest above the knee, then a repositioning of the body. And please notice that Pullum does not say that Inch used only one hand for the Continental. Indeed, even Inch never claimed to lift his heavy, thick handled bells using only one hand until MUCH LATER, and a photo appearing in Health and Strength on December 21, 1929 page 725 is captioned: "Many readers wish to know how Inch gets his heavy dumbbells to the shoulder. This photograph reveals the secret- a weight-lifting position never before illustrated." The photo shows Inch using two hands to the shoulder in a Continental as his torso is leaning back. Why, by the way, if Inch had demonstrated lifting his heavy dumbells all those years would readers not already be aware of his technique? And why has there NEVER been a photo of Inch with the 172? Circa 1913 Inch had claimed that 2,000 men had failed to lift the challenge (172) bell, and he used to claim that he lifted that bell twice nightly during performances. Would not the word have spread among lifting fans who had witnessed this and told their gym buddies? The fact is, as another researcher said to me, it is surprising how SELDOM Inch and his 172 are mentioned during the very times the bell was supposedly so famous. I also have noticed this. It was not until decades later, when other men began to deadlift the 172, that Inch introduced the idea that he had always done the lift with one hand all the way to overhead.

[In fact, the number of strongmen in those days was not 2,000. Certainly it would be expected that 2,000 'average people' would fail to lift such an heavy object. Indeed, once word spread that men such as Padoubny failed to lift the bell off the floor, what sense would it have made for the average man to even try, except for the conversational "Man, I don't see how ANYONE can lift that bell" aspect?]

Inch knew that even if Padoubny could defeat the aging Apollon in wrestling he most certainly could not outlift him, so in my opinion, Inch carefully selected the window of time to offer Padoubny a chance at the 172. All of this depends on whether Padoubny appeared in a wrestling tournament at Hengler's Circus at some other time than in the 1907 to 1909 period, a situation I have not been able to determine. But also required is Saxon's presence at the time Padoubny was at Hengler's. Right after this incident Saxon turned age 30 (April 28, 1908). But before that the bridge mishap with Saxon in Brussels had happened on March 13, 1908. Then in 1909 Saxon began his first tour of performances in the USA, and so far as I have been able to determine was not in England coincidentally with Padoubny after that. So, it appears to me that the Titan's Tournament in February 1908 was the correct time to place this incident where all factors fit.

next week: More on the 172 and Edward Aston and John Marx.

Your input is welcomed. Can any British residents help with dates regarding the circumstances of Hengler's becoming the Palladium? Or any details of how far a walk it would have been from the wrestler's dressing rooms to a vehicle waiting outside?

Posted by TheEditor @ 05:07 PM CST

Iron History Feb 8-14, 2002

Wednesday, February 6, 2002

A reminder: your feedback with details is welcome. If you notice the name of a person whose whereabouts you know, supplying that info thru the comment button will be appreciated. Or I can be reached through the Grip Page Grip Board:

Feb 8, 1912
On this Thursday Edward Aston presented a lifting display at the Camberwell Club to benefit Prof. Szalay's upcoming benefit scheduled for March 2. The profit would go to the Prof. One of the feats that Aston demonstrated on February 8 was the bent pressing of two barbells at the same time in the same hand; the bells weighed 84 and 56 pounds, for a total of 140 pounds. When the bells were overhead, Aston then used his left hand to pick up a 40 pound ringweight- a feat that W.J. Lowry said he had never seen anyone else do. Try lifting two olympic barbells EMPTY in the bent press to appreciate the grip needed when the bars begin their 'twirl'.

Aston had more to lift. He set about establishing four new Heavyweight records for British lifting:
Right hand Clean and Jerk of 173 lbs. Left hand Snacth of 162 lbs Left hand Clean and Bent Press (devisse) 210 lbs! Two hands Continental & Jerk of 297 lbs. Aston declined to be weighed but Lowry offered 'It is unlikely that he exceeded 12 st.' (168 pounds). Hardly a heavyweight, but Lowry continued that as of May 1950 "...some of the records he established in his career remain unbeaten in the Heavyweight class".

Feb 8, 1922
In David Webster's splendid book THE IRON GAME he offers a quote from a letter written Feb 8, 1922 from Arthur Saxon's brother Kurt explaining the circumstances of Arthur's death. Kurt was German but wrote in English "him catch cold and got something on the lungs, him died within 7 days." Arthur died Aug 6, 1921, so apparently he contracted something at the end of July 1921.

Feb 8,1957
Inger Zetterqvist born; placed 3rd in 1983 Ms. Olympia

Feb 8, 1964
Mr. Jr. Middle Atlantic: 1. John Leach Feb 8, 1964 Mr. Mason-Dixon: 1. Dean Elery Feb 8, 1964 Mr. Oakland: 1. Roy Smith, Jr.

Feb 9, 1895 [probably April 9]
Art Gay born either on Feb 9 or April 9, 1895. He wrote for VIM, the wonderful publication by Roger Eells, MUSCLE BUILDER (not the Weider mag but the Macfadden mag, 1925). But Gay also wrote FOR Weider in YOUR PHYSIQUE in the late 1940s and MUSCLE POWER in the same time period. Gay is the man who started Vic Tanny on the road to iron training. His gym, established in 1919, was at 102-104 Broadway in Rochester, New York.

At age 80 he still working out twice per week. He passed away in early June 1981. [Anyone have the exact date?]

Feb 9, 1911
This was the date that Edward Aston erased Launceston Elliott's Two hands Clean & Jerk record of 265 lbs by hoisting 267.5 lbs.

Feb 9, 1946
At the Brooklyn Central YMCA the fourth Mr. New York City contest was held. Guest posers included Ken Pendleton, Jules Bacon, Frank Leight. Otto Arco perfomed muscle control. One of the judges was George Quintance, the artist. Here are the class winners:

Class A: 5'-5'6": Joe Thaler (spoke to him circa 1998) Class B: 5'6"-5'9" Vic Nicoletti and won the overall

Class C: 5'9"-5'11"Howard Brodsky Class D: 5'11"+ Joe Colosimo
(four days later actor/dancer Gregory Hines was born, and he is a devout fan of bodybuilding.)

Feb 9, 1969
Bob Boyd wins Mr. Illinois

Feb 9, 1989
Henry 'Milo' Steinborn died; was born March 14, 1983 in Siegburg, Germany. Became known for his heavy squats which he placed on his shoulders unassisted by up-ending the bell, squatting down and letting the bar angle down upon his back. In 1937 Strength & Health mag reported that Steinborn had done 'several' reps in the Deep Knee Bend with 408 lbs. in this manner. By 1954 he maintained the power to squat 475 for reps. On his 68th birthday he did a full, unassisted squat with 400 lbs. His most famous was the 552.5 pound unassisted 1924 squat. Not impressive by today's standards? Try it, and remember not to wear any powerlifting gear. He once did 33 reps with 315 pounds!

Steinborn later became a wrestler, and a gym owner at 2371 Orange Street in Orlando, Florida

Feb 10, 1736
David Horne of England, current grip master and a man who knows about hand strength (385 lbs wrist curl for 5 reps, and about a 600 lb table-top wrist curl) and Elizabeth Talbot, who, strengthwise is his counterpart, have written a book about Thomas Topham, titled: Strength Prov'd Thomas Topham, Strongman of Islington. In that book they show the Playbill for the Feb 10, 1736 performance by Topham at the Play-House in the Castle-Yard, which lists the feats he will attempt- bending iron bars, rolling up a strong pewter dish etc. When this book is no longer available you'll regret not buying a copy, so... David Horne, 27 Ingestre Road, Stafford, ST17 4DJ, ENGLAND USA $20 Europe $18 cash. He also published Iron Grip, a quarterly magazine devoted to hand and forearm strength.

Feb 10, 1908
Apollon & Padoubny wrestle to a non-decision at Hengler's Circus. [See Inch 101: Part 2 next week]

Feb 10, 1948
Joe Greenstein age 55 pulled a 25 ton truck by his hair. A friend of mine has a lock of Greenstein's hair (don't ask) and it looks more like steel wool than hair.

Feb 10, 1967
John Grimek and his wife Angela met Reg Park and his wife Mareon at the York airport about noon.

Feb 10, 1968
Mr. Tri-States: 1. Robert Moore Feb 10, 1968 Mr. Olympic 1. Ron Jumper

Feb 10, 1968
David Prowse, then owner of the Thomas Inch 172 lb dumbell took it to the Southeast Britian show and nine or ten men, very strong men, could not lift it off the floor. This was exactly 60 years to the week that the bell had been left at Hengler's Circus for Ivan Padoubny to lift. (more on that next week)

Feb 10, 1971 or 1974?
Lisa Varon born; won the Debbie Kruck Fitness July 10, 1999

Feb 10, 1973
On this date Sig Klein wrote a letter to Leo Gaudreau explaining why he did not think that Eugen Sandow had appeared in New York City before 1893. Sig explained that a man named Montgomery Irving was appearing in those days in NYC as SANDOWE (Sandow with an 'E') and this Irving became known as 'The False Sandow'. Anyway, Sig thinks that many simply mistook Sandowe for Sandow. In a similar way, folks had told Klein that they had seen Sandow in person in America after 1910, when they probably had seen Adolph Nordquest who had been dubbed 'Young Sandow' by Prof. Attila. Sandow in fact was not in America after 1903.

Feb 11, 1897
Roy McLean was born. In Strength & Health January 1960 he co- wrote an article about barbells on campus at the U of Texas in Austin, and five years later July 1965 in the same mag wrote about the olympic press training of a certain Terry Todd. Over the years, Todd and McLean became friends and when McLean died December 6, 1986, his estate provided some funding for what is now known as The Todd-McLean Collection at the U of Texas in Austin. The Collection has moved locations on campus more than once, and has expanded regularly by acquiring complete collections of physical culture mags and books. It may well be the most complete collection of such materials in the world. Those of you who live close to Austin, if you care about iron history, this is THE LIFTER'S LIBRARY OF CONGRESS! IRON GAME HISTORY is a publication coming from the Collection. It is issued very irregularly, but four issues cost $25 and the publication is very worthy. See their website by typing iron game history.

Feb 11, 1898 [for comparative info see Feb 4 item in last weeks Iron History]
On this date another meeting took place at Prof. Atkinson's Institute and it was decided to reduce the number of lifts in a competition to four instead of six, with the aggregate total pounds of the four lifts to decide a championship. The four lifts decided on were: Right Hand Clean, Left Hand Clean, The Two Hands Clean & Jerk with Dumb-bells, and the Two Hands Clean & Jerk with Barbell.

Feb 11, 1950
Bill Cerdas won Mr. New York City over 63 other men. Because of the year, the contest was also known as The Mid Century Mr. New York City.

Feb 12, 1908
Apollon was defeated by Ivan Padoubny in wrestling at Hengler's Circus. [see Inch 101: Part 2 next week]

Feb 12, 1934
Handicap Weightlifting contest at the German American Athletic Club, 190 Third Ave in New York City. Handicap poundages were allowed for a lifter's total. For example, George Petridis in the 165 lb class had a handicap of 100 lbs. So his press, snatch, and clean and jerk of 159.5, 181.5, and 231 were added to another 100 lbs and he was credited with a 672 lb total for second place behind Ray Grabowski whose handicap was only 86 lbs and who thereby totaled 691. By the way, the 100 lbs was the largest handicap in the contest, and the smallest was 10 lbs for Alfonse LeMay.

Feb 12, 1955
Paul Anderson totals 1100 (375-320-405) at the Mr. National Capital contest won by Art Harris, which was held nine years to the day before Paul's father passed away.

Feb 12, 1995
The first display of the Good/Travis dumbell by Lynn Rannels. This was the 2,150 lb huge bell that Bill Good lifted one rep for each of his years of age on his birthday until in his 70s. Fred Howell wrote about Bill in Ironman in March 1981 and there is more info in some paragraphs with photos in Ironman September 1986. This bell is now owned by Rannels and is on display at his spring water company in Adamstown, Pennsylvania. It makes a great photo opportunity!

Feb 13, 1923
Warren Lincoln Travis wrote a letter to Strength & Health magazine regarding this date, and wanting a retraction of a statement made by John Gagnon that Gagnon had defeated Travis at a contest in Augusta, Maine on that date. Travis asserted that there was no such contest, that both men gave only demonstrations, and that Gagnon's claim that he defeated Travis in the backlift is surprising since Travis did not do a backlift on that date. S&H replied that they printed the story as received. Incidentally, Travis was living at 2840 West 8th Street in Brooklyn, New York, when he wrote to S&H. Anybody know what is at that address now?

Feb 13, 1942
John Farbotnik began exercising with weights at Fritshe's Gym; was age 16. After four years of training he won the 1946 Mr. Chicago. Also won Mr. America in 1950 as well as some other titles. John died March 23, 1998. Fritshe is the correct spelling.

Feb 13, 1944
At the All-Girl Weightlifting contest in Grand Rapids, for the Michigan championships, the highest total was by Jean Ansorge at 130 lbs bodyweight at 332.5 lbs.(Jean is still living)

In a side event, Betty Houran won a 'gold' trophy for deadlifting at 132.5 lbs the amount of 350 lbs- which was within ten pounds of Ivy Russell's world record at the time. Harold Ansorge demonstrated the one hand deadlift for the ladies, doing 500 with each hand!

[The contest was called 'All-Girl', and I will not change history to make is politically correct by today's standards]

Feb 13, 1993
Vince Taylor won the IFBB San Jose Pro Show. I include this here as proof of arm measurements. Backstage a few years ago at the Arnold Classic I measured Vince's upper arm, so he was pumped, and had no reservation about having his arm measured for the record (a rarity among the current pros). Flexed, it was 19.75" and Vince has some of the larger arms in modern bodybuilding. Thomas Inch once claimed that his arms measured 19-7/8 and resisted the urge to round the figure off to an even 20". Taylor's arm dwarfs Inch's arm. And Inch refused a cash offer to have his arm measured for proof. Wonder why?

VALENTINE'S DAY Feb 14, 1873
Jim Pedley born near City Road in London. In 1896 he won John Grunn Marx's competition held at Drury Lane. Marx, himself the possessor of some of history's strongest hands, was so impressed with Pedley that he asked Jim to stop by the house for a try at his 300 pound barbell with a 2.5" diameter handle. Pullum rememers that "...Jim made a very good showing with it, succeeding in getting the bell to his shoulders. There, however, he had to confess himself beaten." Does this mean he cleaned the bell? His bodyweight was between 170-180 pounds usually.

In H&S in December 1941 W.A. Pullum wrote an article about Pedley, calling him the Strongest of all Britons. At one time Pedley managed Sandow's Institute in London. Pullum who knew literally EVERY strongman of his day, referred to Pedley as the strongest Englishman he had known. [And Pullum knew Thomas Inch]. It is generally thought that Pedley could have deadlifted the Inch 172 if given a chance.
Another example of his grip strength: standing between two barbells, EACH weighing 250 pounds, and having a handle diamter of 1.5", Pedley would bend down, deadlift the two bells keeping them level as he slowly walked around a full size billards table before gently replacing them at the starting point.
Jim died April 1953 - does anyone know the exact day?

Feb 14, 1910
Annie Abernathy, friend of Joseph Curtis Hise, was born. I corresponded with Annie for a brief time about Hise; She had wonderful memories of Hise, though some of her thought sequences were difficult to follow. For the history of it, here are excerpts from some of her correspondence to me about Hise, whom she, in contrast to the folks in his hometown of Homer, IL., called 'Joe'.

Just this week I finally found this correspondence which has been in storage for quite some time...
From a letter I received Feb 3, 1986: "Here is the painful truth- Joe was a mooch- in order to get 4 or 5 meals a day, he'd visit several homes & all were glad to have him, even us in our poverty."

"Joe repected me as a woman. Rarity with a man's mind."

"Joe was sent as a gift from whoever heard our prayers."

"Joe was unconvinced by his diabetes, and was eating like a pig again, and I thought he needed a doctor's advice..."

From another letter received the same day: "I have a photo of Joe before he left for Idaho and parts there in all his glory of 320 pounds."

"...Joe wrote that he was living almost entirely on lima beans..."

Annie was nearly blind and some of her handwritten longhand is very difficult to interpret.

Feb 14, 1933
In Anvils, Horseshoes, and Cannons, Leo Gaudreau in Volume Two p 161 shows the Playbill for the Feb 14, 1933 Health & Stength Grand Display. On the bill were Alan P. Mead, W.A. Pullum, and Thomas Inch, the latter two offering strength displays. The men's posing would later be called the Mr. Britain contest. The Amazon Girls were 'full of pep', and Ronald Walker gave a lifting demonstration.

Feb 14, 1940
In a sad commentary on the times, John Davis, a black man, and one of America's greatest weightlifters was to appear at the Y in Atlanta- but only the Y that allowed blacks- John had to appear at what was called in the announcement the 'colored Y'.

Feb 14, 1958
Lori-Bowen Rice born. She won the Women's USA championships in 1983, and her first contest (I think) was 1981 Ms. Americana. Her most famous victory was probably at the IFBB Women's Pro World. Her most recent cover appearance was Muscle & Beauty (remember that mag!) in September 1986. She was the lady in the beer commercial (Miller Lite was it?) Last I heard circa 1999 was that she was in Texas.

Feb 14, 1962
Wedding day for Steve Klisanin & Ann. Steve had won the AAU Mr. America in 1955 and the Mr. Universe in 1956. The last I have heard about Steve was that a few years ago he trained some at John Coffee's gym in Atlanta.

INCH 101: Part 1 An Introduction of the basics.
by Joe Roark

Thomas Inch: born December 27, 1881 (and thanks to the research of David Horne we now know Inch passed away December 12, 1963.)

Thomas Inch was born in Scarborough, England, and became Britain's Strongest Youth, then Britain's Strongest Man (BSM). He is now known for what is called the Thomas Inch dumbell. It weighs about 172 pounds and nine ounces, but is usually referred to as the '172'. It's very thick 2.38" diameter handle is the major preventive factor in thwarting would-be lifters of average length hands.

Inch claimed that in his lifetime he never encountered anyone who could lift the 172 from the floor to overhead using only one hand. Even further he claimed that no one could clear it off the floor. He said he had overheaded it literally 'hundred of times' sometimes lifting it twice in the same performance. Inch was well acquainted with virtually all of the strongmen in England, many of whom, he claimed had tried an unsuccessful hand at lifting his bell, and these men included some of the strongest men on the planet. Inch enjoyed explaining that 'none of them could stir it'. Is that true?

Once, in a very old magazine account he acknowledged that one man had cleared the floor with the 172, but thereafter never acknowledged that man's success again, and reverted to saying that no man had ever stirred it off the floor. There was another occasion when referring to the attempts of two men Inch said that neither got the bell 'very far off the floor' which to me means it did get off the floor, just not very high. And Inch mentioned on other occasions that a prize was given for best effort. What does that mean, if the bell did not leave the floor? Best grimace? Hey, I'm a winner!

He offered large sums of money to anyone who could overhead the bell with one hand. At one time the prize money equalled SIX YEARS of Edward Aston's earnings. Aston had worked for Inch and grew quite accustomed to trying to lift the 172, which he bewilderingly referred to as weighing 180, and he acknowledged that he could not lift it. Inch asserted that he also offered (depending on who was in the audience) certain sums for each inch that the 172 was lifted off the floor. Still, no money was ever paid out. When David Prowse (yes, of Star Wars fame) owned the 172, he used to take it to where strong men were known to be (dockworkers etc.) and offer a bottle of whiskey (sponsored by the whiskey company) to any man who could simply lift the 172 off the floor and on to an adjacent telephone book! No one could and the whiskey company knew that failure meant no publicity. So that idea was 'shot'. (sorry)

Even in more recent times no one has taken the bell one handed over the head 'clean'- that is, without the bell touching the body on the upward movement. Bill Kazmeier's lift appears to have been done in the Continental style which allows for body touching on the upward movement to the shoulder.

In the next few months, as calendar dates relevant to Inch's bell roll around, I will examine some of the situations which Inch and others have claimed about the 172- and its triplets.

There were four identical bells, which even Inch acknowledged could not be distinguished except by his inner circle of workers- which must NOT have included Aston, who once shouted from the stage when about to make an attempt on the bell 'Which bell is it!" To which Inch answered, "It's the one I'm lifting tonight".

The bells weighed 75, 140, 153, and 172 pounds. Other weights have been attributed to them, but after studying the matter for almost a year, and looking through hundreds of old accounts, these are the figures that I believe are accurate. It does not help that all but the 172 have disappeared. The 172 is now in America, having been purchased by a collector. But the 75, the 140 and the 153 have vanished, and one can only hope that they were not among the items carried away from the Inch house after being thrown in the dumpster. David Webster tells the story of how he went by to pay his respects to Mrs. Inch, but she had moved. The neighbor explained to David that old exercise devices and large framed photos and posters of strongmen had been discarded and hauled off. Were the 75 and the 140 bells tossed? The 153 probably was not because we can trace its history away from Inch. Were these other treasures trashed? Was this situation similar to when Vic Boff stopped by to see the widow of an old time strongman hoping to buy some of his weights, only to be told that they had been thrown out? Until someone who may possess these items comes along, we may never know.

An aside: As the weeks unfold, I will limit treatment to the days relevant to our calendar-line history, so it may be that some parts of the story will be told out of order and that certain answers you would like immediately will be supplied later. In that regard, if something is supplied here that you think is incorrect please let me know via the comment button. I am NOT interested in opinion, just facts. There would be no need to study history (of any type) if all that mattered was opinion. At the risk of being misunderstood, I fancy that I have looked into the Inch history as much as, and probably more than, anyone else, and have discovered some glaring inconsistencies among the reports and claims. So if you have read something that disagrees with what I present, please anticipate that I may have also read it (900 copies of Health & Strength) and thousands of other magazines, and that I have settled on an answer that was not found in the text you present as rebuttal. On the other hand, perhaps in a magazine or book that I have not seen sleeps the answer. But there are so many discrepancies among the texts that I have read that it would require several very enlightening accounts to filter fiction from fact by opposing accounts.

Next week we will examine the occasion on which Inch left the 172 at Hengler's Circus (where the London Palladium now stands) for the wrestler Ivan Padoubny to try. Apollon was also there. Why did he not attempt the 172, which for him would have quite literally been a plaything? As an example of what the previous paragraph refers to, how long did Inch leave the 172 at Hengler's? Was it one day, one week, or two weeks? Depends on which account you choose. All those times were claimed, and in case you are thinking there was more than one occasion on which he left the bell at Hengler's, then stay tuned.

Facts to ponder: The original Inch 172 has a handle width of 4", and it was originally thought that this narrow hand spacing would prevent a wide-handed man from a fair try. This does not seem to have proven true. Mark Henry, a giant pro wrestler with the WWF had no problem fitting his hand around the bell and pulling it about chest high. The replica bell also has a handle 4" wide, but whereas the original handle is 7.5" circumference, the replica is 7.75" circumference. The relative diameters would be: original 2.38" and replica 2.47". For comparison, a standard soda can is 8.25" in circumference.

Inch claimed to have small hands. But David Webster who knew Inch does not remember Tom's hands as being smallish. There were periods in his life when Inch himself could not lift the 172- his own writing proves this, though that was not his intent of those writings.

One of the main problems in tracing the history of Inch and his bells is that because there is so much discrepancy among his various accounts, the student must choose which version to accept based on other sources, and try to blend fact from the whole picture.

It is an amazing maze as you will see.

Posted by TheEditor @ 05:07 PM CST


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