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.

4/26/13: Before the Iron Rusted A chronology of the 1960s (Part 1) by Joe Roark

Thursday, April 25, 2013

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Posted by TheEditor @ 08:02 PM CST

4/19/13: Before the Iron Rusted by Joe Roark, an Introduction

Friday, April 19, 2013

Before the Iron Rusted by Joe Roark, an Introduction

The January 1957 issue of Strength & Health was the first issue of a muscle magazine that ever resided in my house. A local health food store had back issues for .25 cents which was about half of what I earned for mowing a small lawn in those teenage days. The contents, or at least the Table of Contents of that issue were branded into my mind by repetitive reading so that I could locate anything in the magazine within a few seconds.

In 1970, when a severe back injury forced me to recline within one minute of standing, the required surgery and recovery meant a period of inactivity. So I began filing the 100 or so magazines I had at that time. Computers were a couple of decades into the future so I used index cards. And, as I acquired more magazines, the filing continued. By the time computers came along I had tens of thousand of notations on index cards, so I began transferring the information into databases, with no purpose other than serving as my private index to locate articles. But all this assumed additional value when I was hired to write for Flex magazine in 1992.

Since then, I have over the years, acquired more than 6,000 various muscle magazines, and physical culture magazines and related publications. I also visited the Todd-McLean Collection in Austin and spent a week filing magazines I did not own. Bill Hinbern was kind enough to loan me some magazines to file. As the years linked forward, the obvious influence of drugs formed a fence separating what was called natural bodybuilding from bodybuilding which carried the invisible asterisk connotation of drugs. By 2000, competitive bodybuilder sham bulls had left the game in shambles.

At that point I built other IFBB databases: how old each competitor was on the day of the event, how many contests (with placings) for each man who ever competed in the IFBB. I had similar files for the AAU, WBBG, and NABBA. In short, within minutes I could locate just about anything I needed from my sources. And there are many, many, other files.

I filed in several categories: author, subject, contests, covers, magazine history. This continued until the year 2000 when the Y2K scare alerted me to Why do I Care anymore?
Lifting had become, from my perspective a farce with super clothing, shortened ranges of movement, and judges so lenient that had I competed lifts would have been passed that should not have been - especially if a judge was a friend. What had justified my interest for thirty years could no longer be justified to continue consuming my time. I filed in limited ways for my Flex column Factoids! and to continue contest history as IFBB Men's Historian. But it had become only a job, as passionless as a tree stump.

I was, along with several others, fired from Flex, so I turned my energy toward enhancing my website, writing for, and more recently my ironhistory facebook page. has renewed my interest in at least the period I considered purer than later periods. Were the 1960s really pure from drugs? No, but compared to today they can be considered in olive oil terms as extra virgin. I remain uncertain precisely when my Camelot became a camel lot, but it was, from my biased point of view after the 1960s that the rust had truly become embedded in the very fabric of physique contests.

Even the content of the muscle mags has changed. No longer are lengthy articles welcome, because little Johnny has the attention span of a lighting strike and the comprehension of an oily chalkboard. Details are unwelcome because they require checking. General statements have been promoted to the rank of Five Star General, and specifics and other details composing the blood of an article have been replaced with hurried throw-a-way blurbs of plasma.

So I examined the panorama of print in the iron game and wondered what I could offer that would be new, that would not be a follow-up to anything ever presented to this point. A chronology! And a chronology of my favorite decade the 1960s. So here is what I have composed:

1. Every USA lifting and bodybuilding contest which I could locate, results presented in full. For other countries sometimes full results, sometimes partial results. Each contest report accompanied by all the reading references I could locate so that more information can be found by the curious reader. In addition, in most cases, where the event had been announced as upcoming is offered with magazine issue and page number leading you to the announcement.

2. During the start year of 1960 on the relevant dates, the ages of key members of the game are presented, as well as when that person died, even if it was decades later, so that the reader will know the life span by reading this manuscript. Now obviously, as I type this someone else could have passed away, so this will remain an editable work in my files.

3. Each month begins with an alphabetized listing of the magazines that were available at that time, and who was on each cover. Women are listed in upper case.

4. Births, deaths, anniversaries, milestones are placed in their appropriate places as the decade unfolds.

Caution. There are some errors; some will be my inadvertent cause such as mistyping results. For others, here is a fabricated example: in weightlifting for the four results: press, snatch, clean and jerk composing the total. If 100+105+150 = 365 was presented in the source report I used, we can see the mistake: the total should be 355 not 365. Or should it? What if one of the lifts was under-reported by ten pounds, the snatch was 115 for example. Then the total is correct. But we do not know what component was incorrect! So I present the data as it appeared, but I add a ? to indicate it is not my error in that case.

In bodybuilding, one mag may differ from another regarding placings for the same events. Sometimes points varied, or name spelling varied. If the name is famous, I can correct Bil Pearl to Bill Pearl. If the name was from a local, small town YMCA event I probably did not know the name unless he continued to compete and became better known. There were two men competitors named Joe Dube, for example, - the one the very famous champion and the other who competed only in prison contests at a lighter bodyweight than the champion.

Also frustrating was the occasional practice of using last names only- particularly in local events.

I am so aware of some of these events that I may assume you also may know more than you do. Some of the names you may not have a context for, so it may be better to not dwell on those at this point, move along.

I have also inserted what I consider interesting bits of info. For example on Jan 03, 1960 Mae Jackson (wife of Andy Jackson who made quality barbells) became age 42 and on that same day Alaska was celebrating its first full year as being a U.S. State.

So far as I know my health is good, but being born in 1943 was one factor which prompted me to begin sharing this information in its barest form. I plan to continue working on the 1960s, writing profiles and re-capping lists on contest histories, so that if I ever present this info in CD form, it will be searchable with a click of your mouse. But for now, this format as I day by day recheck what I am presenting.

It would be an honor if you help the effort by pointing out any errors you happen to see. But please provide proof if you want a change to happen in my text. My goal is the truth, not to be known as flawless, which is a fool's journey anyway.

I hope you enjoy Before The Iron Rusted !

(If so, please tell a friend. The installments begin the weekend of April 26, 2013.)

Thank you,

Joe Roark

Posted by TheEditor @ 05:33 PM CST

4/12/13: IFBB Pros Who Were the Exact Same Age When They Won

Friday, April 12, 2013

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Posted by TheEditor @ 06:23 AM CST

4/6/2013: A listing of the IFBB Pro contests starting on September 18, 1965 to 2012 - (Part 7)

Saturday, April 6, 2013

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Posted by TheEditor @ 05:43 AM CST


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