in

The Strongmen and their Incredible Feats of Strength from the Early 20th Century

Circus performers and entertainers more often demonstrated their incredible strength in the late 19th century and early 20th century than competitive athletes. The strongmen and women who competed against each other for prestige and popularity originated in Europe and spread to the United States. Eventually, the bodybuilding culture developed from this.

Historically, strongmen performed various feats of strength, such as bending steel and breaking chains (not to be confused with bench press, which did not exist at the time). These feats required tremendous wrist, hand, and tendon strength, as well as prodigious oblique power. The performers also bent iron bars, did hand balances, lifted weird objects (barrels, anvils, anchors, people), and did various other crazy tricks. Strongmen who stood out from the crowd often performed peculiar or unusual acts, saying they could only do them and challenging other performers.

By the end of the 20th century, the term strongman was applied to someone who competes in strength athletics. Strongman competitions are modern strength competitions in which competitors display their raw functional strength by lifting rocks, toting refrigerators, pulling trains, pulling eighteen-wheel trucks, etc. Below are some stunning historical photos of some of the strongmen of the early 20th century.

#1 A 60-year-old British soldier lifts 500 pounds of man and steel, 1941.

A 60-year-old British soldier lifts 500 pounds of man and steel, 1941.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

#2 A strongman lying on his back onstage, lifting a group of men and the bench on which they sit, 1935

A strongman lying on his back onstage, lifting a group of men and the bench on which they sit, 1935

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

#3 Galen Gotch trains for the Strongman World Championship In New York by being run over by a car, 1920.

Galen Gotch trains for the Strongman World Championship In New York by being run over by a car, 1920.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

#4 Greek boxer and strongman Just Lessis demonstrating his prowess by bending an iron bar around his neck, 1925.

Greek boxer and strongman Just Lessis demonstrating his prowess by bending an iron bar around his neck, 1925.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

#5 Circus strongman Stefan demonstrates his strength by towing a motorcar with his teeth through the streets of Berlin, 1925.

Circus strongman Stefan demonstrates his strength by towing a motorcar with his teeth through the streets of Berlin, 1925.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

#6 Edward Reece shows his strength by supporting a troupe of four actresses while he is suspended between two chairs, 1927.

Edward Reece shows his strength by supporting a troupe of four actresses while he is suspended between two chairs, 1927.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

#7 C. Attenborrow of the Royal Horse Guards, considered to be the strongest man in the British Army, holds a comrade up in the air with one hand, 1927.

C. Attenborrow of the Royal Horse Guards, considered to be the strongest man in the British Army, holds a comrade up in the air with one hand, 1927.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

#8 21-year-old Swansea tailor Harry Pelta, winner of the title of the strongest man in Wales, 1935.

21-year-old Swansea tailor Harry Pelta, winner of the title of the strongest man in Wales, 1935.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

#9 Edward Reece holds up two women with his teeth, 1927.

Edward Reece holds up two women with his teeth, 1927.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

#10 Lewis Clark, “the strong boy,” shows off his back muscles, 1930.

Lewis Clark, “the strong boy,” shows off his back muscles, 1930.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

#11 A 14-year-old calling himself “Boy Samson” supports a 200-pound motorcycle and its rider, 1932.

A 14-year-old calling himself “Boy Samson” supports a 200-pound motorcycle and its rider, 1932.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

#12 J. Rolleano bears the weight of a Citroen car running over his chest, 1932.

J. Rolleano bears the weight of a Citroen car running over his chest, 1932.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

#13 J. Rolleano pulls a truck with his teeth, 1932.

J. Rolleano pulls a truck with his teeth, 1932.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

#14 Tom Joyce, who claimed to be the strongest man in Bristol, shows his strength by having four men pull at a rope tied around his neck, 1932

Tom Joyce, who claimed to be the strongest man in Bristol, shows his strength by having four men pull at a rope tied around his neck, 1932

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

#15 Samson Brown, “the world’s strongest man,” lets a motorcycle run over him, 1934.

Samson Brown, “the world’s strongest man,” lets a motorcycle run over him, 1934.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

#16 Joe Price uses a 50-pound hammer to nail up a notice, 1934.

Joe Price uses a 50-pound hammer to nail up a notice, 1934.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

#17 London strongman George Challard allows a companion to bend a piece of iron around his neck, 1935.

London strongman George Challard allows a companion to bend a piece of iron around his neck, 1935.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

#18 George Challard bends an iron bar with his teeth, 1935.

George Challard bends an iron bar with his teeth, 1935.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

#19 Joe Smith, a blacksmith from Gloucester, picks up and balances a roadworks notice in his teeth, 1936.

Joe Smith, a blacksmith from Gloucester, picks up and balances a roadworks notice in his teeth, 1936.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

#20 Jean Challard, who claimed to be the world’s champion steel bender and strong-man, supports the weight of a push-cart on his windpipe, 1938

Jean Challard, who claimed to be the world’s champion steel bender and strong-man, supports the weight of a push-cart on his windpipe, 1938

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

#21 Strongman Gus Lasser bends an iron pipe with his mouth, 1920s.

Strongman Gus Lasser bends an iron pipe with his mouth, 1920s.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

#22 A strongman pulls a car with his teeth outside of the U.S. Capitol building in Washington D.C., 1921

A strongman pulls a car with his teeth outside of the U.S. Capitol building in Washington D.C., 1921

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

#23 Andre Reverdy demonstrates his core strength by having women jump on his mid-section from a table, 1920s

Andre Reverdy demonstrates his core strength by having women jump on his mid-section from a table, 1920s

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

#24 The world’s strongest strongman, Ivan “The Great” demonstrates his strength by holding a plank with five dancing couples on it, 1924

The world’s strongest strongman, Ivan “The Great” demonstrates his strength by holding a plank with five dancing couples on it, 1924

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

#25 A strongman holds a rock on his chest while two men try to smash it with hammers, 1945

A strongman holds a rock on his chest while two men try to smash it with hammers, 1945

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

#26 Strongman Mr. Briton balances tow cyclists and a dancer on his chest in Harry Benet’s circus at Chiswick Empire in London, England on Sept. 4, 1945

Strongman Mr. Briton balances tow cyclists and a dancer on his chest in Harry Benet’s circus at Chiswick Empire in London, England on Sept. 4, 1945

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Written by Aung Budhh

Husband + Father + librarian + Poet + Traveler + Proud Buddhist. I love you with the breath, the smiles and the tears of all my life.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.