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At a Glance

York Barbell Museum

& USA Weightlifting Hall of Fame
3300 Board Road,
York, PA 17406

717-767-6481 - general information
+1 800-358-9675 - Toll Free
717-764-0044 - Fax

Website: www.YorkBarbell.com

Directions: Take I-83 Exit 24 (Emigsville). Head east, and take the first left onto Board Road north to York Barbell on the left. The Weightlifting Hall of Fame is housed in the first floor of the York Barbell administrative building, adjacent to York's manufacturing facility.

Hours for Store: Monday to Saturday
10 A.M. to 5 P.M.

The Bob Hoffman Story

(Click on the images in this column to view larger, pop-up versions.)

Bob Hoffman during his competitive years. Part of The Bob HOffman Story exhibit at the York Barbell Museum and USA Weightlifting Hall of fame. (Photo © Richard Grigonis)

Born on a 640-acre farm near Tifton, Georgia on November 9, 1898, Robert Collins Hoffman was the son of Addison and Bertha Hoffman. Addison was a powerful, 5-foot, 10-inch farmer, engineer and chemist. In 1903 the family moved to Wilkinsburg, a suburb of Pittsburgh, where Addison became a civil engineer and supervisor of dams along the Allegheny and Ohio Rivers. Around the age of 4 Bob nearly died from typhoid fever after drinking contaminated water.

Hoffman, by age 13, healthy and blue-eyed, had allegedly already attained his adult height of 6 feet, 3 inches but had narrow shoulders and weighed only 140 pounds. He was an excellent student, often visited public libraries and once skipped a grade in school. Still, he had a burning desire to be an athlete. A cross-country and long-distance runner, his first alleged notable athletic success was at the age of 10, when he won a 10-mile modified marathon race for boys under 16.

When he was 15, still with only 150 pounds of bodyweight, he finished fifth in a Pittsburgh marathon, a tryout for the Boston marathon. He won letters in school, in West Virginia, Ohio and western Pennsylvania.

As a young man, Hoffman excelled in water sports. As an oarsman, was a member of the National Championship “eights,” but achieved greater recognition as a canoeist winning the National Quarter Mile Singles Championship in 1915 and the World Championship for the same event in 1925.

Bob Hoffman was gaining fame in Pittsburgh (“the iron man of Pittsburgh”) when the first World War interrupted his athletic career. In 1917 served overseas with the 111th Infantry of the 28th Division. He received a battle field commission and was a company commander in the fighting in the Argonne Forest. He won 11 decorations including the American Distinguished Service Cross, the Silver Star, the Purple Heart, four French Croix de Guerres, the Madaille Militaire, the Italian War Cross, and the Order of Leopold (the highest Belgian decoration) only four of which were given in the American Army.

During the war, Hoffman was drawn to boxing. He claimed to have sparred with most of the best heavyweights of the time including Gene Tunney, Bob Martin (the American A.E.F. heavyweight champion), British champions Bombardier Wells and Bandsman Rice, and French champion Georges Carpentier who later fought jack Dempsey.

From the beginning of his athletic career, Bob Hoffman believed in all-around exercise, in regular physical training, in special exercises designed to improve any one at his favorite sport. In his earliest athletic endeavors he showed great ingenuity practicing progressive exercises designed to improve his performance in the sports in which he was interested. Bob Hoffman always claimed his system of living and training gave him unusual endurance. During his 24-year athletic career Bob received over 600 trophies, certificates and awards.

Bob Hoffman posing with some of the 600 trophies, certificates and awards he won over the years. (Photo © Richard Grigonis)

In 1920, Hoffman moved to York, Pennsylvania to be closer to his brother and his family. He formed a partnership with Ed Kraber, son of a local plumber, “a big guy” who had an inheritance and had designed one of the country’s first automatic oil burners, but needed the extraordinary salesman abilities of a Bob Hoffman. They started selling oil burners while Hoffman competed in canoeing, at least until he “discovered” weightlifting in 1923.

In his 1939 book, Weight Lifting, Hoffman wrote, “In another chapter I briefly mentioned that I first learned of weight lifting in 1923. Before that year I had, from as early as I could remember, a desire to be stronger than the average physically and to excel at athletics. I had practiced most every form of exercise and had good success with all popular branches of athletics. But I had been tall and thin to being, narrow-shouldered and chicken-breasted, and although all the sports—rowing, canoeing, swimming, boxing, wrestling, gymnastics, handball, baseball, basketball, football, etc., etc.,—had played the their part in building my physical ability to a certain extent, it seemed that I had not received improvement commensurate with the effort put forth and the time I had spent at all forms of physical training.”

“In addition to the athletic pastimes I have enumerated, I had followed ’train you by mail systems’ as early as at the age of ten years,” wrote Hoffman. “I had tried light dumbells, cable exercisers, springs of all sorts, rowing machines, wall pulleys, calisthenics of every imaginable type. Hour after hour I had trained until the floor was wet with my perspiration. I frequently went to work tired completely, in spite of very unusual endurance, from my endeavors to get a body like the ‘train you by mail’ professors whose courses I took, by following the system of exercises they offered.”

“I had weighed 140 pounds when I first reached my height of six feet three inches,” wrote Hoffman. “I had weighed 167 as a national champion before the war, and 180 after returning from France and reaching the age of 21—not much weight for my height. And in that year of 1923 I learned the apparently carefully guarded secret that the strong men became strong through weight training. But almost without exception, for profit reasons only (it being more profitable to sell a few printed pages than heavy weights—expensive to build, machine and pack), they offered courses with light apparatus or with no form of equipment. I tried all the systems and very little was obtained for my pains.”

“And then I learned about weight lifting,” wrote Hoffman, “learned that that was the way all strong men worthy of the name had become strong. Weight lifting was an exercise that could be followed progressively— one that was suitable for the weakest man or woman, for such a person could start with as little as fifteen pounds if they preferred and work up in gradual increases of as little as a pound and a quarter at a time. As the strength increased more weight could be added.”

In 1928, Hoffman started courting Rosetta Snell, a teenager saddled with a child from a previous marriage, and whose 14 brothers and sisters would call Hoffman "Daddy Bob." The couple married on October 20, 1928; they would divorce in 1944 but Rosetta would occupy one of his farmhouses and she held a lien on Hoffman’s “Strength and Health Center of the World” on Lightner’s Hill. Hoffman quickly moved on to other women such as Gracie Bard, a regular fixture at Strength and Health magazine. He then dated Dorcas Lehman and finally Alda Ketterman.

Hoffman had seen the U.S. fail send a weightlifting team to the 1928 Olympic Games because the U.S. Olympic Committee felt an inexperienced, lackluster U.S. team would probably be easily defeated.

American weightlifters participated in the 1932 Olympic Games in Los Angeles, but they had not performed very well, garnering only two bronze medals.  Hoffman resolved that he would personally make weightlifting a national pastime, and the U.S. would become the world’s leader in the sport of weightlifting. Throughout his life, his real love was financing, coaching and promoting U.S. Olympic weightlifting, not bodybuilding or powerlifting.

The key to Hoffman’s eventual conquest of the “iron game” was the building-up of his sporting interests using his lucrative oil-burner enterprise. In 1929, Hoffman and his partner Kraber purchased a building at 51 N. Broad Street in York, PA. These facilities were to become the home of both the oil burner and the future barbell manufacturing companies that Bob was to develop (the oil burner business had already secured sources of iron that could be used in the barbell business).

His team of weightlifting oil-burner company employees, a group of enthusiasts known as the York Oil Burner Athletic Club (YOBAC)—later simply called the “York Gang” when they started making barbells and dumbbells for Hoffman’s York Barbell Company founded in 1938—was essentially integrated with the company and trained on the second floor of the factory. His lifters entered the early weightlifting meets, though many were still very poorly officiated. Hoffman worked on developing standard rules and procedures for weightlifting events.

1930's Members of the York Oil Burner Atheltic Club (YOBAC).

During the Depression, a guaranteed method of recruiting team members was to offer a $10-per-week job in the oil-burner plant.

Hoffman also started a Three Hundred Pound Club that assured “undying fame” to any lifter who cleaned and jerked 300 pounds. According to Walter Good, “you got $15 added to your pay when you won your class, $10 for second, and $5 for third.” These incentives in the 1930s spurred YOBAC lifters to win Middle Atlantic and national championships repeatedly.

Later there was a Four Hundred Pound Club where the lifters had to life a total of 400 poiunds as a combination of the snatch and the bent press, as a test of one's all- round lifting ability.

York soon became a hub of lifting, and young men were drawn from all parts of the country.

Hoffman’s increasing affluence enabled him to apportion more time and energy to weightlifting. “Finally in 1931,” he later observed, “I was so situated that I could go on with the game I had come to love more than any other.”

Hoffman’s increasing success was impressive because he sold barbells—a labor-intensive commodity—rather than lucrative mail order courses like those of Charles Atlas or Earle Liederman. To Hoffman, weights were the secret to strength and fitness, and he managed to transform the world of strength training over the next two decades through the widespread promotion and public acceptance of the use of barbells and dumbbells using his “York System.”

1932 was a pivotal year for Hoffman, and signaled the genuine beginning of his legendary operation.

The year 1932 at first started disastrously for Hoffman when he and his wife nearly lost their lives in an automobile accident on January 3. They were returning from a weightlifting meet in Philadelphia when Bob, not the greatest of drivers, ran their $1,900 car head-on into another vehicle near Coatesville, Pennsylvania.

As Hoffman later wrote, the car “was so completely demolished that we left it on the hill. I was unconscious four days and although no bones were broken I experienced never injuries that are still felt on occasional rainy days to this time. But I got up and around after a time. Weight lifters are hard to kill, I guess. Our roadster had been hit with a car going sixty miles and our, turned over and over where it burst into flame. Luckily my unconscious body was pulled from the car or, without being immodest, I believe it only fair to say that American weight lifting would not be where it is today.” (Hoffman’s humble nature shines through in the least expected places.)

Hoffman used this otherwise catastrophic obstruction in his life to prove he was both a great specimen of manhood and that he was the “world’s foremost physical trainer” by launching into a 20-week experiment to gain bodyweight. He did raise his total by 102 pounds and acquired a “much greater shapeliness.”

To substantiate his bold claims, in 1933 Hoffman staged what he (outrageously) called the first “professional competition to be held under official supervision in America.” Using three officials and a set of precisely tested scales, Hoffman hoisted a decent total of 687 pounds, the best lift of his life. Although Harry Good lifted 35 pounds more in a lighter division and, curiously, there were no other competitors in his weight class, Hoffman nevertheless declared himself the national professional heavyweight lifting champion.

Strength and Health Magazine

Bob Hoffman realized that he needed a mass medium to promote both the use and sale of his weights, and to gain influence in the iron game, something he felt he particularly needed since he had attempted to secure a position on the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) national committee in 1932 and was unsuccessful. His solution was to publish a magazine called Strength and Health, starting in December 1932.

The first issue of Strength and Health magazine (December 1932) had on its cover Walter “Wally” Zagurski. A man Of Lithuanian heritage, Zagurski was an original “York Oil Burner Athletic Club” member who competed in the 1932 Olympics, and won the 1933 Senior National Weightlifting title at 165 pounds. He also happened to be the first editor of Strength and Health magazine.

As partner and editor of the magazine he choose George Jowett, who had founded the then-defunct American Continental Weight-Lifter's Association (ACWLA) and who had been editor of Alan Calvert’s Strength magazine from 1924 until his dismissal in 1927, which resulted in the near-immediate collapse of the ACWLA.

Together, Jowett and Hoffman created Strength and Health Publishing Company, headquatered at the oil-burner factory.

The new magazine was the perfect vehicle for Hoffman to nurture a new crop of weightlifters who would revitalize the U.S. Olympic weightlifting team, transforming it from a mere “pick up” team to the greatest assemblage of talent in the history of the sport.

York employee-musclemen having some fun by picking up a roadster in front of the offices of Strength and Health Publishing, York, Pennsylvania, circa 1934.

Jowett and Hoffman also undertook to revive the ACWLA as an AAU competitor and create the fraternal American Strength & Health League.

Jowett and Hoffman thought they could achieve all of this, since an increasing stream of money was coming from the sale of York Barbells. As Hoffman once wrote, “A sale of 22 barbells during the week of fourth of July 1933, stood as the record… for a time.”

AAU National Chairman Dietrich Wortmann, however, could see the combination of Hoffman's Strength and Health magazine and the revival of the ACWLA as a clever way for Jowett and Hoffman to take over the sport.

The AAU declared the ACWLA an outlaw organization. Hoffman could not be so easily brushed aside, however, and by the annual meeting of the AAU national committee in Pittsburgh in late in 1933, it was agreed that, to preserve the unity of American weightlifting, the AAU should sanction all championships and ACWLA would revert to becoming a fraternal organization (“like the American Legion,” wrote Jowett), and Hoffman would assume a leadership role within the AAU, with Wortmann recommending ACWLA leaders to AAU committees.

Interestingly, around this time Jowett and Hoffman parted company. (As John D. Fair wrote in his book, Muscletown, U.S.A., “One organization could not tolerate two such egocentric personalities.”) By early 1934, Jowett's name was stricken from Strength and Health magazine and he soon resigned as head of the ACWLA. Hoffman then allowed both the ACWLA and Strength and Health League to expire as he focused instead on strengthening his control over the AAU.

The Milo Barbell Acquisition

In 1935, the venerable Milo Barbell Company went bankrupt and Strength magazine ceased publication. Hoffman acquired both their assets and copyrights for $4,000, though Milo had left considerably more in liabilities, including 900 unfilled equipment orders. Even so, this was another great turning point.

Leaps and Bounds

With the Milo Barbell acquisition, Hoffman was now practically the only barbell manufacturer in America. Moreover, Strength and Health was growing rapidly. Starting with a circulation of just 2,500 copies in December 1932, its sales skyrocketed from June 1934 to October 1936 as its monthly circulation jumped from 4,800 to 51,333 copies.

Strength and Health served many functions. It was a veritable catalog and advertiser for promoting and selling an ever-growing number of York products, including barbells, solid-iron dumbbells, head straps, a line of Milo items, a giant crusher grip, spring cables, and abdominal board, iron boots, and York courses and books, all publicized in Hoffman’s inimitable style—even if some of these in later years may have been written by the senior editor of Strength and Health, John Grimek.

The magazine also touted Bob Hoffman, his strength-and-health philosophy and belief in the transformational capabilities of sheer willpower. To legitimize his products, Hoffman presented himself as a self-made physical superman and superb example of manhood, a obvious role model for American youth.

Strength and Health magazine also contained inspiring biographies and personalized coverage of York’s lifters, such as John Davis, John Grimek, Steve Stanko, and Tony Terlazzo; dramatic reportage and descriptions of competitions as they unfolded, from initial light lifts to the climatic world record attempts. Even novice weightlifters could find articles in Strength and Health on weight training techniques.

From the mid-1930s on, Hoffman’s juggernaut steadily picked up steam, appropriating the best young weightlifting talent in the United States, as Hoffman himself espoused his inspiring message of fitness through weight training via his “York system.” Hoffman was off on a 40-year run of dominance in the weightlifting field.

Note that Bob Hoffman’s great rise to success occurred throughout the Great Depression. As one pundit wrote, “There was Titus, he’s gone. There was Strongfort, he’s out of business too. There was Sandow and Breitbart, both of whom are dead. There was Zybysco, Matysek, Barker, Arco, Dryer, McMahon, Leonard, Glick. There was Liederman, the biggest of them all at one time. Bob Hoffman bought his at-one-time Million-dollar-business for just $350… How the mighty have fallen.”

During the 1930s the York Barbell team had become the foremost weightlifting contenders not just in America, but in the world. For example, at the highly competitive 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin, Tony Terlazzo won the first U.S. gold medal since the 1904 St. Louis Games, in the 60 kilogram category. Bob Hoffman was not yet quite famous enough to be the team coach, but his influence was felt at the Games.

In 1937, the first World Champion-ship since 1923 was held. Tony Terlazzo again won a gold medal for America, this time in the 67.5 kilogram bodyweight category. John Terpak also enjoyed a victory in the 75 kilogram category. In 1938, the U.S. topped all of its previous performances, with Terlazzo again winning at 67.5 kilograms, Terpak taking third place in the 75 kilogram. category and Stanko grabbing a very credible second place in the heavyweight division.

By 1938 Hoffman had devoted so much time and effort to the barbell and fitness business that the oil-burner company was in decline. Moreover, as a result of a legal battle with Charles Atlas, the government had ordered Hoffman to separate his oil burner financial interests from his barbell and fitness business. So, in June 1938, York Oil Burner was sold to Thomas Shipley, Inc., for an estimated $380,000, with Bob receiving $125,000 and his partner $250,000.

Still, at the end of the 1930s Hoffman could now boast that York had “the strongest team in the world.” This group of lifters was the “old York gang.” It remained the heart of Hoffman’s muscle empire for 50 years, promoting “the York way” as necessary path to American manliness.

The York Barbell environment was unique. It was a place where weightlifters could find employment, ideal training conditions, and camaraderie in a single building. As Hoffman’s Strength and Health magazine gained popularity and his weights became the industry (and Olympic) standard, York became a mecca for aspiring weightlifters. Hoffman continued to give many of these young men jobs in his factory, and encouraged them to aim for record breaking lifts, which they did, surpassing many world records and competing successfully in the Olympics.

For example, when America won its first world team championship in 1946, four of its six lifters worked for York Barbell.

Hawaiian weightlifter Emerick Ishikawa related to Brian Niiya his days with Hoffman in the 1940s: “The factory and warehouse employed some of America’s (and the world’s) top weightlifters. There was Stanley Stanczyk, a Polish American from Detroit who became a six time world and Olympic champion middleweight and light heavyweight. There was John Terpak, the great middleweight whose parents had emigrated from the Ukraine. Frank Spellman’s father was a Ukrainian Jew and his mother was from Austria. Heavyweight John Davis was an African American who was born on a Southern sharecropped farm.”

There were also frequent visits by other lifters and bodybuilders, people from all over the world who journeyed to the York facility and spent a week or so there to “get pointers from all those guys,” said Ishikawa.

Through its long history, York Barbell refined training equipment and other product designs. From the early glove barbell designs to later-day precision-milled plates, innovative grip plates, finely crafted bar, and residential and commercial free weight equipment, York Barbell set the standard in product styling, performance and value.

Some Unhealthy Competition

Hoffman boldly took on took on anyone who dared venture into the muscle game and who might upset his near-monopoly. His brinksmanship and battles with Joe Weider, Dan Lurie, Rheo H. Blair and even Charles Atlas were almost comical at times.

In 1940 Joe Weider founded Your Physique magazine, which emphasized bodybuilding and cultivating a muscular appearance rather than the strength training, person records and Olympic lifts long favored by Bob Hoffman. Your Physique became the first block in Weider’s empire. Hoffman’s public war of words and deeds with Joe and his brother, Ben Weider, continued for decades, with Joe once challenging Hoffman to a weightlifting and physique contest in 1951.

Weider later re-named Your Physique as Muscle Builder, which evolved into Muscle and Fitness. Muscle and Fitness remains one of the top bodybuilding magazines today. Weider was a younger man than Hoffman, and his approach became more popular during the 1970s and 1980s, as the aging Hoffman’s influence steadily waned.

Final Hurrahs

Hoffman continued to innovate over the years in areas beyond weight training for athletes. He introduced various health foods, and made a ton of money in the 1950s selling HI-Proteen powder to weightlifters and bodybuilders, as it was he who was largely responsible for popularizing protein as a fundamental bodybuilding supplement.

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image-building advertisement for Bob Hoffman and his weightlifting/fitness empire.

He also promoted the use of bottled spring water, exercise for convalescent and geriatric patients, isometrics, and women's weightlifting. Even anabolic steroids, first employed by 1960s weightlifters, can trace their acceptance and popularity to Hoffman’s concepts promoting fitness in various forms.

Dig Them Bears

Hoffman was a specialized art collector of bear replicas—all kinds, sizes, shapes and breeds.

Bob Hoffman in his later years posing with his collection of bear art.

Bob Hoffman in his later years posing with his collection of bear art.

Hoffman and his long-time commonlaw wife Alda were always fascinated by bears. They filled every available space in their very large home with an amazing assemblage of carved, cast, blown, poured, molded and mounted bears of every shape, size and value, “from one dollar plastic figurines a few inches high to a full-sized adult polar bear, stuffed and lurking in their hallway,” as his friend Terry Todd, Ph.D, wrote in Iron Game History (Vol. 3, No. 1).

Display of part of Bob Hoffman's collection of bear art, on exhibit at York Barbell Museum and USA Weightlifting Hall of Fame. (Photo © Richard Grigonis)

Large standing bear artwork from Bob Hoffman's Collection of bear artwork on display at the York Barbell Museum and USA Weightlifting Hall of Fame. (Photo © Richard Grigonis)

The Long Decline

In the 1960s, Hoffman's teams, faced with competition involving large-scale state- and nation-sponsored training efforts, started to lose.

Customers began to complain about his products. For example, there were reports that Super Hi-Proteen bottles simply had ordinary Hi-Proteen powder poured into them. Other customers complained that Hoffman’s supplements stated incorrect amounts of iron, calcium, and other essential nutrients.

National Nutritional Foods Association Award, given to Bob Hoffman, July 1978.

National Nutritional Foods Association Award, given to Bob Hoffman, July 1978. (Photo © Richard Grigonis)

Also during this time, York Barbell began to face competition from many small companies that could produce weights inexpensively with better commissions to distributors and retailers.

In terms of competitive events, the Weider brothers had founded an organization called The International Federation of BodyBuilders (IFBB), which Hoffman considered yet another threat to his York empire. Hoffman banned Federation members from competitive lifting, but, by the mid-1970s, the Weiders prevailed as Americans became more interested in physical conditioning instead of lifting to gain power.

Weider’s fortunes multiplied in the glow of various lifters, particularly his Joe Weider's protege, Arnold Schwarzenegger, the Hollywood star, real estate mogul and governor of California.

The locus of muscledom, once in Philadelphia at Milo Barbell and the various gyms in the city, and having moved to Hoffman’s domain in York, Pennsylvania, was now moving to the Weider brothers’ land of Woodland Hills, California.

The Save the United States Movement

Museum display of Bob Hoffman's 'Save the United States Movement' he founded in 1976.

Bob Hoffman's “Save the United States Movement” display at the York Barbell Museum and USA Weightlifting Hall of Fame in York, Pennsylvania. (Photo © Richard Grigonis)

In 1976 Hoffman attempted to start a “Save the United States Movement” to counter what he saw as moral and physical decay typified by the growing popularity of drug use and countercultural, anti-American ideals

Photo of parade float on display at the the United States Movement exhibit in the York Barbell Museum and USA Weightlifting Hall of Fame, York, Pennsylvania. (Photo © Richard Grigonis)

“Long ago, I learned that the best way to overcome major obstacles is to unify the efforts of many individuals striving for the same goal,” wrote Hoffman in 1980. “Several years ago, I—along with many other concerned citizens—formed the ‘Save the United States Movement’ in an attempt to lessen or better yet head-off the internal strife that plagues our nation today. Thankfully, others have taken a cue from our lead and formed local chapters of this movement in their home towns.”

“Some people are no doubt wondering just how our group is going to combat such threatening menaces as inflation, hunger and armed aggression when the great minds of our times can’t seem to eradicate them,” said Hoffman. “Admittedly, our expertise is not in these areas, although like everyone else we pray that our world leaders will rectify these situations as soon as possible. Instead, the ‘Save the United States Movement’ focuses on instructing the American people how to improve their existence through healthful living. It’s often difficult for the average person to comprehend why an effort of this sort is all-important. Considering the instability of the domestic and international situation, one must first of all harken back to a basic law of nature… survival of the fittest. Close adherence to good health rules will help everyone have a long, happy and healthy life. By following these rules all my life, I have enjoyed a measure of strength and health that is rare in this troubled world. Many organizations and magazines work with the SAVE THE UNITED STATES movement in these efforts.”

Last Gasps

There was also a cultural conflict in the industry between those lifters who lifted primarily for function, and those who lifted primarily to achieve a muscular form. While York’s lifters—most notably his superstar John Grimek—had started out as Olympic weightlifters or powerlifters, a notable shift in interest to bodybuilding was occurring, aided and encouraged by Joe Weider, one of Hoffman’s main competitors, who published Your Physique. Hoffman would retaliate with his own bodybuilding and powerlifting magazine, Muscular Development, in January 1964.

As for Bob Hoffman himself, founder and president of York Barbell, he frequently expressed his rather optimistic intention to reach the age of 100 and to live in three centuries (19th, 20th and 21st).

Hoffman used to mark his progress toward his centenary (and simultaneously promote “Muscletown”) by staging festive annual birthday celebrations every November 9th. In 1973, during his 75th birthday, he boasted that he enjoyed extraordinary health and felt no differently than he had as a teenager. He claimed this enabled him, at a bodyweight of 245 pounds, to go on regular five-mile runs while wearing a 15-pound weight belt and carrying 20-pound dumbbells. How many other 75-year-olds, he asked the partygoers, could run with 300 pounds for that distance?

Unfortunately, over the next decade Hoffman, who liked to call himself the “world’s healthiest man,” suffered from a series of serious maladies. One of these began with a touch of heart arrhythmia, progressed to auricular fibrillation, and climaxed early in 1977 in heart bypass surgery at the age of 78.

Bob Hoffman, who influenced and guided weightlifting and bodybuilding for half a century, died on July 18, 1985, aged 86 years, 8 months and 10 days, suffering from heart disease and dementia. He was buried in Mount Rose Cemetery in east York, PA.

The Legacy

On Bob Hoffman’s 100th birthday, a roadside marker in his honor was erected just outside York Barbell Company by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission. Hoffman is likely the only iron game figure to be honored this way anywhere in America.

November 9, 1998 was a beautiful, sunny yet cool day, and about 50 of the 75 invited guests attended, mostly locals. Almost no one from the old York gang or the iron game was present. Among those who did attend the ceremony was Alda Ketterman, Hoffman’s common law widow; York mayor  Charlie Robertson; Congressman Bill Goodling; and long-time friend Harry McLaughlin. In his welcoming remarks, York Barbell Company President Stombaugh stated that York Barbell had languished in recent years but was undergoing a resurgence.

“We are much dedicated to building the company to the level I think Bob would have expected it to be.” he said.

Representing the Historical and Museum Commission, Dr. James Adovasio recalled that as a youth of seventeen the first set of weights that he used was manufactured by York Barbell. He called Hoffman a “pivotal” figure in the history of weightlifting, bodybuilding, and use of nutritional supplements.

Dick Smith recounted his long association (from 1937) with the original “York Gang,” thanking Bob and York Barbell for giving him the opportunity to serve as a coach, manager and trainer in various Olympics, world championships, and Pan American Games in 35 countries. “Smitty” praised Hoffman for his generous contributions to athletes, the city of York, and the youth of America for more than five decades.

Upon Hoffman’s death in 1985, York was still America’s leading purveyor of Olympic-style weightlifting equipment, though, free weights had been usurped in popularity by Nautilus-type equipment. York continues to manufacture various forms of exercise gear, from simple barbells to sophisticated machines housing microprocessors. end-of-article dingbat


Mr. Universe of 1952 Turns 100

Mr. Universe 1952 is 100 years old

100-year-old Manohar Aich doesn't drink or smoke, and credits his longevity to a healthy lifestyle in which he minimizes stress and focuses on happiness. Although he's only 4 feet, 11 inches tall, Aich, known as "Pocket Hercules," won the Mr. Universe international bodybuilding championship in 1952.

When he celebrated his 100th birthday in Kolkata, an eastern city in India, he was surrounded by children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Aich took up bodybuilding imprisoned in the 1940s for opposing Britain's continued colonial rule of India. After his release, he went on to compete as a bodybuilder, earning success in international competition that culminated with his taking the Mr. Universe title. His wife took care of their children as Aich traveled the world, making a living as a bodybuilder.

Returning to India, he trained future future bodybuilding champions. "I didn't become rich. There is not much money in bodybuilding," he told the Indian Express newspaper . "But there is respect. And for that, I wouldn't mind being a bodybuilder in my next life as well." He has led a fulfilled life, but Aich regrets never having met his fellow Mr. Universe, former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. He's seen many of the Governator's films, though. "I like the incredible stunts he does in the movies," he says.


Can You Match the 10 Awesome Feats of Warren Lincoln Travis?

Warren Lincoln Travis, the self-billed “world’s greatest weight lifter” died July 13, 1941 at the age of 66 after lifting a 1000-pound cannon ball for a Coney Island sideshow performance.

Nearly a month after his death, newspapers reported that Travis had left instructions regarding what to do with the diamond-studded gold and silver belt awarded him by the Police Gazette in 1906: Travis “willed” the diamond belt to anyone who could duplicate his 10 most famous feats of strength, all within 30 minutes.

Here they are:

  1.  100-pound barbell brought up from the floor, pressed arm’s length overhead, while sitting, 10 times in 30 seconds.
  2. Pair of 90-pound weights brought from side of body to shoulders, then slowly pressed to arm’s length overhead.
  3. Teeth lift of 350 pound weight from floor, with hands behind back.
  4. Lift 350 pounds from floor with one finger, eight times in five seconds.
  5. One-time lift of 560 pounds from the floor, using a single finger.
  6. Two-hand grip lift, straddling the weight, from floor, of 700 pounds, 20 times in 10 seconds.
  7. Hand and knew left from floor, 1600 pounds, once.
  8. Back lift, 3650 pounds, once.
  9. Harness lift, 3580 pounds, once.
  10. 2000-pound back lift, 250 times in seven minutes.

Doesn’t sound so easy? No one ever attmpted to match Travis' feats and claim the belt. Instead, Bob Hoffman eventually purchased it and it is now on display at the York Barbell Museum and USA Weightlifting Hall of Fame in York, Pennsylvania.

 


 

 

A Visit to Muscletown, USA

Interesting Places to Visit

York Barbell Museum & USA Weightlifting Hall of Fame (York, Pennsylvania)

By Richard Grigonis — March 31, 2012

York County, Pennsylvania, is a land of mild climate and rich soil long farmed by the Pennsylvania Dutch. The town, now city, of York, PA was the capital of the fledgling United States when the Continental Congress met there from September 1777 to June 1778. Later, it called itself the “Factory Tour Capital of the World.” York has also gone by the name of “Muscletown USA,” thanks to the existence of the York Barbell Company and its adjacent USA Weightlifting Hall of Fame building.

Central skylighted hall of USA Weightlifting Hall of Fame, York, Pennsylvania.

Skylighted Central Gallery of the York Barbell Museum and USA Weightlifting Hall of Fame. (Photo © Richard Grigonis)

The York Barbell Museum and USA Weightlifting Hall of Fame—affiliated with the United States Weightlifting Federation and the American Amateur Union’s Physique bodybuilding division—was originally called the Bob Hoffman Weightlifting Hall of Fame upon its grand opening in 1958; it changed its name and moved to its current facility in the Spring of 1981, built at a cost of $1.1 million.

Exterior of USA Weightlifting Hall of Fame and York Barbell Museum in York, Pennsylvania.

Photo from outside of the lobby of the York Barbell Museum & USA Weightlifting Hall of Fame, guarded by a 7.5-foot bronze statue of york barbell founder robert c. hoffman.

If you’ve ever engaged in the art and science of “pumping iron,” the name “York” should ring a bell—the York Barbell Company’s name has been embossed on barbells and other weightlifting equipment since its origins go back to 1935 when the venerable though bankrupt Milo Barbell Company was purchased by Robert Collins Hoffman (1898–1985), a Georgia native and World War I hero who moved to York, Pennsylvania and started a prosperous oil burner business in the 1920s.

Revolving statue at York Barbell Company of Norbert Schemansky, an Olympic weightlifter.

It’s difficult not to notice either the York Barbell Company or the USA Weightlifting Hall of Fame, thanks to the large revolving statue of a weightlifter holding a barbell aloft, visible to drivers on interstate 83 in York, Pennsylvania, as seen in this Poster made from an old photo. The statue's body (but not the head) was modeled after Norbert Schemansky, an Olympic weightlifter. Today, “The Barbell Guy,” as he is known, looks out across the York County Landscape, reminding onlookers of the days when bob Hoffman and his proteges brought fame and glory to York County and the York Barbell Company.
(Photo © Richard Grigonis)

Hoffman was really more interested in pumping iron and promoting the growth of weightlifting among the public and as an Olympic sport. In fact, as you walk up to the Weightlifting Hall of Fame’s entrance, you’re greeted just outside by a seven-and-a-half-foot bronze statue of Hoffman, proclaimed as “Father of World Weightlifting” by the International Weightlifting Federation and its then-president, Murray Levin. Hoffman was an athlete, nutritionist (a pioneer in marketing food supplements), weightlifter, book and magazine publisher, patriot, author, coach and philanthropist.

Photo of middle-aged Bob Hoffman.

Photo of a middle-aged bob hoffman, hanging on the stairwell off of the lobby at the York Barbell Museum & USA Weightlifting Hall of Fame in York, Pennsylvania. (Photo © Richard Grigonis)

Hoffman had a particular interest in generously funding, coaching and promoting Olympic weightlifting teams, coaching the U.S. Olympic team from 1948 to 1964. By then, York, Pennsylvania had picked up a moniker: “Muscletown USA.” Hoffman gave weightlifters jobs with his company, and his famous York Barbell Club dominated the weightlifting scene with over 40 national championships and produced many Olympic Gold Medalists.

Exterior photo of the York Oil Burner Company, taken in the 1920s

In 1920, Hoffman moved to York, Pennsylvania to be closer to his brother and his family. He formed a partnership with a friend, Ed Kraber, in York to sell oil burners, and became familiar with machines. patterns, foundries, and marketing. Hoffman then formed the York Oil Burner Athletic Club, later naming it the York Barbell Company.

The Y-shaped, 7,500-square-foot Hall of Fame is essentially a museum that has on display all sorts of exhibits dedicated to illustrating the history of strength sports and the “evolution of fitness.” You can take a self-guided tour that leads you counter-clockwise through the museum to view the field’s mythological origins in the dark mists of antiquity, read tales of the early Olympic Games of Ancient Greece, early 19th and 20th century amateur and professional strongmen, and learn of modern-day Olympic weightlifting, powerlifting and bodybuilding.

Lobby interior of the Weightlifting Hall of Fame and York Barbell Museum in York, Pennsylvania. Note the hanging mobile sculpture made of barbells.

Display of magazines, awards, dumbbells and photos at the York Barbell Museum and Weightlifting Hall of Fame. Dominating the center is the image used for the cover of John D. Fair's book, Muscletown USA: Bob Hoffman and the Manly Culture of York Barbell. (Photo © Richard Grigonis)

The Weightlifting Hall of Fame Virtual Tour

One begins the tour in the large, spacious, two-story lobby, fronted with semi-circular rows of huge plate glass windows. An amusing hanging sculpture, an Alexander Calder-like mobile made of barbell weights, looms overhead.

Lobby interior of the Weightlifting Hall of Fame and York Barbell Museum in York, Pennsylvania. Note the hanging mobile sculpture made of barbells.

Interior photo of lobby of the York Barbell Museum and Weightlifting Hall of Fame. Bust of bob hoffman is on the left, steve stanko is in the middle. Note the clever barbell mobile hanging from the ceiling. (Photo © Richard Grigonis)

Barbell Mobile at York Barbell Museum and USA Weightlifting Hall of Fame.

closer view of the barbell mobile. (Photo © Richard Grigonis)

Within the lobby are bronze busts of Bob Hoffman and Steve Stanko (1917–1978), another Hoffman protégé who, at the Middle Atlantic States meet in April, 1941, was the first lifter at a single meet to officially surpass a total of 1000 pounds in the three Olympic lifts that existed in those days: the press, the snatch, and the clean and jerk. (Since 1972 the press has been removed from Olympic competitions.)

Bust of Bob Hoffman in the lobby of the York Barbell Museum & USA Weightlifting Hall of Fame.

Bust of Bob Hoffman in the lobby of the York Barbell Museum & USA Weightlifting Hall of Fame. (Photo © Richard Grigonis)

Stanko’s career on the platform was shortened by phlebitus which he contracted during his mid-thirties, causing him pain, swelling and clots in his legs. By designing a light training program wherein all exercises could be done from a reclining position, a good portion of his strength came back and he switched from weightlifting to bodybuilding, now stressing appearance rather than performance. As a result, he won the 1944 Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) Jr. Mr. America title as well as the prestigious AAU Mr. America title. In 1947 in Philadelphia Stanko took the top prize in the very first Mr. Universe contest.

Bust of Steve Stanko in the lobby of the Hall of Fame in York, PA.

Bust of steve Stanko in Lobby of the Weightlifting Hall of Fame. He was the winner of the very first "Mr. Universe" competition held in philadelphia in 1947. (Photo © Richard Grigonis)

Also in the Hall of Fame lobby, on either side of the Hoffman and Stanko busts, are displays of shot-loading, globe-style barbells and dumbbells. Up until around 1900, barbells and dumbbells were made with metal spheres or “globes” at each end. The first ones were solid globe bells, invented by the Frenchman Hippolyte Triat (1813–1881), and then “Professor Attila” (Louis Durlacher, 1844–1924) had the bright idea of making the globes hollow so one could adjust the barbell’s “resistance” (weight) by filling the globes at each end with sand, water or lead shot. Such barbells were available almost exclusively via mail order.

Globe-type dumbbells and barbells on display in the lobby of the USA Weightlifting Hall of Fame.

Displays of early dumbbells and barbells having spherical-shaped ends are in the lobby of the weightlifting Hall of Fame. (Photo © Richard Grigonis)

In the 1880s another Frenchman, M. M. Pelletier Monnier, influenced by the Physical Culture theory and practice of Professor Edmond Desbonnet (1867-1953) developed the more convenient plate-loading barbell still in use today—though in 1890, the German professional wrestler Carl Abs (1851–1895) claimed that he was the true inventor of plate-loading barbells, also known as disk-loading sets.

Interestingly, when the wrestler and strongman Milo Steinborn emigrated to the U.S. in the early 1900s, he brought with him a European-made bar that was an early prototype of the modern Olympic-style barbell having large ends that could revolve around the bar itself. Bob Hoffman eventually got ownership of it, and he modified it into the classic barbell used today.

York Barbell with revolving ends.

York Barbell: 6 foot, Black, Olympic Bar with close-up of revolving ends.

Today, Olympic bars have these “revolving ends” which are rotating sleeves or cuffs. The plates slide onto the sleeves. Inside each cuff/sleeve are bearings to reduce friction so that the sleeve itself will freely rotate on the bar. When you perform a quick action with the bar such as a heavy Snatch or Power Clean, as the bar comes up your grip will rotate around and your elbows push through under the bar. By enabling the sleeves at the ends of the bar to rotate, it is the bar that actually rotates—the sleeves and the weights attached to them do not, owing to inertia. This eliminates torque and saves the lifter the effort of putting extra force on both the bar and weights to rotate them into the proper position, even during complex lifts that move the bar in multiple directions. Thus, it reduces the tension on your wrists and forearms, and you can maintain a tight grip on the bar without fear of suffering abrasions caused by the bar’s knurling.

Of course, the rotation of the sleeves on the ends holding the weights must be smooth and fast when performing Olympic lifts. Cuff/sleeves that don’t spin smoothly affect the weight's rotation which in turn hinders your ability to flip your wrists and get under the weight quickly.To achieve this type of nearly frictionless spin, the best Olympic barbells have bushing or bearings in each sleeve. (Indeed, in the case of the Olympic barbells Hoffman designed for York Barbell, they have split sleeves. A protective outer sleeve rotates and the inner sleeve is fixed.)

Photo of York Barbell's 185KG Elite set, which was the only set made in the U.s. and certified by the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF).

York Barbell’s 185 kilogram Elite set, which was the only set made in the U.s. and certified by the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF). (Photo © Richard Grigonis)

Situated between the busts of Hoffman and Stanko, and in contrast to the nostalgic weight training tools with spherical ends, is a sample of York Barbell’s “ticket to the world”—their premier 185 Kg Elite certified set, the only set manufactured in the United States and certified by the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) for IWF calendared meets. (For national meets the competition secretary dutifully checks to see if the competition set is within specs, regardless of the brand. However, even smaller manufacturers pay tens of thousands of dollars in IWF “certification fees” for their equipment, since each company that does so can generate some publicity as a result of using IWF-certified equipment at IWF events.) York’s IWF-certified competition set appeared on many International and National Weightlifting platforms.

On the wall of the Weightlifting Hall of Fame’s lobby is a life-size photographic print of some of America’s Olympic weightlifting champions training in the gym above the original York barbell manufacturing facility on Broad Street in the city of York.

Photo of Dave Sheppard, Clyde Emrich and Tommy Kono.

The gym of the original York Barbell factory where the employees also happened to be among America's greatest weightlifters. the Three lifters shown in this life-sized photo (found on the wall of the Museum's lobby) are as follows: Dave Sheppard is holding the barbell; behind him is Clyde Emrich. Seated on the right is Tommy Kono, perhaps the greatest weightlifter America ever produced. (Photo of lobby © Richard Grigonis)

In one corridor leading from the lobby, there is a series of 18 drawings representing feats of strength from the world’s first known weightlifter, Milo of Crotona, to York Barbell’s own John Grimek. To the right of the lobby is a large auditorium featuring an Olympic weightlifting platform where competitions are held and seating for 200 people. Films may also be viewed in the auditorium, which is equipped with a projection room and a large screen on the wall behind the platform.

Visitors' register at the York Barbell company and museum.

Visitors' register in the lobby of the York Barbell Company's administrative building housing the York Barbell Museum & USA Weightlifting Hall of Fame. (Photo © Richard Grigonis)

Mural on wall of lobby at the Weightlifting Hall of Fame & Museum.

Mural on wall of lobby at the weightlifting hall of fame & museum. (Photo © Richard Grigonis)

In another corridor on the left is a series of photos taken in rapid succession showing Rolf Milser of the Federal Republic of Germany (what was West Germany), winning the Clean and Jerk at the 1978 World Championships in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

Photo seqeuence of Rolf Milser at 1978 World Weghtlifting Championshipos in Gettysburg, PA.

Photo sequence of Rolf Milser winning the Clean and Jerk at the 1978 World Championships in Gettysburg, PA, lifting 215.0 kg. Milser later won the gold medal in the heavyweight I class at the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles. (Photo © Richard Grigonis)

Delving into the History of Strength

Following the virtual tour counter-clockwise through the building, you discover that one of the more interesting aspects of the York Barbell Museum and USA Weightlifting Hall of Fame is that it covers the whole history of the strength sports, including “strongmanism.” Back in the 19th and early 20th centuries, amateur and professional strongmen would perform feats of strength to entertain audiences at European circuses, British music halls, and the American vaudeville circuit. Strongmen became famous for breaking chains, bending railroad spikes, tearing card decks and telephone books, and so forth.

Photo of sign off lobby pointing to weightlifting hall of fame and museum.

Photo of sign off lobby pointing to weightlifting hall of fame and museum (Photo © Richard Grigonis)

At the Museum and Hall of Fame, there are many displays of plaques, trophies, sculptures, vintage barbells, posters and promotional placards from this “strength era” of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

ome items from the era of strongmen on display at the York Barbell Museum and weightlifting Hall of fame in York, Pennsylvania.

Some items from the era of strongmen on display at the York Barbell Museum and weightlifting Hall of fame in York, Pennsylvania. The red set of spring-loaded hand exercisers at the front of the case were the same style designed for and endorsed by the famous strongman and bodybuilder, Eugen Sandow, SOLD IN ENGLAND CIRCA 1900. between them is an iron bar twisted into a U-shape by Joseph Greenstein, “The Mighty Atom” (1893–1977) at the York Fairgrounds in 1962. (It was his 42nd consecutive appearance at the York Interstate Fair.) Also note at left the cute little York Barbell Advertising Paperweight, circa 1960. (Photo © Richard Grigonis)

Louis Cyr, “The Strongest Man in the World”

For example, you’ll find a small statue of Canadian strongman and former Montreal policeman, Louis Cyr (1863–1912) dubbed “The Strongest Man in the World” by various authorities. Cyr, in 1891 in Montreal, won a tug-of-war against four horses. His 220-pound stage dumbbell can be seen in a glass case in the Hall; at its heaviest, packed with metal pellets, it weighed 273 pounds (123.83 kg). Cyr raised it easily one-handed, using the overhead “side press” style. In the 1890s he lifted 551 Pounds with his right middle finger.

Photo of canadian louis cyr (Born Louis Cyprien-Noe)

Photo of canadian louis cyr (Born Louis Cyprien-Noe), one of the strongest men who ever lived. (Photo © Richard Grigonis)

Cyr routinely backlifted 3635 pounds at shows and once carried a platform holding 18 men, 4337 pounds (1967 kg), on his back at an 1895 exhibition in Boston—his greatest feat of strength, one that was not surpassed for 60 years, until Paul Edward Anderson was listed in the Guinness Book of World Records for backlifting 6270 pounds (2840 kg) that was raised slightly off trestles.

In his prime, Cyr weighed 315 pounds (most of it muscle). His upper arm measured 22.25 inches in circumference. His forearm was an amazing 19.5 inches in circumference. Each thigh was 33 inches around and the calves 28. His normal chest measured 59.5 inches while his waist was 47. And he was just 5 feet 10.5 inches tall. Louis Cyr’s dinner typically included six pounds of meat.

Statuette of Louis Cyr at the Weightlifting Hall of Fame. Cyr's dumbbell is in the background.

Statue of Louis Cyr at the Weightlifting Hall of Fame. Cyr's dumbbell is in the background. (Photo © Richard Grigonis)

Louis Cyr challenge dumbbell.

close-up of a cumbersome “CHALLENGE” dumbbell that the famous Quebec strongman, Louis Cyr, used in his act. hE challengeD anyone to lift it. The bell was obtained in 1936 from A pOLICE Chief NEAR QUEBEC NAMED Moquin, in exchange for a York Olympic Barbell set. Due to its thick handle the bell is difficult to lift, but it was specially designed for Cyr who had a strong grip. At its heaviest, packed with metal pellets, it weighed 273 pounds. Cyr handled it easily using the overhead “side press” style. To this day only a handful of men have been successful in pushing it overhead with one arm. Among these were Bob Hoffman, John Grimek, Sig Klein, and the late Wally Zagurski, all using the bent press style. (Photo © Richard Grigonis)

Around the year 1900, Cyr developed Bright’s disease, a kidney disorder that eventually took his life—the same affliction that later claimed the life of stongman Paul Anderson.

Photo of Louis Atilla.

Photo of “the Professor,” fitness innovator and astute businessman louis atilla.

One fellow who was an inspiration to early strongmen (and who capitalized off of them) was Louis Atilla (1844–1924) known as “the Professor.” He was the originator of globe barbells, the bent press, the Roman chair, the Roman column, the art of tearing playing cards, and he popularized many types of apparatus. With the success of his health studios in London and Brussels, Belgium and that of his famous student Eugen Sandow (who he met in Brussels around 1886), Atilla came to New York and founded an equally famous Health Studio and Gymnasium in 1894. Here he trained such famous strongmen as Warren Travis, Lionel Strongfort, George Rolandow, Louis Cyr, boxers such as “Gentlemen Jim” Corbett, as well as businessmen and a surprising number of women.

The Travis Dumbbell

Warren Lincoln Travis

Photo of the massive, 7 foot long dumbbell of Warren Lincoln Travis (1875–1941), that weighs 1650 pounds when empty and 3750 pounds when fully loaded. The globes can be separated with a special wrench and filled with water, sand, scrap metal or lead shot, to increase the barbell’s weight. Travis, who weighed a mere 180 pounds, for years hip-lifted this tremendous iron object at each of his roughly 80 shows per week. for several years Bob Hoffman displayed this dumbbell in front of his house near york, pennsylvania. (Photo © Richard Grigonis)

Perhaps the most impressive item on display in the building can be seen when you suddenly find yourself walking through a doorway into the Hall of Fame’s central, skylighted gallery. There before you sits the gallery’s imposing centerpiece, a giant 7-foot Travis dumbbell that weighs over 1650 pounds when it’s empty and 3750 pounds when it is fully loaded with sand. It’s the Travis Dumbbell, named after its owner, Brooklyn-born Warren Lincoln Travis (1875–1941), a man who also used to lift a platform bearing an upright piano and two horses. Everything about this barbell is big. Even the wrench needed to loosen the barbell’s end nuts is 3 feet long and weighs over 90 pounds.

Another photo of the travis dumbbell

Another, closer look at the travis dumbbell, showing its massive end nuts that can only be loosened with a specially-made wrench 3 feet long and weighing over 90 pounds. (Photo © Richard Grigonis)

Travis weighed a mere 180 pounds at his peak of his career during the years 1906-1909, but during this time he lifted various weights up to more than 3,000 pounds in a harness, and did back lifts of many people and objects. The National Police Gazette proclaimed Travis in 1907 as “the strongest man in the world,” (the title sounds familiar) and his elaborate metal belt proclaiming this pronouncement is on display in the museum. Travis died in 1941 at the age of 66, after he lifted a 1000-pound cannon ball during a sideshow performance at Coney Island.

Belt awarded to Warren Lincoln Travis in 1907 by the National Police Gazette.

amazingly gaudy metal belt awarded in 1907 by The National Police Gazette to the man they designated as “the strongest man in the world,” Warren Lincoln Travis. National Police Gazette was a popular source for sporting news of the day. it did not print weight training “how-to ” articles, but it did post stories about and at times even hosted challenges between touring strongmen. (Photo © Richard Grigonis)

Arthur Saxon

Arthur Saxon (1878–1921), whose real name was Arthur Henning, was, after Eugen Sandow, one of the most interesting and truly powerful professional strongmen of the last hundred years. Between 1897 and 1914 Arthur Saxon was the central figure in the Arthur Saxon Trio. The Weightlifting Hall of Fame’s museum has on display a large photo of Saxon with his two younger brothers Kurt and Hermann. Arthur Saxon's remarkable and spectacular feats are fascinating because his lifts were genuinely unlike many other performers of his era. In one act, Saxon lifted his seated brothers on a barbell with just one arm.

The Arthur Saxon Trio.

The Arthur Saxon Trio: Arthur Saxon (at left) and his two younger brothers, Kurt and Hermann.

The Osman Trio

the Osman Trio—Franz Stahr, Georg Jagendorfer, Wilhelm Turk

Another trio, the Osman Trio—Franz Stahr, Georg Jagendorfer, Wilhelm Turk—all Austrian weightlifting champions, typified the image of old time strongmen. Handlebar mustaches, studded leotards, wrist straps, leopard skins, gladiator sandals all enhanced their impressive size and added to their entertaining presentations of feats of great strength.

John Grünn Marx

John Grünn Marx (1868–1912), known as “The Luxembourg Hercules,”

John Grünn Marx (1868–1912), known as “The Luxembourg Hercules,” could regularly perform a Right Hand Snatch of 70 kilograms (154.25 pounds) on a barbell handle 2.75 inches in diameter. A man of superior gripping strength, he was the recognized “champion” of his day in bending, twisting, and breaking horseshoes with his bare hands. Tearing cards, coin breaking with his fingers, and wrist wrestling were among his other show-stopping feats of strength.

George W. Rolandow and His Barbell

G. W. Rolandow (Gottfried Wutrich) was a Swiss strongman who came to this country during early childhood and became a citizen in 1896. He joined forces with Prof. Titus, a German cable apparatus inventor. The name “Rolandow” was coined when he saw a beer truck go by with the words “Roland Beer” on it and because Sandow was quite popular Gottfried simply added an “ow” to Roland and became Rolandow.

G. W. Rolandow display includes his barbell.

G. W. Rolandow display at the York Barbell Museum and USA weightlifting hall of fame in York, Pennsylvania. rolandow's barbell can be seen at bottom of photo. This challenge barbell weighs 175 pounds empty but 299 when fully loaded. (Photo © Richard Grigonis)

Rolandow’s forte was bent pressing (a type of weight training exercise wherein a weight is brought from shoulder-level to overhead one-handed using the muscles of the back, legs, and arm), with a personal high of 299 pounds. Rolandow's barbell was sold to Professor Atilla and then to Sig Klein, who often used it to demonstrate the art of the Bent Press.

detail of rolandow barbell. G. W. Rolandow purchased this barbell from Professor Attila

detail of rolandow barbell. G. W. Rolandow purchased this barbell from Professor Attila and used it in his stage performances, sometimes loading it to full capacity. He also ran a gym in New York and when he retired sold this and other equipment to Sigmund Klein. Sig sold this barbell to Bob Howard who donated it to the York Barbell Museum and usa weightlifting Hall of Fame in York, Pennyslvania .
(Photo © Richard Grigonis)

As Klein wrote in 1937 shortly after lifting the Rolandow Barbell: “It was Saturday, April 10th, on my thity-fifth birthday that I lifted the Rolandow Bell again. It went up on my first attempt. So pleased was I with this accomplishment that I have not up to this present writing lifted this weight since. I have never tried to lift more in the Bent-Press than 209 pounds. It seems that no matter how much weight I would ever lift again in the Bent-Press, I would never again have the pleasure or satisfaction that I derived when I first succeeded with this ponderous weight. This was in 1937. It was about this time that I published Hot to Bent-Press, feeling that such a booklet was needed for the thousands of weight-lifters whose interest I had now aroused in this lift.”

Large Photo blow-up of an article about Rolandow that appeared in the august 1922 issue of “Physical Culture” magazine, on display at the USA Weightlifting Hall of Fame and Museum in York, Pennsylvania.

Large Photo blow-up of an article about Rolandow that appeared in the august 1922 issue of “Physical Culture” magazine, on display at the USA Weightlifting Hall of Fame and Museum in York, Pennsylvania.

Harry Schaffron’s Dumbbell

Harry Schaffron, like many strongmen, toured the vaudeville circuit. Schaffron also helped design exercising apparatus which was marketed by P.H. Schmidt. The apparatus was based on leverage and was very effective in building muscular power. He also designed a dumbbell on display at the museum, shown below.

The Schaffron Dumbbell.

The Schaffron Dumbbell. length 23.5 inches, sphere diameter 13 inches, sphere circumference 40.82 inches. the handle length is ONLY 3.75 inches and the handle diameter is 2.42 inches. Henry Schaffron fashioned and designed his own weights for the vaudeville stage. This impressive-looking dumbbell could be loaded to cause many strongmen to fail in lifting it. Most strongmen failed because it was crafted so it would be difficult or impossible to place a hand in the gripping space. Aside from the short handle length and its thickness, note the sharp edges that a large hand would encounter when trying to fit into that space. In any case, This weight serves as a good example of the intricacy of some of the old shapes and designs. Today, molding such weights would be prohibitively expensive. (Photo © Richard Grigonis)

Other Tools of the Trade

Old wooden dumbbells and Indian clubs were replaced by dumbbells of many shapes such as this unique design.

Old wooden dumbbells and Indian clubs were replaced by dumbbells of many shapes such as this unique design. Iron dumbbells were cast to provide added resistance for those who wanted to become stronger and more muscular. In this design the weight of the dumbbell depended on the length, although added thickness and oblong shapes prevailed. Today both solid and plate-loading types are used and have a place in the field of exercising for physical fitness. (Photo © Richard Grigonis)

The original kettlebell, called a girya or gyrya, looks like a cast iron bowling ball with flattened bottom and a thick handle attached to its top. No one knows exactly where or when they were invented. Objects looking like stone kettlebells were known as long ago as classical Greece. Chinese Shaolin Monks worked out with stone padlocks in a manner similar to that of today's kettlebells, in a type of training called Shi-SuoGuong (“The Art of Stone Padlock”). The oldest specific reference to a classic kettlebell can be found in a Russian dictionary in 1704. The Russians first used them as handled counterweights (bearing the Imperial Seal) to weigh out dry goods on market scales. Allegedly, food merchants during times of slow business used to pass the time exercising with their scale counterbalance weights and throwing them around “for fun.” (The Russian standard weight for measuring grain, a “pood,” which dates from around the 12th century and is about 16.38 kg, or 36.11 pounds, is also the standard weight increment for kettlebells.) Russians have always admired kettlebells and devised the Girevoy sport, wherein athletes called gireviks compete and whoever raises the girya (kettlebell) the most times wins.

German Kettlebells. Most German strongmen were excellent kettlebell jugglers.

German Kettlebells. Most German strongmen were excellent kettlebell jugglers, often exhibiting unusual skill in juggling. Throughout Germany various sizes and designs of kettlebells could be found. In 1936 when Bob Hoffman was in Berlin for the Olympic Games, he brought back this pair. Kettlebells were used extensively for exercising but chiefly for juggling or in skilled demonstrations. Their popularity in America was minmal although they were manufactured by several companies including Bob Hoffman’s own York Barbell company.
(Photo © Richard Grigonis)

Although Americans were using exercise training systems involving both barbells and kettlebells early in the 1900s (Americans tended to call kettlebells “ring weights”), the first official kettlebell competition took place in Russia in 1948 and was attended by 200,000 people. By that time the kettlebell had fallen out of favor in America. Even so, the first kettlebell world championship was held in 1993. Interestingly, since the turn of the 21st century there has been a resurgence of interest in kettlebells as a fitness and strength training tool—the Russian Military requires its recruits to train with kettlebells, and their Spetsnaz or special forces, in particular, sparked the current mania over kettlebells. Recruits for the United States Secret Service and the FBI Counter Assault Team also now train with kettlebells. There are even said to be some kettlebells aboard the U.S. President's aircraft, Air Force One.

These kettlebells were manufactured and sold by the Milo Barbell Company in the very early 20th century/

These kettlebells were manufactured and sold by the Milo Barbell Company in the very early 20th century (“milo” can be seen stamped on the top near the handle). The Milo Barbell Company, founded in 1902 in philadephia by Alan CAlvert (1875–1944), is important historically because, by introducing the first commercially manufactured barbell in North America, it Set weightlifting/training on the path to becoming a “modern” sport. Calvert's de facto standard barbells and dumbells enabled lifters to know precisely what was being lifted as well as comparisons from event-to-event, and town-to-town. The set to which this item belonged included a spherical barbell, a dumbbell, and two kettlebells, and could be loaded with specially-designed molded weights which fitted precisely into each globe. These spherical weights were used for exercising exhibitions, loading them to whatever poundage one desired or could handle. Very few are still in the hands of collectors. This is the larger deluxe style of two manufactured sizes. (Photo © Richard Grigonis)

Since kettlebells are made with a center of gravity that is off-centered geometrically, an athlete must use more core muscles to maintain stability when handling a kettlebell across the range of motion. For these reasons the kettlebell’s afficionados claim it to be “an entire gym with a handle.”

The ring weights pictured above (Americans tended to call kettlebells ring weights) were primarily used by circus strongmen.

The ring weights pictured above (Americans tended to call kettlebells ring weights) were primarily used by circus strongmen. They came in various sizes and weights, and were easier to handle in “muscling out” feats, with the ring. At other times the weight was held in the palm of the hand. Those skilled in lifting ring weights were able to perform feats that even other strongmen were unable to duplicate. Circus strongmen portrayed their use by being strapped to one of the tent-support poles and then “muscled out” the weight. This never failed To impress the audience, but in reality helped to make the stunt easier. (Photo © Richard Grigonis)

In reality, the old-time strongmen did not use kettlebells any more than their barbells or dumbbells, and many of today’s kettlebell enthusiasts who are seen demonstrating them in the many books and videos (on sale to exploit the current kettlebell craze) are actually bodybuilders who have employed other means to achieve each of their respective physiques.

group shot of weights to show their relative sizes: Kettlebell, Rolandow Barbell, Milo Spherical Kettlebell, and ringweight

group shot of weights to show their relative sizes. Starting at the top and going clockwise: German kettlebell, rolandow barbell, milo spherical kettlebell, and ringweight. Display is at the york barbell Museum and USA Weightlifting Hall of Fame in York, Pennsylvania. (Photo © Richard Grigonis)

The Weightlifting-Wrestling Connection

There has long been a kinship between wrestling superstars and the masters of strength. As Robert Drucker wrote, “Wrestling builds coordinated power and strength in many ways that cannot be duplicated with other forms of exercise.” Interestingly, certain individuals display proficiency at both types of physical endeavor—A remarkable feat when one considers that, although wrestlers must develop upper and lower body strength just like weightlifters, they must also include exercises in their conditioning workouts for maintaining muscle endurance and flexibility during their time on the mat.

George Hackenschmidt (1878–1968) known as

George Hackenschmidt (1878–1968) known as “The Russian Lion,” was a strong, quick, agile Russian strongman and champion professional Greco-Roman wrestler. He was considered a superb example of a lifetime of physical training as he performed feats of strength up until the end of his life.

Three individuals who were both distinguished strongmen and wrestlers are represented in the museum: George “The Russian Lion” Hackenschmidt (1878–1968), French weightlifter Charles Rigoulot (1903–1962) and Henry “Milo” Steinborn, inventor of “the Steinborn lift.” Steinborn's son, Henry Steinborn, said his father owned two watches. Inscribed on the back of each was “H. Milo Steinborn, 3-14-1893. Expected departure: 1989.” Strangely enough, Steinborn died February 9, 1989, at the age of 95.

Georges Hackenschmidt in his younger days, on display at the York Barbell Museum and USA Weightlifting Hall of Fame in York, Pennsylvania.

Photo of Georges Hackenschmidt in his younger days, on display at the York Barbell Museum and USA Weightlifting Hall of Fame in York, Pennsylvania.

Maurice Tillet, The French Angel

A unique wrestler and strongman represented in the museum is Maurice Tillet, known as “The French Angel.” Tillet was a Russian-born, French professional wrestler, former circus strongman and rugby player with a bizarre appearance, the result of an affliction, acromegaly, in which a chronically overactive pituitary gland causes a pathological enlargement of the bones of the hands, feet and face. Ironically, Tillet was nicknamed “The Angel” as a child because of his then-angelic face. After the acromeagly disfigured his head and face, Tillet, a poet and writer who could speak French and a smattering of four other languages (many sources claim 14), in February 1937 met professional wrestler Karl Pojello (Karolis Pozela) in Singapore. Pojello convinced Tillet that his abhorrent appearance would be a big box office draw if he were to enter the wrestling business—and to make Pojello his manager. Tillet and Pojello moved to Paris for training, and Tillet first wrestled in England as The Angel, “that ferocious monstrosity, not a human being, but 20 stone of brutality.”

Tillet and Pojello wrestled in France and England until World War II forced them to leave. Fortunately for Tillet, Boston wrestling promoter Paul Bowser read about him in the September 9, 1939 issue of Life magazine and made him an excellent offer, so Tillet and his manager Pojello soon left for America where professional wrestling was very popular and paid better than in Europe. Tillet made his U.S. debut on January 24, 1940 at the Boston Arena, grappling with Luigi Bacigalupi of Italy in front of 7,000 fans (twice the usual number). In the U.S. Tillet “The Angel” soon became “The French Angel” and was an overnight sensation. Billed by Bowser as “The World's Ugliest Man,” and known as the unstoppable “freak ogre of the ring,” Tillet soon ran up a 180-match winning streak, despatching opponents with his signature Palm Strike and much-touted Bearhug.

MASK of maurice Tillet (1903–1954)

MASK of maurice Tillet (1903–1954) , “the French Angel.” Tillet was a professional wrestler who owed his extraordinary appearance to a medical condition called acromegaly. Note the fist-like size of Tillet’s nose and ears. In 1940, four young anthropologists from Harvard took Maurice Tillet’s head and body measurements: His coffin-shaped face was 7.16 inches wide, 7.05 inches long from nose-bridge to jaw-point. They also noted huge protuberances over the eyebrows and at the back of the head, an elevation like a ridgepole from front to back of the cranium. Also consider that this giant head rested on a body with long arms and short legs that was just under 5 feet, 10 inches in height and weighed 276 pounds. One investigator declared to Time Magazine: “The collar bones and rib cage are the most massive I have ever seen. The tremendous nuchal [back-of-the-neck] musculature is quite beyond anything I have ever conceived.” (Photo © Richard Grigonis)

On August 1, 1944 The French Angel defeated Steve “Crusher” Casey for the American Wrestling Association World Championship. So great was Tillet’s success that it spawned a gaggle of other hideous-looking wrestling imitators: the Black, Czech, Golden, Irish, Polish and Russian, “Angels” of the 1940s, such as The Swedish Angel, Phil Olaffson, who several times grappled with Tillet himself in the ring. In particular there was Tor Johnson, the “Super Swedish Angel” who later achieved fame as an actor in more than 30 films, including Ed Wood’s unintentionally funny Plan Nine from Outer Space. In the late 1950s, professional wrestling promoter Jack Pfefer (1984–1974) took the “freak character” wrestling motif to a new level when he attempted to promote the Lady Angel, a bald woman who allegedly could not speak English. The 1970s would bring a new wrestling star afflicted with acromegaly, the surprisingly cheerful and good-natured Andre the Giant, known as “the Eighth Wonder of the World.”

Another view of the MASK of maurice Tillet.

Another view of the MASK of maurice Tillet. (Photo © Richard Grigonis)

On September 4, 1954, Tillet's life-long friend and manager Karl Pojello (Karolis Pozela) died at the age of 61 of lung cancer. The pair had shared adjoining rooms at 726 West Garfield Boulevard in Chicago. Tillet, ill from hypertensive heart disease (and having endured a bout with penumonia the previous August), suffered a heart attack when informed of the news, and was taken to County Hospital where he passed away 13 hours later, late Saturday night, September 4, 1954. Both Tilllet and Pojello were buried at the same time and next to each other, with a service at 1:30 p.m. on September 8, 1954, at the chapel at 3354 South Halsted Street, and were interred in the Lithuanian National Cemetery in Justice, Illinois.

historical footnote: Graves of Maurice Tillet and his friend and manager Karl Pojello (Karolis Pozela).

historical footnote: Graves of Maurice Tillet and his friend and manager Karl Pojello (Karolis Pozela), who both died on the same date, September 4, 1954, and who were buried simultaneously, and next to each other at the national lithuanian cemetery near chicago. The SHARED GRAVESTONE READS: “Friends Whom Even Death Couldn’t Part.”

The USA Weightlifting Hall of Fame & York Barbell Museum has what is labelled as “the only death mask of Maurice Tillet in existence.” In actuality, Bobby Managain, known as the wrestling champion Bobby Managoff, asked Tillet on his death bed if he could make a plaster cast of his face. Tillet agreed, and Managain made three masks of his face. One mask was given to Milo Steinborn, while two were claimed by another friend of Tillet's named Patrick Kelly. Steinborn donated this mask to the York Barbell Museum & USA Weightlifting Hall of Fame, the second mask sat on Kelly's office desks for years, and the third mask was donated by Kelly to the Dan Gable International Wrestling Institute and Museum. (Founded by journalist Mike Chapman on September 19, 1998, in Newton, Iowa, as the International Wrestling Institute and Museum, it reopened on January 12, 2007, in Waterloo, Iowa, as the Dan Gable International Wrestling Institute and Museum.) There is also a life-size bust of Tillet on display at the International Museum of Surgical Science in Chicago, Illinois, sculpted in 1950 by Louis Linck.

Maurice Tillet was said to be the model for the character of shrek.

Maurice Tillet was said to be the model for the character of shrek.

Tillet’s appearance was so legendary that it is alleged his image (along with those of some other “Angels”) was used as the model for the animated character, Shrek.

Another strange postscript to the life of Maurice Tillet: During his life, Tillet regularly travelled to Braintree, Massachusetts to visit the home of his close friend and fellow chess enthusiast, the entrepreneur Patrick Kelly. In 1980, 25 years after Tillet’s death, Patrick Kelly installed what was then a new-fangled microcomputer to run a chess program. Kelly placed Tillet’s mask next to the computer in memory of his long-gone chess buddy. Kelly allegedly found that the computer suddenly started playing him using well-known chess moves invented by an 18th century French grandmaster, which happened to be the favorite moves of this dear friend, Tillet. Moreover, after playing for three hours, the exhausted Kelly suddenly discovered that had forgotten to plug in the computer! He informed the computer's manufacturer about the incident. The company sent him a new computer and chess program. Kelly tried his hand at some original chess programming but the machine started to play back on its own. Kelly then attempted to turn off the computer, but it continued to display a particular move on the monitor even though Kelly had pulled all of the plugs.

spirit of strongman and professional wrestler Maurice Tillet was said to have returned to earth 25 years after his death to continue playing recreational chess games with businessman Patrick Kelly.

The spirit of strongman and professional wrestler Maurice Tillet was said to have returned to earth 25 years after his death to continue playing recreational chess games with businessman Patrick Kelly. (Photos © Syahrul Fitri | Dreamstime.com and © Kovacs Ferenc | Dreamstime.com composite image © Richard Grigonis.)

Out of curiosity, Kelly made another, similar move, and instantly remembered that these two moves duplicated those made by himself and Tillet in a game they had played on April 12, 1952. He had remembered that game because, concidentally, both he and Tillet had made the same move.

Kelly again informed the company of the strange goings on regarding the computer. A team of engineers arrived, checked the equipment thoroughly and took the sculpture of Tillet away for further analysis. The computer's behavior was ordinary that evening. X-rays of the sculpture were made, along with other tests, but nothing out of the ordinary was found. The mask was returned the next day, whereupon the computer once more began “misbehaving.” No explanation for the computer’s strange behavior was ever offered, aside from some people with supernatural beliefs who speculated that Tillet’s soul was somehow associated with the mask and that it harnessed Kelly's ‘psychic energy’ to power the computer and play chess with him.

York Barbell Museum and USA Weightlifting Point of Fame

Posters showing the York System of training involving barbells and dumbbells, all formulated by bob hoffman. Later, hoffman’s competitor and nemesis, the canadian Joe Weider, would devise his own competing system. (Photo © Richard Grigonis)

York Barbell Museum and USA Weightlifting Point of Fame

The York Barbell Museum and USA Weightlifting Hall of Fame clearly separates powerlifting exhibits from those of bodybuilding using a color coding system: Red for powerlifting, yellowish-orange for bodybuilding. (Photo © Richard Grigonis)

Powerlifting

As its name implies, powerlifting is a competition that demonstrates brute strength. In the early “strongmen” days of weightlifting, various novel lifts were used to entertain the crowds. Strongmen would challenge each other (or members of the audience) to duplicate some of these lifts. Competitions began to appear. Other lifts were used mostly for training, but were sometimes included in competitions, such as the dead lift, the bent press, the supine or back press, the deep knee bend, the belly toss, the wrestler's bridge, the barbell curl, the upright row, the one-arm swing, and the behind-the-neck press.

Powerlifting will most certainly continue as a popular sport because of man’s innate desire to demonstrate his sheer physical power.

Powerlifting will most certainly continue as a popular sport because of man’s innate desire to demonstrate his sheer physical power. Unlike Olympic barbells, Powerlifting barbells do not require A quick spinning sleeve since the lifter will only be doing the squat, deadlift and bench press. Even so, the bar must withstand the extraordinary weight a powerlifter is able to move. The bar must be capable of both bending slightly as the lifter moves the weight and then springing back into a straight line once the weight is unloaded. Moreover, powerlifters have favored spots where they like to place and hold the bar, and so they like knurling in differing locations. For example, some powerlifting bars have a Knurling strip in the middle of the bar to grip the back during squats. (Photo of artwork painted on backlit plexiglass, at York Barbell Museum and USA Weightlifting Hall of Fame © Richard Grigonis)

At the 1904 Olympics in St. Louis, there was an all-around dumbbell event in which competitors had to perform nine one-arm lifts, a single two-arm lift, and an optional lift. When the British Amateur Weight Lifting Association was re-founded in 1911, it listed 42 official lifts for which it would approve records. Upon its formation by George Jowett and Bernard Bernard around 1920, the American Continental Weight-Lifter's Association (ACWLA) recognized no less than 60 lifts and six bodyweight divisions.

Elaborate display of weightlifting awards at the York Barbell Museum and USA Weightlifting Hall of Fame, York, Pennsylvania.

Elaborate display of weightlifting awards at the York Barbell Museum and USA Weightlifting Hall of Fame, York, Pennsylvania.
(Photo © Richard Grigonis)

During the 1920s, there were two national weightlifting organizations in the United States, the American Continental Weight-Lifter's Association (ACWLA) and the Association Of Bar Bell Men (ABBM). They both recognized records for a wide variety of lifts, although some of them were relegated to exhibitions, not competitive events.

In 1920, at the suggestion of the International Olympic Committee, the International Weightlifting Federation (Fédération Haltérophile Internationale; FHI) was formed to standardize events and supervise international competition. Part of this regularization involved drastically reducing the variety of lifts. Beginning with the 1928 Games, the one- and two-hand lifts of earlier Games had given way to only two-hand lifts: the snatch, the clean and jerk, and the clean and press. (The press was abandoned following the 1972 Games in Munich.)

York Barbell Museum and USA Weightlifting Point of Fame

In September 1964, the first powerlifting national open tournament was held in York, Pennsylvania. 38 contestants competed in seven different bodyweight classes. (Photo display of this event at the York Barbell Museum and USA WEightlifting Hall of Fame in York, PA.)

Beginning in 1928, however, Olympic weightlifting was limited to three lifts, the snatch, the press, and the clean-and-jerk. The Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) became the national governing body for the sport in 1927 and began accepting only the Olympic lifts. All other lifts were simply called “odd lifts.”

Although barred from major competitions, several of the odd lifts were considered useful for bodybuilder training purposes. They became known as “strength lifts” or “powerlifts.” These lifts include the squat, the deadlift, and the back lift. Prevented from participating in the Olympics, strength athletes who were aficionados of these powerlifts searched for an outlet to publically both display their physical prowess and to challenge each other in “friendly” contests of strength. As bodybuilding contests increased in number following World War II, they often included powerlift exhibitions that would occasionally be transformed into informal competitions. Ironically, these competitions followed the same three-attempt format as Olympic weightlifting, but used a wide variety of lifts akin to the old Strongman events. Challenge matches for a particular lift were also held on occasion.

York Barbell Museum and USA Weightlifting Point of Fame

Description of this display reads, “The first official Senior National Powerlifting Championships were held in 1965 in York, PA.” (Photo © Richard Grigonis)

Whereas the Olympic lifter depends mainly on speed, timing, and greater muscular coordination the powerlifter relies chiefly on strength, applying physical might to lift maximum weights. Setting new records in amounts of weight lifted is the ultimate goal of the powerlifter.

Modern powerlifting evolved in the U.S. and U.K. during the 1950s as competitions continued to appear in the sport of “odd lifts.” However, it was not until September 1964 that the first formal national powerlifting competition was held in York, Pennsylvania, another reflection of the influence of Bob Hoffman and his York Barbell Company. Powerlifting gained additional prestige with the first world championship in 1971, also held in York.

York Barbell Museum and USA Weightlifting Point of Fame

This display at the USA Weightlifing Hall of fame reads, “The first World Powerlifting Championships took place on November 6, 1971 in York, PA.” (Photo © Richard Grigonis)

Ironically, Hoffman had initially opposed the sport of powerlifting, but his influence in Olympic lifting and his predominately Olympic-lifting based magazine Health and Strength had come under increasing competiton from Joe Weider’s organization. America’s—and Bob Hoffman’s—influence in the world of weightlifting had declined during the 1950s and so, to reassert himself and combat Weider's growing influence, Hoffman in January 1964 started another magazine entitled Muscular Development that focused more on both bodybuilding and the rapidly growing interest in “odd-lift” competitions. Muscular Development's first editor was Hoffman’s protégé, the great Olympic lifter and bodybuilder, John Grimek.

York Barbell Museum and USA Weightlifting Point of Fame

Powerlifting Display at the USA Weightlifting Hall of Fame in York, Pennsylvania. This one, “Milestone Accomplishments,” has lists and photos of the following powerlifters and the year in which they achieved their respective milestones. Top row, left-to-right: 1) 1969–Donald Cundy, USA: First 800 pound deadlift. 2) 1971–George Frenn, USA: First man to total 2100 pounds. 3) 1972–Jon Cole, USA: First man to total 2200 pounds. 4) 1972–John Kuc, USA: First official 900 pound squat and first to total 2300 pounds. Bottom row, left-to-right: 1) 1974–Hideaki Inaba, Japan (114 pound class): World’s first lifter to total 10 times bodyweight. 2) 1979–Mike Bridges, USA (165 pound class): First lifter to total 11 times bodyweight. 3) 1973–1976: Don Reinhoudt, USA (superheavyweight): One of the longest running undefeated careers in official competiton for a man of his bodyweight 350+ pounds). 4) 1967–Pat Casey, USA: First man to perform 600 pound bench press, and first to total 2000 pounds.

Because of great interest in this aspect of muscle building and display of strength, the American Athletic Union (AAU) accepted powerlifting as part of its program in 1965. Once again, Bob Hoffman and his York Barbell Company were instrumental in organizing the first meets. Originally, the AAU voted on and accepted four lifts to be contested: the two-arm curl, deadlift, bench press, and deep knee bend or squat. Subsequently, the AAU voted to drop the two-arm curl from competition. The event now consists of three separate lifts, the bench press, squat and deadlift and is contested in 11 weight categories: 114, 123, 132, 148, 165, 181, 198, 220, 242, 275 and over 275 pounds. The 275 pound class was added in 1978 in the U.S. and 1981 in world competitions.

All national powerlift records established after January 1, 1965 were accepted as official by the AAU. The first official AAU National Championships in 1971, was also held in York, Pennsylvania.

York Barbell Museum and USA Weightlifting Point of Fame

Continuation of Powerlifting Milestone Accomplishments display at USA Weightlifting Hall of fame. Top row, left-to-right: 1) 1983–Dan Wohleber, USA: First official 900 pound deadlift. 2) 1984–Lee Moran, USA: First Official 1000 pound squat. 3) 1985–Ted Arcidi, USA: First Official 700 pound bench press. 4) 1975–Don Reinhoudt, USA: First man to total 2400 pounds. Bottom row, left-to-right: 1) 1994–Tamara Grimwood, USA: First woman to officially bench press 400 pounds. [Editor’s Note: Tamara Rainwater-Grimwood died April 5, 2000 at the age of 36, at home. She was a five-time world powerlifting champion, Marine Corps veteran, a youth crisis-intervention counselor; a certified fitness trainer and co-owner of Grimwood’s Power Plant Gyms.] 2) 1997– Anthony Clark, USA: The first man to reverse grip bench press 800 pounds in an exhibition lift [Arnold Schwarzenegger Classic]. [Editor’s Note: Anthony Wayne Clark died in 2005.]

As in many other endeavors, women became interested in the sport of powerlifting. Fortunately, powerlifting took less time than Olympic lifting to recognize female interest in the sport, with the first official women’s National contest was held in 1978 and first World Championships in 1980. Competitions are also now contested among junior lifters aged 16–23 and by masters over 40.

York Barbell Museum and USA Weightlifting Point of Fame

Powerlifter Larry Pacifico, inducted 1998 into the USA Weightlifting Hall of fame. Pacifico won nine straight IPF World Powerlifting Championships from 1971–1979. He won a total of 102 competitions and set 54 World Records during his powerlifting career. Pacifico, one of history’s greatest powerlifters, goes by the nickname of “Mr. Powerlifting.”

The AAU relinquished the governing rights to powerlifting in 1978 when the United States Powerlifting Federation (USPF) was formed. Ironically, the international governing body, the International Powerlifting Federation (IPF) was founded much earlier, in 1972.

York Barbell Museum and USA Weightlifting Point of Fame

Photo of Vince Anello, inducted into the USA Weightlifting Hall of Fame as a powerlifter in 1998. His best official deadlift was 821 pounds. His best gym deadlift was a remarkable 880 pounds.

As mentioned previously, powerlifting is basically a strength sport, enabling the athlete to develop proficiency in a shorter period of time than Olympic lifting, which requires much more finesse and technique. The power lifts—the squat, bench press and deadlift—are familiar to anyone who has ever trained with weights. Also, they are are easy to perform and require mainly strength to achieve. The Olympic lifts, on the other hand, demand superb flexibility, balance and coordination—calling for proper initial training for beginners as well as constant practice to maintain proficiency.

York Barbell Museum and USA Weightlifting Point of Fame

Photo of Ruthie Shafer (1957–2010), inducted into the USA Weightlifting Hall of Fame in 1998. A great Squatter and Dead lifter, she won two World Titles at 60 kilograms in 1982 and 1983, and two more at 67.5 kilograms in 1983 and 1984. Shafer suffered a serious back injury which forced her to bow out of the sport in the 1990s.

All of these reasons possibly explains the sport’s great popularity in the U.S. In the 1990s there was at least four times as many registered powerlifters as Olympic lifters. Today there may be 10 times as many. Moreover, although the Iron Curtain countries dominate Olympic lifting, particularly Russia, the U.S. has dominated powerlifting since its inception, winning every team world championship from 1971 to 1984, except 1976.

Bodybuilding vs. Powerlifting and Olympic Lifting

York Barbell Museum and USA Weightlifting Point of Fame

A sign at museum reads: “The bodybuilding Hall of Fame is a tribute to the men and women who have contributed to the growth of the sport of Physique. Individuals are selected from three categories: ‘Athletes,’ ‘Administrators,’ and ‘Contributors,’ by a committee consisting of America Committee members and state chairpersons. Criteria for the selection of an ‘Athlete’ requires that a bodybuilder has been an active competitor, retired for five years, and has won at least one major contest title. ‘Administrators’ are persons who have enhanced the sport of Physique through promoting contests, and operating gyms and health centers. ‘Contributors’ are those who have competed in contests or have otherwise supported physique through advocation of exercise and general good health.” (Photo © Richard Grigonis)

Whereas powerlifting is the brute-force version of strongmanism and Olympic lifting is restricted to just two lifts, there is another form of physical competition which does not involve displays of strength at all. Instead, it is a sport called “bodybuilding” wherein men and women (the “bodybuilders”) are judged on the excellence of their physiques in a series of poses, though describing it this way is a gross simplification. Weight training and resistance exercises are used by the bodybuilder not to attain power, but to sculpt a body that will be judged on proportion, muscular definition, symmetry, vascularity, skin tone, posing and posture. Judging a competitive bodybuilding event can even entail to some degree not just the contestants’ muscular development, but their apparent attitude, imagination used in posing techniques, and even the music chosen for the posing routine that is held before the panel of judges.

York Barbell Museum and USA Weightlifting Point of Fame

Bodybuilding hall of fame exhibit at the York Barbell Museum and USA Weightlifting Hall of fame. Athletes, administrators and contributors honored on the wall include Eugen Sandow, John Grimek, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Lou Ferrigno, Steve Reeves, Bill Pearl, George Eiferman, Larry Scott, Dave Mayor, Charles Atlas, Bernarr MacFadden, Bob Hoffman, Peter Miller, Jack LaLanne, Reg Park, Earle Liederman, Vince Gironda, Clarence Ross and many others. (Photo © Richard Grigonis)

To make the muscle groups large and their definition distinct, bodybuilders prepare for competition first through a “bulking up” phase during the off season where they put on as much muscle mass as possible by employing the so-called powerlifts in training: the bench press for upper body development; the squat for power and bulk; the curl for bigger biceps; the upright rowing motion for arms, shoulders and trapezius; the deadlift for back strength. Then, during the last 8 to 16 weeks before a competition event, the “cutting” phase takes place, in which cardio and circuit training, cutting carbohydrate intake and specialized exercises to accentuate muscular development are used to shed fat and water to “sculpt” the body to visual perfection. For the contest itself, a combination of oils, tanning lotions and appropriate lighting are utilized too.

Such “beauty” contests for men are older than similar competitions among women, having been staged as long ago as ancient Greece. Indeed, the measurements and proportions of ancient Greco-Roman statuary influenced the first person to span the worlds of the strongman and today's bodybuilding, Eugen Sandow.

Eugen Sandow

York Barbell Museum and USA Weightlifting Point of Fame

Eugen Sandow featured on the cover of the March 1934 issue of Physical Culture magazine. Part of the Eugen Sandow exhibit at the York Barbell and USA Weightlifting Hall of Fame. (Photo © Richard Grigonis)

The Hall of Fame has a full-sized body cast (one of only two in existence) of Eugen Sandow (1867–1925), the Prussian known as the “father of modern bodybuilding” who regularly performed feats of strength for American Presidents and European monarchs and became the Ziegfield Follies first major star. The body cast of Sandow is perfect, right down to his Kaiser Wilhelm moustache. Sandow was a strongman celebrity who bridged the worlds of strongmanism and modern bodybuilding. He was friends with everyone from Arthur Conan Doyle to Thomas Edison. In fact, in 1894 he was the subject of one of the 10 Kinetoscope films made at Edison’s “black maria” studio that appeared at the first commercial motion picture exhibition in history, a Kinetoscope parlor in New York City.

York Barbell Museum and USA Weightlifting Point of Fame

Full-Sized body cast of Eugen Sandow, one of only two in existence, on display at the USA Weightlifting Hall of Fame in York, Pennsylvania. The original cast is currently in storage in London. A duplicate made at Sandow's request was presented to his friend, Dr. Dudley Sargent, at Harvard University by Sandow himself; That copy is apparently lost. The only other cast is the one pictured here, made for Bob Hoffman by taking impressions from the original cast in London. (Photo © Richard Grigonis)

Such was the respect accorded to Sandow's ideas concerning fitness and strength that England's George V required Sandow's exercise regimen as part of British army training. Sandow officially established the very idea of bodybuilding in the public’s mind on September 14, 1901, when he held an event at the Royal Albert Hall in London called “The Great Competition,” the first major physique competition in history.

York Barbell Museum and USA Weightlifting Point of Fame

At the World Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1894, Eugen Sandow posed inside a black velvet-lined booth with white powder covering his body to make it resemble greco-roman statuary. Sandow would often do this to showcase his physical presentation to great effect. Additionally, he would outline his muscular abdominals in charcoal. In this photo we have de-saturated the color and boosted the contrast to give you a rough idea of what sandow looked like in performance. (Photo © Richard Grigonis)

Perhaps more importantly, Sandow was also a founder of the big-time bodybuilding business. He manufactured and promoted a line of various kinds of training gadgets—a deluxe set of his English-made hand exercisers are on display at the Hall of Fame—owned a mail order curative physical culture business, and he even lent his celebrity name to a failed cocoa factory and Sandow cigars. Marketers of clothing failed to secure trademark rights from Sandow, and blatantly offered such items as boys’ “Sandow Suits” (“the strongest suits in the world ”), Sandow stockings, Sandow “Gentlemen's Garters,” and so forth.

Sandow Deluxe Hand Exercisers at the USA Weightlifting Hall of Fame museum in York, Pennsylvania.

Sandow Hand Exercisers. The famous Eugen Sandow was quite commercial-minded. He manufactured different training gadgets or loaned his name to projects such as the Sandow cigars. The spring dumbbels seen here were designed for general use. In his tours and lectures around the world he promoted the sales of these and his other training equipment. this photo is of his deluxe set. Chrome-plated with leather covered handles, this set came in a gold-finished tin box. It was manufactured in England, where he established headquarters and conducted his business. (This set was donated to the hall of fame's museum by John C. Grimek.) (Photo © Richard Grigonis)

Sandow and other early 1900s physical culturists stressed that men and women were not fated to keep the bodies with which they were born. They could reshape them with the proper exercise and diet, an idea that made bodybuilding palatable to all classes. For all Sandow's business acumen, he was a philanthropic fellow who contributed greatly to charity and spent time helping many unfit and underprivileged men and women, declaring himself “Amicus Humanii Generis,” a friend of the human race.

Sandow's endorsed polishing cloth for grip dumbbells.

Display of promotion for Sandow’s personally endorsed polishing cloth for grip dumbbells, touted as “superior to chamois leather,” made by selvyt in england, a company that is still in business.
(Photo © Richard Grigonis)

Perhaps Sandow got his business sense from a close study of his teachers. One was Professor Edmond Desbonnet (1867-1953), whose Physical Culture theory and practice (“Methode Desbonnet”) was a rebellion against the “Belle Epoque” era of dissipation and decadence wherein the wealthy ignored their physical condition.

Barbell used by Eugen Sandow.

Unlabelled Barbell, possibly used by Eugen Sandow, on display next to his body cast at the York Barbell Museum and usa weightlifting hall of fame. (Photo © Richard Grigonis)

Desbonnet’s 200+ fitness centers in Europe were expensive to join, and were thus frequented by the upper classes, making them quite lucrative. Desbonnet pioneered the use of 3D stereo photography to record and measure his customers. Early bodybuilders such as Sandow, Apollon, Brancaccio and Nowosielsky, were familiar with the Desbonnet method and often appeared in the five magazines and several books he published. Through his magazines, the famous 3D stereo photographs were offered for sale, along with hand stereo viewers.

Bernarr MacFadden and Physical Culture

Barbell used by Eugen Sandow.

Part of a Bernarr Macfadden DISPLAY at the York Barbell Museum and usa weightlifting hall of fame. (Photo © Richard Grigonis)

The first known male physique contest in America was at the inaugural Physical Culture Exposition, an extravaganza held in New York City’s Madison Square Garden between December 28, 1903 and January 2, 1904, promoted by Bernarr MacFadden (1868–1955). Contests included “races for men and women, fencing championships, wrestling bouts and several fasting competitions.” The exhibition’s grand finale was the judging of men and women's divisions in search of a perfect physique, the winners receiving large cash prizes.

Barbell used by Eugen Sandow.

Publisher Bernarr Mcfadden, among other things, unsuccessfully attempted to found a religion, “cosmotarianism,” based on physical culture principles. He claimed he could reach the age of 150 just by adhering to his own diet regimen. (He did not.)

The male winner was Al Treloar (Alfred Toof Jennings, 1873–1960, Harvard Class of 1898) who received a $1,000 cash prize as “The Most Perfectly Developed Man in the World.” In addition to being a bodybuilder, Treloar was also a strongman, capable of tearing two and three decks of playing cards with his bare hands. The women's champion was Emma Newkirk, who also received a $1,000 cash prize.

Barbell used by Eugen Sandow.

October 1908 issue of Bernarr Macfadden's Physical Culture magazine. This issue on “Marriage Problems” reflects Macfadden's views on sexual intercourse as a healthy activity and not solely a procreative one. He was often arrested on obscenity charges. From the Macfadden exhibit at the York Barbell Museum & usa weightlifting hall of fame. (Photo © Richard Grigonis)

Bernarr MacFadden (1868–1955) was an eccentric yet influential American proponent of “physical culture,” a combination of bodybuilding and strength regimens with nutritional and health theories. His system was influential because it was promoted by a publishing empire that included Physical Culture magazine, which he founded in 1899 and became the first major piece of what would become a $30 million empire. MacFadden was also operated physical culture schools and set up scholarships so that children would receive an education imbued with physical culture concepts.

Barbell used by Eugen Sandow.

Example issue of Bernarr Macfadden's Physical Culture magazine from the early 20th century, WITH mACFADDEN HIMSELF ON THE COVER. From the Macfadden exhibit at the York Barbell Museum & usa weightlifting hall of fame. (Photo © Richard Grigonis)

Other competing physical culture systems vying for popularity included the German Turnverein system of strenuous “heavy gymnastics,” the Czech Sokol physical culture movement, Per Henrik Ling’s “Swedish System” of “light gymnastics,” bodybuilder and showman Eugen Sandow’s system, systems by Edmond Desbonnnet, George Hebert, Han Bjelke-Petersen, not to mention Edith Parsons “Physi,” and The Burns Association of Physical Culture’s “Physie” for girls and women. (During the 20th century the term “physical culture” was replaced by terms such as “physical education,” “fitness training” or simply “exercise.”)

Barbell used by Eugen Sandow.

November 1941 issue of “Successful Living” magazine with cover story of, “The True Story of the Father of Physical Culture, Bernarr Macfadden, Crusader and Humanatarian.” From the Macfadden exhibit at the York Barbell Museum & usa weightlifting hall of fame. (Photo © Richard Grigonis)

Angelo Siciliano, better known as Charles Atlas, once a sickly youth who was inspired by statues of the Greek gods in the Brooklyn Museum, in 1921 won Bernarr Macfadden’s photograph contest called the “World’s Most Beautiful Man Contest.” On October 28, 1922 he won Macfadden’s “The World's Most Perfectly Developed Man™” competition in New York’s Madison Square Garden, despite the fact that 775 men had competed for the title, judged by a panel of doctors and artists. Upon Atlas’ second victory Macfadden proclaimed that he had now decided to stop promoting the contest, complaining that Atlas would win every year. (Actually, Macfadden was probably cleverly beginning his promotion for a silent movie short starring Atlas entitled The Road to Health.)

Atlas, in conjunction with business partner Charles Roman, founded an immensely successful advertising campaign (“The insult that made a man out of Mac®”) and mail order business for physical training based on “Dynamic-Tension,” following in the mail order footsteps of Edmond Desbonnet of France, Theodore Siebert of Germany and Earle E. Liederman. Today, Charles Atlas, Ltd. remains one of the oldest American companies still in operation.

York Barbell Museum and USA Weightlifting Point of Fame

Poster detailing popular poses used by bodybuilders, at the York Barbell and USA Weightlifting Hall of Fame, York, Pennsylvania.
(Photo © Richard Grigonis)

Despite such publicity for the sport, most major physique contests were initially held in Europe, many by Health and Strength magazine. H&S founded the Mr & Miss Britain Contests, until 1947 known as Physical Excellence contests. These were organized by the magazine and staged by its Health & Strength League. In America, until the 1940s the bodybuilding scene was controlled by the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU), itself influenced by Bob Hoffman. The first official Mr. America physique contests held under the auspices of the AAU took place May 25, 1940 at New York City's Madison Square Garden, the winner being John Grimek. (However, the first physique contest to have the “Mr. America” name was held in 1938.) In 1941 a Best Built Man contest was held in conjunction with the National Weightlifting Championships in Chicago and was subtitled Mr. America. But 1940 marks the official beginning and flourishing of this event. The Weider brothers' newly-formed International Federation of BodyBuilders (IFBB) held an IFBB Mr. America contest in 1949, which angered the AAU.

IFBB Logo

On the international scene Mr. Universe and Mr. World were two of the major global physique championships, though there was a slightly confusing competing set of Mr. Universe contests in America and Europe. Planners of the 1947 World's Weightlifting Championships held in Philadelphia thought it would be a good idea to hold a physique contest after the main event, the victor to be called Mr. Universe. Steve Stanko won this first Mr Universe contest. (The following year, 1948, Steve Reeves became the first Mr. World.)

On the other side of the Atlantic, Britain's Health & Strength magazine's UK Amateur Mr. Universe competition was held August 13, 1948, at the Scala Theatre, London, England, in tribute to the 1948 London Olympics. Open to pros and amateurs, out of 43 contestants the winner was John Grimek. There was no U.K. Mr. Universe contest in 1949.

York Barbell Museum and USA Weightlifting Point of Fame

Many of the people who held these first legitimate bodybuilding contests in Europe in the 1930s would later form the National Amateur BodyBuilders Association (NABBA), officially launched January 1, 1950, which took over the U.K. Mr. Universe contest from Health & Strength (NABBA's H&Q was an office within the Health & Strength Publishing Co Ltd, in London.) The first NABBA Mr. Universe competition was held in the U.K. on June 24, 1950 with Steve Reeves of the U.S. taking the Mr. Universe title. The contest is still held today under the name Universe Championships. To be precise, Universe Championships are now an annual bodybuilding event organised by the NABBA that consists of the following: NABBA Amateur Mr. Universe (a separate contest for pros was added in 1952, the first winner being Juan Ferrero), Miss Physique (introduced 1968), Miss Figure (added 1986), and Miss Toned Figure. A separate competition called IFBB Mr. Universe was organized by the International Federation of BodyBuilders (IFBB). This changed its name to the World Amateur Bodybuilding Championships in 1976 to avoid confusion with the NABBA Mr. Universe event. (The IFBB also changed its name to the International Federation of Bodybuilding & Fitness in November 2004.)

Bob Gruskin brought the NABBA to America in the form of NABBA USA in 1992. The AAU Mr. Universe was a bodybuilding contest organized by the AAU. Of all the “Mr. Universe” contests, it was the only one officially sanctioned by the IWF (and sometimes referred to as the FIHC Mr. Universe). Anyone participanting in the NABBA Mr. Universe or IFBB Mr. Universe wasn't allowed in the AAU Mr. Universe as the AAU considered them professional events, since they were not sanctioned by the FIHC. (This reflected the Bob Hoffman-dominated AAU’s competitiveness with Joe Weider's IFBB.)

York Barbell Museum and USA Weightlifting Point of Fame

Even so, many bodybuilding afficionados consider the NABBA Mr. Universe to be the “real” Mr. Universe contest, since its winners included such indisputable greats as John C. Grimek, Steve Reeves, Reg Park, Bill Pearl, Arnold Schwarzenneggar, Serge Nubret, Robby Robinson, Boyer Coe, Chris Dickerson, Bertil Fox and Frank Zane.

John C. Grimek

York Barbell Museum and USA Weightlifting Point of Fame

Marble statue of John Grimek, voted Mr. America in 1940 and 1941, Mr. Universe in 1948, Mr. Pro USA in 1949. (Photo © Richard Grigonis)

At the York Barbell Museum and USA Weightlifting Hall of Fame, a life-size marble sculpture of John Carroll Grimek (1910–1998) stands near the cast of Eugen Sandow. Grimek, a long-time employee of York Barbell, was an Olympic weightlifter on the 1936 Olympic team, the only two-time Mr. America (1940 and 1941), the 1948 Mr. Universe, and the only competitor to retire undefeated in the world of bodybuilding competition. John Grimek was recognized by many experts as the “Best Built Human” of the first half of the 20th century.

Steve Reeves and the Sword & Sandal Movies

Competitive bodybuilding attracted increased public interest in the post World War II era as the physique champions of the day gained high visibility when featured in motion picture productions centering on biblical, mythologic or other themes. Foremost in this corps of musclemen-turned-movie stars was Steve Reeves (1926–2000), who landed prominent roles in such epics as Athena in 1954 (Dick DuBois, “Mr. America” for 1954, was also in the cast), Hercules, Hercules Unchained, Morgan the Pirate and his only western, A Long Ride from Hell.

York Barbell Museum and USA Weightlifting Point of Fame

Poster commemorating bodybuilding and movie career of Steve Reeves at the York Barbell Museum and USA Weightlifting Hall of Fame in York, Pennsylvania. (Photo © Richard Grigonis)

In the November 1964 issue of Muscular Development, John Grimek reminisced about Steve Reeves' desire to compete in the 1950 Mr. Universe contest. The York Barbell Club was willing to sponsor Reeves, but when he arrived for the first time at the York gym in May 1950, it was apparent that he hadn’t trained in a year. He was now “skinny.” However, Reeves’ genetics were such that, after just seven weeks of intensive training, he had regained if not exceeded his former musculature. He then travelled to the Mr. Universe contest, which he won. As Grimek wrote: “Yes, we have watched many Mr. Americas and Mr. Universes train in our old gym, but none whipped themselves into championship shape in less than two months except Reeves.”

York Barbell Museum and USA Weightlifting Point of Fame

Poster for the 1959 Italian Sword-and-Sandal movie, “The giant of Marathon,” (“La battaglia di Maratona”) starring bodybuilder Steve Reeves and Mylene Demongeot, directed by Jacques Tourneur. (Photo © Richard Grigonis)

After the heydey of the “Sword-and-Sandal” genre of (typically) Italian-made historical or Biblical epics that flourished from 1958 to 1965, there was a period of “muscleless cinema” until the box office success of Pumping Iron—a behind-the-scenes documentary depicting the Spartan existence of serious “pumping and posing” competitors prior to a major bodybuilding competition. As a sign in the museum notes, Pumping Iron, by “elevating the practice of bodybuilding from a subculture curiosity of to a bona fide mainstream fitness pursuit—rekindled Hollywood’s enthusiasm for brawn.”

Arnold Schwarzenegger

York Barbell Museum and USA Weightlifting Point of Fame

Photo homage to Arnold Schwarzenegger, the Austrian and American professional bodybuilder, actor, businessman, investor, and politician. Schwarzenegger served as the 38th Governor of California from 2003 until 2011. (Photo © Richard Grigonis)

Just about this time there was also a resurgence of interest in superhuman characters of mythical lore, which enabled entry to the film world to Pumping Iron stars Arnold Schwarzenegger and Lou Ferrigno.

Known as the “Austrian Oak” and the “Styrian Oak ” in his bodybuilding days, In 1970 Arnold had won, at age 23, his first Mr. Olympia title in New York. He would go on to win the title a total of seven times. He remains one of the most important figures in the history of bodybuilding, and his legacy is commemorated in the Arnold Classic annual bodybuilding competition.

While Schwarzenegger starred in many motion pictures over the years, he will doubtless be most remembered for his portrayals of Conan the Barbarian and Conan the Destroyer. Ironically, as successful as he was, Schwarzenegger made more money as a real estate tycoon than as an actor. (His great charisma and surprising intellect eventually took him to the governorship of the State of California.)

York Barbell Museum and USA Weightlifting Point of Fame

Photo display of Arnold Schwarzenegger as Conan the Barbarian and Lou Ferrigno as “the Hulk.” Display is at the Bodybuilding Hall of Fame within the USA Weightlifting Hall of Fame in York, Pennsylvania.
(Photo © Richard Grigonis)

Lou Ferrigno

Despite Ferrigno’s leading man role in a remake of Hercules, he will always be associated with The Incredible Hulk CBS television series. Even so, note that Louis Jude “Lou ” Ferrigno was, as a bodybuilder, the winner of an IFBB Mr. America title and two consecutive IFBB Mr. Universe titles before appearing in Pumping Iron.

Rise of the IFBB and NPC

Joe Wieder Olympia Weekend Logo

By the time Pumping Iron had been released, the International Federation of BodyBuilding & Fitness (IFBB) had already usurped the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) regarding bodybuilding competitions. The IFBB was founded in 1946 by brothers Ben and Joe Weider. The IFBB presides over the annual Mr. Olympia contest and the winner of this event is generally recognized as the world’s top professional bodybuilder. In 1981, the National Physique Committee (NPC) was founded by Jim Manion, who had just stepped down as chairman of the AAU Physique Committee. The NPC went on to become the most successful bodybuilding organization in the U.S., and is the amateur division of the IFBB in America. The late 1980s and early 1990s saw the decline of AAU sponsored bodybuilding contests. In 1999, the AAU discontinued its bodybuilding events.

Women Bodybuilders

York Barbell Museum and USA Weightlifting Point of Fame

display of 1980'S FEMALE pROFESSIONAL CHAMPION BODYBUILDER lORI bOWEN.

The female side of the bodybuilding game has virtually exploded since its beginnings in 1981. Women's presentations are often innovative, consisting of an amalgam of dance, gymnastics and pure muscle display with a degree of physical development previously deemed unattainable by the fairer sex.

York Barbell Museum and USA Weightlifting Point of Fame

Photo display of sHELLEY gRUWELL, WHO WAS AMONG THE FIRST TO DEMONSTRATE A NEWER MORE FEMININE PRESENTATION OF WOMEN'S BODYBUILDING. Display is at the Bodybuilding Hall of Fame within the yORK bARBELL AND USA Weightlifting Hall of Fame in York, Pennsylvania.
(Photo © Richard Grigonis)

The first U.S. Women's National Physique Championship, promoted by Henry McGhee and held in Canton, Ohio in 1978, was probably the first true female bodybuilding contest. In 1980 the first Ms. Olympia (initially known as the "Miss" Olympia), the most prestigious contest for professionals, was held. The first winner was Rachel McLish who had also won the NPC’s USA Championship earlier in the year.

York Barbell Museum and USA Weightlifting Point of Fame

Photo display of (top left) Rachel McLish, winner of the first U.S. Women’s Bodybuilding Championships. At top is Lisa Lyon, who entered and won the first IFBB Women’s World Pro Bodybuilding Championship in Los Angeles on June 16, 1979. Ironicallky, although this was the only bodybuilding competition of Lyon’s career, she became a media sensation, wrote a 1981 book on weight training for women (“Lisa Lyon’s Body Magic”) and was the first female bodybuilder to appear in Playboy in October, 1980. She was inducted into the IFBB Hall of Fame in 2000. (Photo © Richard Grigonis)

McLish also appeared in the 1985 movie, Pumping Iron II: The Women, which documented the preparation of several women bodybuilders for competition in the the 1983 Caesars Palace World Cup Championship.

York Barbell Museum and USA Weightlifting Point of Fame

Photo display of Stacey Bentley and Chris Dickerson, Mr. America of 1970, performing in a couples competition. Display is at the YorK Barbell and USA Weightlifting Hall of Fame in York, Pennsylvania.

The popularity of women bodybuilders was a natural segue to another posing attraction, the mixed pairs (couples) competition, now a showcase for the combined efforts of the top individual male and female performers.

Fitness and Figure Competitions

Today, fitness and figure competitions have actually surpassed female bodybuilding in popularity, and have enticed women who do not wish to develop the level of muscularity necessary for bodybuilding and may have an aptitude for such competititons' gymnastic component. (Interestingly, the female bodybuilders of yesteryear would today be considered fitness and figure competitors.)

World Weightlifting Championships & Awards

York Barbell Museum and USA Weightlifting Point of Fame

Photo display of OUtstanding International World and Olympic Weightlifting Champions (1930's through the 1980's) at the USA Weightlifting Hall of Fame in York, PA. (Photo © Richard Grigonis)

Feats of strength and competitions among the masters of strength can be found through all of recorded history. By the mid-19th century, organized weightlifting competitions were taking place in America and European countries, thus creating the need for unified rules, coordinated exercises and equipment. In 1880 the first attempts were made to bring order to the sport. The first major international or world championship in weightlifting was held in London in 1891. The first European weightlifting championship was held in Rotterdam in 1896, the revived Olympic Games in Athens in 1896 had weightlifting events, and the first international weightlifting championship was held in Vienna in 1898. In the U.S. there were few contests prior to 1900, though Richard Kyle Fox’ National Police Gazette assembled a group of strongmen in 1890 to vie for a huge jewel-studded belt by becoming the first man to lift a 1030-pound dumbbell.

York Barbell Museum and USA Weightlifting Point of Fame

The description of this item at the USA Weightlifting Hall of Fame is as follows: ACWLA The American Continental Weightlifters Association was the predecessor of the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) and today’s United States Weightlifting Federation. The three medals displayed are from the 1920’s and the plate is a record certificate used in letterpress printing. Hence the reason for the reversed copy. (Photo © Richard Grigonis)

The Olympic Games of 1900 and 1904 included weightlifting events, but those of 1912 and 1916 failed to include weightlifting. In 1920, however, at the suggestion of the International Olympic Committee, the International Weightlifting Federation (Fédération Haltérophile Internationale; FHI) was formed to regularize events and supervise international competition. By 1928 the one- and two-hand lifts of earlier Games had given way to only two-hand lifts: the snatch, the clean-and-jerk, and the clean-and-press (described below). The press was abandoned in 1972

York Barbell Museum and USA Weightlifting Point of Fame

Close-up of the The American Continental Weightlifters Association (ACWLA) medals introduced in the previous photo. (Photo © Richard Grigonis)

In the 1920s, there were two national weightlifting organizations in the United States. One was the American Continental Weight-Lifter's Association (ACWLA), the first organization of its kind in America. Founded by Geroge Fiusdale Jowett around 1920, it went through several name changes and is now known as the U.S. Weightlifting Federation—it is the modern affiliate of the U.S. Olympic Committee. The second organization was the Association of Bar Bell Men (ABBM). Both organizations recognized records for a broad range of lifts, although some of them were relegated to exhibitions, not competitive events.

York Barbell Museum and USA Weightlifting Point of Fame

Seen here at the York Barbell Museum and USA Weightlifting Hall of Fame is an award having the following description: “1937 World Championships, Paris, France. 3rd Place Team award. Team Members: Richard Bachtell, Joseph Germ, Anthony Terlazzo, Gordon Venables, David Mayor.” (Photo © Richard Grigonis)

Across the Atlantic Ocean, the British Amateur Weight-Lifters Association (BAWLA) was founded in 1901 by the British publication, Health and Strength, refounded in 1911 and later complemented by a professional association. It served as the model for Jowett's ACWLA.

York Barbell Museum and USA Weightlifting Point of Fame

At the USA Weightlifting Hall of Fame, the large award at the center of the photo ABOVE has A card with the following printed description:
“1947 World Championships, Philadelphia, USA, Team Champions
Manager: Dietrich Wortmann; Coach: Bob Hoffman; Team Members: Joseph De Pietro, Richard Tom, Robert Higgins, Emerick IsHikawa, Peter George, Anthony Terlazzo, Stanley Stanczyk, Frank Spellman, John Terpak, Harold Sakata, John Davis, Norbert Schemansky”
(Photo © Richard Grigonis)

Variations in standards for entrance and competition made it difficult to classify all the International and European championship meets prior to the formation of the Fédération Haltérophile Internationale or International Weightlifting Federation (IWF), in 1920, an organization founded to promote and conduct international competition. Indeed, organized competition on an international level in the sport of weightlifting began with the founding of the IWF.

York Barbell Museum and USA Weightlifting Point of Fame

At the USA Weightlifting Hall of Fame, Tickets and badges for the 1947 World Weightlifting Championships, held September 26 and 27, 1947 in Philadelphia. (Photo © Richard Grigonis)

Such was the IWF's influence that, as organizations such as the ACWLA were gradually absorbed by the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) (which assumed control of United States lifting in 1927 through the efforts of Dietrich Wortmann), the AAU mandated the adoption of the French rules for lifting so that the United States could qualify for admission into the International Weightlifting Federation. (Since 1900 the French had favored “clean” lifting, or lifting in which the weight is taken to the shoulder in one motion rather than in two or more, as is the case with the “continental” style of lifting.)

York Barbell Museum and USA Weightlifting Point of Fame

Description on card under crystal award at center of photo reads: “1953 World Championships, Stockholm, Sweden. 2nd Place Team Award. Manager: Clarence Johnson; Coach: Bob Hoffman; Team Members: Peter George, Tommy Kono, David Sheppard, Stanley Stanczyk, Norbert Schemansky, John Davis, James Bradford. Ribbons to the right of the card are for an official and contestant of the Senior National A.S.U. Weightlifting championships and Mr. America competition, for the years 1950 and 1974, respectively.” (Photo © Richard Grigonis)

Later the Federation extended its jurisdiction over physique contests and became known as the Fédération Haltérophile Internationale et Culturiste or International Weightlifting and Physical Culture Federation. Since the Federation’s founding, the only competitions held under its jurisdiction are recognized as official championships. Thus, the first official world championship was held in Tallin in 1922.

York Barbell Museum and USA Weightlifting Point of Fame

The card before this award at the USA Weightlifting Hall of fame in York, Pennyslvania, reads: 1955 World Championships, Munich, Germany. 2nd Place Team Award. Manager: Clarence Johnson; Coach: Bob Hoffman; Trainer: John Terpak. Team Members: Charles Vinci, Jr., Peter George, Tommy Kono, James George, Clyde Emrich, Paul Anderson, James Bradford. (Photo © Richard Grigonis)

In 1980 another federation appeared, the United States Weightlifting Federation, Inc., after a Congressional requirement that each amateur sport in the United States form its own autonomous national governing body. The purposes and objectives of the United States Weightlifting Federation, Inc. are to “encourage, improve and promote amateur weightlifting in the United States.” The Federation governs the administration, eligibility, sanctioning authority, representation, and rules of competition for the sport of weightlifting in the United States.

York Barbell Museum and USA Weightlifting Point of Fame

The card describing this award at the USA Weightlifting Hall of fame in York, Pennyslvania, reads: 1955 Russian Tour. Moscow, U.S.S.R. Presented by The Soviet Heavy Athletics Section. (Photo © Richard Grigonis)

York Barbell Museum and USA Weightlifting Point of Fame

explanatory poster at the beginning of olympic panels at the York Barbell Museum and USA of (Photo © Richard Grigonis)

The Olympic Games

The cradle of democracy, ancient Greece, after abolishing its monarchies in favor of republican governments, found itself with as many independent republics as there were Grecian towns, and wars regularly broke out among them. Most historians agree that there were athletic contests to celebrate peace treaties at Olympia in 885 B.C.

York Barbell Museum and USA Weightlifting Point of Fame

Photo of Olympic weightlifting is depicted on the panels in this room at the York Barbell Museum and USA Weightlifting Hall of Fame in York, Pennsylviania. (Photo © Richard Grigonis)

Then, Iphitus, King of Elis, was bestowed with authority by the mysterious and much-respected Delphic oracle to establish a great festival at Olympia, a town in Elis on the banks of the Alpheus. By this “Olympic” Festival the Greeks, regardless of their conflicts with each other, were to meet on friendly terms every four years, or Olympiad, as this period of time was thereafter called. In fact, the month in which the games were held was proclaimed a holy season, during which all hostilities were to cease and the entire Greek world should be at peace with itself, if only for that month.

York Barbell Museum and USA Weightlifting Point of Fame

At the USA WEightlifting Hall of Fame, the colored panels display photos and accounts of American athletes at that particular year's olympic games. World championships held on the in-between years are summarized on the white connecting panels. (Photo © Richard Grigonis)

The sacred grounds of Olympia near the ancient temple of Zeus were formally dedicated to be the site for the Olympic Festival and games in 776 B.C., from which date the Greeks thereafter reckoned time, as western civilization would later do from the birth of Christ. The Olympic Festival was as much a religious festival as it was athletic, with sacrificial rites honoring Zeus and Hercules (the games were also in honor of Zeus and Hercules).

York Barbell Museum and USA Weightlifting Point of Fame

Panel for the 1928 Olympic Games (9th Olympiad) held in Amsterdam at the USA Weightlifting Hall of Fame in York, Pennsylvania. The panel reads, “In Amsterdam in 1928 the classic Three Olympic LIfts—the two-hands press, the two-hands snatch, and the two-hands clean and jerk—were contested for the first time at an Olympiad. This trio of lifts formed the basis of all international competitions up to and including the Olympic Games in Munich IN 1972. No USA Team was entered in the Amsterdam Games.” (Photo © Richard Grigonis)

Competitors in the Olympic Games had to of Greek origin, of good character, religious standing and of suitable athletic training. They were open to all free male Greeks, regardless as to wealth or birth; but barbarians (that is, non-Greeks), even those of royal blood, were excluded without exception. The games’ judges carefully scrutinized the candidates’ qualifications, and at the contest's end bestowed the wreath of victory—a crown of wild olive leaves. There were contests in boxing (a favorite), running, leaping, discus-throwing, javelin-hurling, wrestling, and racing of horses and chariots.

York Barbell Museum and USA Weightlifting Point of Fame

USA Weightlifting Hall of Fame Panel of the 1932 Olympics held in Los Angeles, reading: “Weightlifting was the first event of the sixteen days of olympic competition in Los Angeles in 1932. Two American lifters—Tony Terlazzo, 132 pound class, and Henry Duey, 181 pound class—won bronze medals for their third place finishes.” (Photo © Richard Grigonis)

Three other great national festivals were subsequently established by the Greeks: The Pythian Games, in honor of Apollo, were celebrated at Delphi. They included competition in music and poetry as well as in athletic sports, and were, next to the Olympic, the most celebrated festival in Greece. The Isthmian Games were celebrated on the Isthmus of Corinth in honor of the sea-god, Poseidon. The Nemean Games were held in the valley of Nemea, in Argolis, in honor of Zeus (as was the case with the Olympic games).

York Barbell Museum and USA Weightlifting Point of Fame

Photo of panel at the USA Weightlifting Hall of Fame for the 1936 Olympics held in berlin. It reads: “In 1936, Terlazzo returned from the Berlin Olympiad with America's first gold medal in weightlifting competition on the Three Olympic Lifts. Lifting once again in the 132 pound class, Tony Terlazzo made a 215 press, a 203 ¾ snatch and a 270 clean and Jerk for a 688 ¾ total.” (Photo © Richard Grigonis)

These other games occurred in the various years intervening between the successive festivals at Olympia: Think of the Olympic Games as a starting point, year 1 of the cycle; the Nemean and Isthmian Games were both held (in different months) in year 2, followed by the Pythian Games in year 3, and then the Nemean and Isthmian Games again in year 4. The cycle then repeated itself with the Olympic Games. These four “Panhellenic Games” were scheduled in this way so that individual athletes could participate in all of the games if they so desired.

York Barbell Museum and USA Weightlifting Point of Fame

Caption under the award reads: “Tony Terlazzo's gold medal from the 1936 Olympic Games held in Berlin.” (Photo © Richard Grigonis)

The Olympic games awarded a crown of wild olive leaves; the Pythian games, a garland of laurel (bay leaves); the Nemean games, a crown of wild celery, and the Isthmian, a garland of pine leaves during the Archaic period, one of dried celery in the Classical and Hellenistic periods, and again one of pine from then on. In addition to the crown, the winner received a red woolen ribbon, the taenia. Though victors received no material awards at the games, they were later showered with gifts, honors and free meals on returning to their towns or polis. Although the other three Panhellenic Games acquired some popularity, none of them ever attained the importance and splendor of the Olympic Games.

York Barbell Museum and USA Weightlifting Point of Fame

pRIOR TO World War II, the leading oLYMPIC weightlifters were French, German, and Egyptian. After the war American weightlifters dominated the sport until 1953, whereupon Soviet and Bulgarian lifters enjoyed a virtual monopoly on world records and championships. By the late 1990’s the leading countries in producing weightlifting champions were Turkey, Greece, and China.
(Photo © Richard Grigonis)

The Olympic Games were held and recorded for 1,169 years until the Emperor Theodosius terminated them in A.D. 393.

When the Olympic Games were officially revived in 1896 in Athens, Greece, weightlifting was included in the program as a part of gymnastics. The one-hand dumbbell lift was won by Launceston Elliot (1874–1930) of Britain with 71 kilograms, or 156.53 pounds, and the Two-Hands Continental Clean and Jerk won by Viggo Jensen (1874–1930) of Denmark with 115.5 kilograms, or 245.82 pounds.

York Barbell Museum and USA Weightlifting Point of Fame

Photo of old and yellowed collectible “Olympicards” as the YOrk Barbell Museum and USA Weightlifting Hall of Fame in York, Pennsylvania. (Photo © Richard Grigonis)

Prince George of Greece and Denmark (1869–1957) and his brothers Constantine and Nicolas, helped to organize the 1896 Summer Olympics in Athens. George served as president of the Sub-Committee for Nautical Sports and served as a referee in many events. At the games, Prince George displayed his “extraordinary muscular strength” in helping a servant move the weights. The Prince, as the story went, “came to his assistance, picked up the heaviest weight, and threw it with the greatest ease to a considerable distance.”

York Barbell Museum and USA Weightlifting Point of Fame

Panel for the 1948 Olympic games held in London. The Panel reads: “The Olympic torch was lit once again in London in 1948. This time there were six bodyweight classes and the United States collected eight medals: four gold three silver and one bronze. Capturing gold medals were Joe DePietro (123 pound class), Frank Spellman (165), Stan Stanczyk (191) and John Davis (heavyweight). The silver medals were picked up by Pete George (165), Harold "Oddjob" Sakata (181) and Norbert Schemansky (Heavyweight). Richard Tom (123) won the bronze.” (Photo © Richard Grigonis)

Up until 1920, competitors in weightlifting went at it “head-to-head” without provisions made for individual bodyweights. In the 1920 Antwerp Games five weight classes were introduced:

  • Featherweight—weightlifters weighing up to up to 60 kilograms;
  • Lightweight—up to 67.6 kilograms;
  • Middleweight—up to 75 kilograms;
  • Light-heavyweight—up to 82.5 kilograms; and
  • Heavyweight—weightlifters weighing over 82.5 kilograms.

York Barbell Museum and USA Weightlifting Point of Fame

Official program of the united States Olympic Committee for the 1948 U.S. Olympic Team Weightlifting Trials, on display at the York Barbell Museum and USA Weightlifting Hall of Fame in York, Pennsylvania. (Photo © Richard Grigonis)

The 1920 Antwerp Olympic Games also adhered to the three lifts designated for competition by the newly formed International Weightlifting Federation (IWF): the one-hand snatch, one-hand clean and jerk, and the two-hands clean-and-jerk. The rules required each lifter to perform the one-hand Jerk using whichever arm was not used in the one-arm Snatch. Two more lifts were added to the program at the 1924 Games in Paris: the two-hands press (essentially the two-hand military press) and two-hands snatch, making for a total of five lifts. Victors were from France (2), Belgium, Estonia and Italy. When an Italian and a Swede tied for second in the Middleweight (75 kilogram, or 165 pound) division, they drew lots to determine who got the silver medal—the Italian won.

York Barbell Museum and USA Weightlifting Point of Fame

In the USA Weightlifting Hall of Fame, the large award at the center of the photo above has a card with the following description:
1948 Olympic Games, London, England Team Champions:
Manager: Dietrich Wortmann; Coach: Bob Hoffman; Trainer: Ray Van Cleef; Team Members: Joseph De Pietro, Richard Tom, Emerick Ishikawa, Richard Tomita, John Terpak, Joseph Pitman, Frank Spellman, Peter George, Stanley Stanczyk, Harold Sakata, John Davis, Norbert Schemansky. (Photo © Richard Grigonis)

The 1924 Paris competition was the last to feature one-hand lifts. With the 1928 Olympics in Amsterdam, the “Olympic Three” lifts were established. The three were done in a specific order: First came the press to demonstrate “all around strength” with one pure strength movement. Then to follow that with a quick and gymnastic movement, the snatch. And finally a combination of the first two in the form of the clean-and-jerk. This format was used successfully for many years, until the two-hands press was banned right after the 1972 Munich Olympics, on January 1, 1973.

York Barbell Museum and USA Weightlifting Point of Fame

Photo of Panel describing the 1952 Olympic Games held in Helsinki, Finland. The Panel reads: “Seven bodyweight classes were contested at the 1952 Helsinki Games and the American team again won four gold medals and two silver medals. Taking first place in their bodyweight classes were Tommy Kono (148), Pete George (165), Norbert Schemansky (198) and John Davis (heavyweight). Stan Stanczyk (181) and Jim Bradford (heavyweight) took the silver medals.” (Photo © Richard Grigonis)

Why the press was dropped from the Olympic Games starting in 1973 is an interesting story. Following World War II, new countries applied for membership into the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF); the most notable of these was the Russian Soviet Union (USSR). Voted into the IWF in 1946 by just one vote, the USSR soon made clear that it was going to take the sport of Olympic lifting by storm and surpass all existing weightlifting records. As it turned out, the press world records were exceeding snatch and clean-and-jerk records combined, but the way the presses were performed were not in accordance with the existing rules for the press, which stipulated that the lifter's back could not bend much when performing the press. This original or “old-time” press (as it became known) is done by stacking the heels together, keeping the legs, back and torso tight during the whole movement, and allowing only the arms to move. The bar starts on the clavicle and the lifter presses it overhead in a single smooth motion.

York Barbell Museum and USA Weightlifting Point of Fame

Photo of Panel at the USA Weightlifting Hall of fame describing the 1956 Olympic Games held in Melbourne, Australia. Panel Reads: “Four more gold medals were won by the Americans at the 1956 Melbourne Games. Chuck Vinci (123), Ike Berger (132), Tommy Kono (148) and Paul Anderson (heavyweight) won top honors; Pete George (165) and Dave Shepard (198) won silver medals; and James George (181) came home with a bronze medal.” (Photo © Richard Grigonis)

However, the Soviet officials and coaches with aplomb urged their lifters to ignore the rules, and soon an unconventional type of press known as the “Russian style” Olympic press—a double lay back or back-bending style— began appearing in international competitions. Many audience members did not realize that such lifts were in violation of the rules, and as a result many referees were cowed into passing “bad lifts.”

York Barbell Museum and USA Weightlifting Point of Fame

Shown is the Panel for the 1960 Olympics held in Rome. Panel Reads: “The scene for the 1960 Olympics was Rome, Italy. This was the last competition in which an American lifter was victorious. Vinci won the only gold medal for the United States by dupliating his 1956 victory in the 123 pound class. Isaac Berger (132), Tommy Kono (165), Jim George (181), Jim Bradford and Norbert Schemansky (heavyweights) also won medals, with the first four getting silvers and ‘Big Norb’ a bronze.” (Photo © Richard Grigonis)

Instead of rejecting all “Russian style” Olympic presses in competition, the IWF caved in under pressure and in 1956 changed the wording of the press rules to include the phrase without exaggerated back bend .” Thus it was up to each referee to decide if an individual lifter employed an “exaggerated back bend.” From that time on, during some presses, back bends became so excessive that lifters hyper-extended their backs until they were parallel to the floor, almost making it a standing bench press. Lifters were now regularly failing the press by dropping the bar behind themselves.

York Barbell Museum and USA Weightlifting Point of Fame

Panel at the USA Weightlifting Hall of fame describing the 1964 Olympics held in Tokyo. Panel Reads: “In the 1964 Tokyo Olympiad, only two Americans came home with medals as Berger and Schemansky repeated their second and third place finishes in the 132 and heavyweight classes respectively. Berger’s clean-and-jerk was a world record.” (Photo © Richard Grigonis)

The situation got out of hand, and motions to completely eliminate the press from Olympic competition were made at both the IWF congress at the 1964 Tokyo and 1968 Mexico City Olympics. In both instances the motion failed to pass. Finally, at the 1972 Olympics in Munich, a motion to eliminate the press finally passed, and starting on January 1st, 1973 only the snatch and clean-and-jerk officially remained in Olympic weightlifting competition.

York Barbell Museum and USA Weightlifting Point of Fame

Panel describing the 1968 Olympic Games held in Mexico City. Panel reads: “The United States went all the way to the final weight class in 1968 before winning a lifting medal at the Olympics in Mexico City. Joe Dube won third place in the superheavyweight division. Dube tied for second place at 1223 ½ pounds but finished in third place because of his heavier bodyweight.” (Photo © Richard Grigonis)

York Barbell Museum and USA Weightlifting Point of Fame

Panel at the USA Weightlifting Hall of Fame describing the 1972 Olympics held in munich, germany. Panel reads: “After winning at least one medal at every Olympic competition since 1932, the United States was ‘shut out’ of the medal parade at the 1972 Games in Munich. In 1969 nine individual bodyweight classes were established ahnd were contested at the Olympics for the first time in 1972. Phil Grippaldi and Rick HOlbrook turned in the best performances of the American team members with both men totaling 1113 ½ pounds. As the lighter man, Phil ended up in fourth place with Rick in fifth place. This Olympiad was the last international competition to feature the Three Olympic Lifts.” (Photo © Richard Grigonis)

York Barbell Museum and USA Weightlifting Point of Fame

Panel describing the 1976 Olympics held in Montreal, Canada. Panel reads: “At the 1976 Montreal Olympiad only two lifts—the snatch and the clean and jerk—were contested because the press was dropped from competition by the International Weightlifting Federation after the 1972 Olympics. Lee James brought America back to the awards presentation by taking the silver medal in the middle-heavyweight division. He set two American records with his 363 ¾ snatch and his 799 total. For the second consecutive Olympiad, Grippaldi finished in fourth place in the 198 pound class. He also set an American record by hoisting 451 ¾ in the clean and jerk.” (Photo © Richard Grigonis)

York Barbell Museum and USA Weightlifting Point of Fame

Panel at the USA Weightlifting Hall of Fame describing the 1980 Moscow Olympics. Panel reads: “The United States did not participate in the 1980 Moscow Olympics. The Russian invasion of Afghanistan in late 1979 resulted in a Presidential decision to boycott the Games. The Weightlifting Team was selected:
TEAM
Mike Karchut, 181 lb. class
Mike Cohen, 181 lb. class
Jim Curry, Jr., 198 lb. class
Joe Puleo, 198 lb. class
BRian Derwin, 220 lb. class
Guy Carlton, 220 lb. class
Mark Cameron, 242 lb. class
Bob Giordano, 242 lb. class
Tom Stock, superheavyweight
Jerry Hannan, superheavyweight
ALTERNATES
Cal Schake, 148 lb. class
Luke Klaja, 198 lb. class
Kurt Setterberg, 220 lb. class” (Photo © Richard Grigonis)

York Barbell Museum and USA Weightlifting Point of Fame

Photo of panel describing the 1984 Olympics held in Los Angeles. Panel reads: “The loss of some top competitors because of the Communist bloc boycott did not lessen the competitive spirit in Los Angeles. Our top lifters included Mario Martinez setting a new American record in the supers in winning the silver medal and Guy Carlton taking the bronze in the 242's. Other top Americans were Al Hood finishing 8th in the 123's but setting new American records in the snatch and total, Arn Kritsky 9th in the 181's Ken Clark 5th in the 220's, Rich Shanko 7th in the 220's and Ric Eaton 7th in the 242's.” (Photo © Richard Grigonis)

York Barbell Museum and USA Weightlifting Point of Fame

Photo of Olympic games panels at the USA Weightlifting Hall of Fame in York, Pennsylvania (Photo © Richard Grigonis)

York Barbell Museum and USA Weightlifting Point of Fame

Photo of plaque commemorating and thanking the York Barbell company for supplying equipment to the 1984 Olympics held in Los Angeles. (Photo © Richard Grigonis)

York Barbell Museum and USA Weightlifting Point of Fame

Panel at the USA Weightlifting Hall of Fame describing the 1980 Moscow Olympics. Panel reads: “The 1988 Olympics are to be remembered for the pagentry of the Korean host as well as the quality of the weightlifting competition. Seven world records were set with Turkey's 60 kg. 132 lb. ‘Pocket Hercules’ Naim Suleymanoglu setting three world records in the snatch, C&J and the total while Bulgaria's 114-lb. Sevdalin Marinov and the Soviet Union's 242-lb. Yuri Zacharevich set two records each in the snatch and C&J. The highest American finishers were Mario Martinez, fourth in the supers while setting a new U.S. record in the C&J, Roberto Urrutia, eighth in the 165's and John Bergman, tenth in the supers.” (Photo © Richard Grigonis)

York Barbell Museum and USA Weightlifting Point of Fame

Panel at the USA Weightlifting hall of Fame describing the 1992 Olympics held in Barcelona. It reads: “The former Soviet Union completed their first victory as the Unified Team, winning five weight classes. The competition produced a modest two new Olympic records but six Olympic and world records were equaled. The highly competitive 181 pound class had three lifters with the same total. When the Unified team lifter, Samadov, refused the bronze medal the IWF removed him from the athletes’ village and banned him for life from weightlifting.
Top Americans were Tim McRae, eighth in the 148’s while equaling the American record, and both Mario Martinez and Mark Henry finished in the top ten in the Supers by placing 8th and 10th respectively. The U.S. has high hopes for the home team in Atlanta in 1996.” (Photo © Richard Grigonis)

York Barbell Museum and USA Weightlifting Point of Fame

Photo of The panel describing the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games. It reads: “Centennial Olympic Games were held in Atlanta, Georgia. A record number 97 countries participated in the weightlifting competition. Weight classes were heavily contested with 6 countries winning the ten class gold medals. The most dramatic class was the super-heavyweights with the advantage changing hands at each lift and the Russian Andrei Chemerkin emerging victorious with new Olympic and world record totals. Naim Suleymanoglu, the ‘Pocket Hercules’, became the first weightlifter in history to win three Olympic gold medals.
The highest American placements were Wes Barnett, sixth in the 108 kg class and Bryan Jacob, ninth in the 69 kg class. The IWF hopes to add women’s weightlifting as a sport in the 2000 Olympic Games in Australia.” (Photo © Richard Grigonis)

York Barbell Museum and USA Weightlifting Point of Fame

Photo of Panel at the USA Weightlifting hall of Fame describing the 2000 Olympics held in Sydney, Australia. Panel Reads: “Olympic weightlifting integrated six weight classes (48, 53, 58, 63, 69, 75 and 75+ kilos) expressly for female athletes into its competitive format. Tara Nott seized the moment and the gold medal in the opening class; thereby, forever linking herself in the annals of the sport with Tony Terlazzo, who was the first American male to win a gold medal in weightlifting. History was also made by Cheryl Hayworth, who set American records in the snatch and total on her way to garnering the bronze medal in the 75+ kilo class.” (Photo © Richard Grigonis)

As impressive as the Hall of Fame's Olympic section is, it could use some updating. The last major display panel is for the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Australia.

York Barbell Museum and USA Weightlifting Point of Fame

Caption on this photo reads: “Head Coach Gayle Hatch and Superheavy, American record holder, Shane Hamman at the 2004 Olympic Games held in Athens, Greece.”

York Barbell Museum and USA Weightlifting Point of Fame

Photo of Olympic Weightlifting Pins.
Top Left Row: 1 – Munich, Germany, 1972
Remainder of Rows 1 and 2 – Moscow, Soviet Union 1980
Row 3 – Los Angeles 1984
Row 4 – Five pins Seoul, Korea 1988
Row 4 – Middle, Barcelona Spain 1992
Row 4 – Right, 1 Bulgaria, 2 General, Last 2 USA
From the collection of Rev. Rowan H. Fay, President, International Pin Collectors Club. (Photo © Richard Grigonis)

York Barbell Museum and USA Weightlifting Point of Fame

Painting of Olympic weightlifter using York Barbells at the York Barbell Museum and USA Weightlifting Hall of fame in York, Pennsylvania. (Photo © Richard Grigonis)

York Barbell Museum and USA Weightlifting Point of Fame

Photo of Hall of Fame sign in the Skylight-lit central gallery at the York Barbell Museum and USA Weightlifting Hall of fame. (Photo © Richard Grigonis)

York Barbell Museum and USA Weightlifting Point of Fame

Plaque on wall of York Barbell Museum & USA Weightlifting hall of fame displaying a quote from Museum founder and olympic coach Bob Hoffman: “At one time I stood alone. . . I was almost the only believer in weight training for athletes. Now there are thousands of coaches who are teaching weight training to their teams, and hundreds of thousands of athletes, improving their athletic ability through weight training.” (Photo © Richard Grigonis)

York Barbell Museum and USA Weightlifting Point of Fame

Photo of Bob hoffman in his later years. (Photo © Richard Grigonis)

York Barbell Museum and USA Weightlifting Point of Fame

Photo of Rotating statue atop the York Barbell company, adjacent to the Museum and hall of Fame. (Photo © Richard Grigonis)

The York Barbell Museum and USA Weightlifting Hall of Fame is a specialized exhibition space that pays homage to the late Bob Hoffman. Hoffman may not have been the greatest weightlifter lifter or Olympic coach, but he bolstered and guided the sport of American weightlifting for decades before it matured and was able to "walk" on its own.

The facility could use some updating and corrections, and I'd like to see a bit more information (or a separate exhibit) on Herman Goerner, who set a world record in the one-hand deadlift with 727 pounds in 1920. Strength historian David P. Willoughby called it the single greatest feat of strength ever performed. That aside, if you're a weightlifter, bodybuilder, Olympic lifter or just like to work out occasionally, you'll probably find this place really interesting. There's even a large York store in the building where you can buy everything from exercise gloves to pull-blown weight sets and sophisticated exercise machines. dingbat

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Bob Hoffman during his competitive years. Part of The Bob Hoffman Story exhibit at the York Barbell Museum and USA Weightlifting Hall of fame.

Bob Hoffman during his competitive years. Part of “The Bob Hoffman Story” exhibit at the York Barbell Museum and USA Weightlifting Hall of Fame in York, Pennsylvania. (Photo © Richard Grigonis)

Bob Hoffman posing with some of his 600 awards.

Bob Hoffman posing with some of the 600 awards he received over the years. Part of “The Bob Hoffman Story” exhibit at the York Barbell Museum and USA Weightlifting Hall of Fame in York, Pennsylvania. (Photo © Richard Grigonis)

Early 1930's photo showing members of the York Oil Burner Athletic Club (YOBAC).

Early 1930's photo showing members of the York Oil Burner Athletic Club (YOBAC). Members were factory employees of Bob Hoffman's Oil Burner manufacturing company. Part of “The Bob Hoffman Story” exhibit at the York Barbell Museum and USA Weightlifting Hall of Fame in York, Pennsylvania. (Photo © Richard Grigonis)

First issue of Strength and Health Magazine, December 1932

The first issue of Strength and Health magazine (December 1932) had on its cover Walter “Wally” Zagurski. A man Of Lithuanian heritage, Zagurski was an original “York Oil Burner Athletic Club” member who competed in the 1932 Olympics, and won the 1933 Senior National Weightlifting title at 165 pounds. He also happened to be the first editor of Strength and Health magazine.

York Barbell employees pick up roadster outside of Strength and Health Publishing headquarters.

Photo showing York employee-musclemen having some fun by picking up a roadster in front of the offices of Strength and Health Publishing, York, Pennsylvania, circa 1934. Part of “The Bob Hoffman Story” exhibit at the York Barbell Museum and USA Weightlifting Hall of Fame in York, Pennsylvania. (Photo of exhibit © Richard Grigonis)

Bob Hoffman and his bear art.

Bob Hoffman in his later years posing with his collection of bear art. Part of “The Bob Hoffman Story” exhibit at the York Barbell Museum and USA Weightlifting Hall of Fame in York, Pennsylvania. (Photo of exhibit © Richard Grigonis)

Bob Hoffman bear art collection.

Display of part of Bob Hoffman's collection of bear art, on exhibit at York Barbell Museum and USA Weightlifting Hall of Fame.
(Photo © Richard Grigonis)

Example of bear art from the collection of weightlifting and fitness guru Bob Hoffman.

Large standing bear statue from the Bob Hoffman collection of bear art. Part of “The Bob Hoffman Story” exhibit at the York Barbell Museum and USA Weightlifting Hall of Fame in York, Pennsylvania. (Photo of exhibit © Richard Grigonis)

Museum display of Bob Hoffman's 'Save the United States Movement.'

The “Save the United States Movement” Display, Part of “The Bob Hoffman Story” exhibit at the York Barbell Museum and USA Weightlifting Hall of Fame in York, Pennsylvania. Hoffman, believing that americans of the time were becoming obese, not getting enough exercise and were taking too many drugs (He should see today's Americans), started this movement in 1976 during America's Bicentennial. (Photo © Richard Grigonis)

Museum display of Bob Hoffman's 'Save the United States Movement.'

A “Save the United States Movement” float funded and entered in a parade by the movement's founder, Bob Hoffman. Part of “The Bob Hoffman Story” exhibit at the York Barbell Museum and USA Weightlifting Hall of Fame in York, Pennsylvania. (Photo © Richard Grigonis)

Museum display of Bob Hoffman's 'Save the United States Movement.'

Image-Building advertisement preserved on plaque. It reads: “Bob Hoffman—Dedicated to Keeping Americans Strong and Healthy. Bob Hoffman, Olympic Weightlifting Coach, is a world famous authority on nutrition and physical fitness. He is a member of The President’s Advisory Council on Physical Fitness and Sports. Bob Hoffman’s YORK Barbells, gym equipment and training courses, his NATURAL high protein foods and vitamins, numerous books, and his two monthly magazine publications; Strength and Health, and Muscular Development are known and respected around the world for quality and integrity. Bob Hoffman has excelled in many sports such as weightlifting, running, canoe racing and swimming. With his superior methods of physical training and nutrition, Bog developed America’s first Olympic Weightlifting Team in 1932. Under Bob’s expert guiding hand the American weightlifting teams have won more than 30 Olympic Medals and countless other awards in America and in countries all around the world. Bob trained and developed the greatest Mr. America, John Grimek, and many more to follow. Today, after almost 50 years of experience and success, Bob Hoffman manufactures a complete line of YORK BARBELL EQUIPMENT and his equally famous HOFFMAN’S NATURAL high protein powders and tablets. Energol–a high energy food oil, NATURAL vitamins, candy-like Energy Bars and Diet Bars, cereals, cookies, the world’s best suntan lotion and many, many more. FOR MORE INFORMATION WRITE TO: BOB HOFFMAN, Olympic Coach, P.O. Box 1707, York, Pa. 17405. BOB WILL SEND YOU A SET OF CATALOGS FREE OF CHARGE.”
Part of “The Bob Hoffman Story” exhibit at the York Barbell Museum and USA Weightlifting Hall of Fame in York, Pennsylvania.
(Photo © Richard Grigonis)

Museum display of Bob Hoffman's 'Save the United States Movement.'

Award that reads as follows: “National Nutritional Foods Association to Bob Hoffman in recognition of international physical fitness achievements and with deepest appreciation for meritorious contributions to and strong support of health freedoms. July 1978.” Part of “The Bob Hoffman Story” exhibit at the York Barbell Museum and USA Weightlifting Hall of Fame in York, Pennsylvania. (Photo © Richard Grigonis)

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