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INCH 101: Mr. Thomas Inch, The Scarborough Hercules.

More in the life of Mr. Thomas Inch, the Scarborough Hercules: Continue here and learn more about this man and his feats of strength and challenge with the famous challenge bell.

INCH 101: Part 8

On Mar 30, 1903, Thomas Inch, age 21 was to make an appearance:

    "Mr. Thomas Inch, well known as the 'Scarborough Hercules', also as a writer and instructor of Physical Culture, has arranged to hold a reception at the Health & Strength Physical Culture School, 21, New Bridge Street, Ludgate Circus, on Monday and Tuesday, March 30th and 31st.

    "From 1:30 to 3:30 and 5:30 to 9:30. Mr. Inch will give advice to visitors free of charge, and will also perform several feats of strength, etc., in addition to demonstrating the new Whitely-Hendrickson Exerciser. Readers are heartily invited."

On Mar 30, 1912, Thomas Inch set a new record for the Two Hands Anyhow by lifting 326.75 pounds at the London Weightlifting Club. He was age 30. He had failed twice to lift 312.75 lbs., but made that amount on the third attempt, then succeeded with the new record on his first try.

He remembered this occasion in his Strength & Health retrospect in May 1939, when after his challenge with the 172 lb bell, he left the stage and went to his dressing room and "... one of my supporters ran excitedly into the dressing room and called out, 'Mr. Inch, come quickly, the money's gone."

Inch took this to mean that the L200 that he had left in the care of the M.C. had in fact been robbed from him, but in fact several men were waiting a turn at lifting the 172 but, "The cause of the excitement was a huge Hindu wrestler standing over 6 ft. 6 inches in height with a large turban upon his head making him look gigantic.

He was over 24 st. weight [336 lbs] and had a chest well in excess of 60 inches. Neck and upper arm 22 inches, thigh over 30, and to cheer me up a little someone said he was the only man in the world who could swing a pair of Indian clubs weighing 100 lbs each."

Did Inch measure the man, or did someone else? Why be specific about arm size but mention thighs as 'over' 30"? So he must have been using hyperbole, as may have been the case with the mention of being able to swing a 100 pound Indian club in each hand!

This is something of which I cannot conceive, but certainly, had the man been able to do it, the 172 would not have thwarted him. We now return to our story...

    "I certainly thought my money was as good as lost, but to my relief the wrestler's strength did NOT lie in his hands and he made but a poor attempt and after that I felt somewhat secure, because he really was a surprisingly large man, the biggest I have ever seen in my life."

Now, assuming Inch was using the proper tense of language, then as of 1939 he had never seen a larger man.

To fortify my point: It is not possible for a man to swing a 100 lb Indian club in EACH hand and of that man for it to be correctly said that his strength 'did NOT lie in his hands'! Frankly, I conclude that the 100 lb Indian Club claim was false, because keep in mind that Paul von Boeckman had an 80 lb Indian Club that required his two hands to shoulder, and he certainly could not swing it with one hand. Perhaps more circus barkering by Inch to elevate the 172 beyond anyone (but his) capability?

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Thomas Inch.

INCH 101: Part 9

At the German Gym in London on April 20, 1907 Thomas Inch lifted against William Penton Caswell, who was usually referred to as W.P. Caswell. Inch would win with total poundage of 1,211.5 lbs to Caswell's 829 lbs.

It was after this contest that the Inch Challenge dumbbell, the 172 pounder, was first presented to a London audience. By my figuring, Inch probably had the bell manufactured in 1906, and the hole drilled into the center of the handle sometime after that. Inch would have been age 25 at the time of this contest.

The question arises, why did Inch have a hole drilled in the center of the handle? He claimed that the hole was a vent hole in the casting process, which we now know is ludicrous. It is my opinion that Inch used some sort of hook for a twofold purpose: to stop the rotation of the solid bell, and to gain a better 'grip' on the bell.

This was probably achieved by using a ring with an under-stud to fit into the hole, or a glove with an impregnated stud at the base of his middle finger. These are guesses on my part, but in looking for a reason why the hole would have been drilled, I seek an alternative to the idea that the removal of the amount of weight from the perhaps 1/4" hole would have afforded Inch the ability to thereby lift the weight. The placement of the hole- dead center on the handle is critical for the use of a stud.

Writing in Health & Strength magazine in the May 24, 1930 issue, Inch recounts that April evening some 23 years earlier. He left the bell on stage with the promise of cash to anyone in the audience able to lift it. "The bell did not look very heavy or difficult to lift, and when the audience, mainly composed of strong men... learned that L100 would be given to the first man to raise the bell overhead, there was a rush to the stage."

One supposes based on other texts that only one hand was allowed. Anyway, Inch left the bell on stage and went to his dressing room, only to be summoned, after multiple failures by the auditorium of strongmen, to return to the stage and demonstrate. "I went up to the bell and raised it with ease'. Overhead?

Returning to the match: Caswell had suffered a leg injury just before his match against Inch and his total can be explained by the fact that he completed only four of the six lifts before he retired from the contest. Inch was using plate weights, Caswell used globed bells.

How was Caswell faring compared to Inch on the four lifts that W.P. completed?

Lift Inch Caswell
One Hand Clean & Jerk: 203.5 194
Right Hand Anyhow And Bent Press: 213 194
Right Hand Bent Press: 235 201
Clean & Jerk: 252 240

Notice anything curious? If Inch used plate barbells with a standard 1" bar, and could manage only 203.5 lbs in the one hand clean and jerk, does it not seem odd that using the 2.38" diameter Inch Challenge bell he could one hand clean and jerk it at 172?

There are literally many, many men who could one hand clean and jerk 203 and more who cannot deadlift the Inch bell. Should not Inch, with his great overhead strength, have been able to one hand clean and jerk much more on a standard bar?

Afterwards in the dressing room Aston disclosed to Inch that his goal was to someday take Inch's middleweight title as his own.

As of tomorrow [April 20, 2002] 95 years have elapsed since Inch introduced his 172 bell to a London audience. By the time Inch died on Dec 12, 1963 no one else had managed to lift the bell one handed to overhead; indeed only a handful of men had been able to get it off the floor.

Inch, of course, proclaimed that he had lifted it 'hundreds of times', implying an overhead lift. In the 38 years since Inch has passed, powerlifting, Olympic lifting, strongman contests, and some brutally strong bodybuilders have provided some very strong participants to the strength scene.

Yet, no one has been able to clean and jerk, one-handed, the 172 lb Inch bell. Actually, no one has even been able to clean it one handed. Does this situation not cause anyone else pause to ponder? Is there anyone who would argue that Inch is on a level of strength with the modern bulls of strength?

If Inch (in his prime strength) could have been on stage at the 2002 Arnold Classic with the few strongmen who attempted to clean and jerk the 172 replica, does anyone really, intellectually, believe that Inch would have 'lifted it with ease' when these giants of power could do little with it?

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Inch Showing His Back and Bicep - Signed.

This would imply that Inch, in addition to having a much, much stronger grip that these other men- whose hands were larger than Inch's, would have exceeded their levels of strength in various aspects of the upright row, or curl, or clean.

Final thoughts: A 2.38" handle is in the hand of Mark Henry; another is in the hand of Thomas Inch (in his prime). A cable leads from one handle to the other as it passes around a pulled fixed on the floor, so that as the men pull, they are pulling against each other's grip around the pulley.

Mark Henry Pressing The Thomas Inch Dumbbell.

Would Inch pull Henry's hand down toward the pulley, or would Henry pull Inch's hand down toward the pulley? Or, another scenario: Inch and Henry stand facing each other each grasping a solid rod 2.38" in thickness. Each tries to wrist roll the rod toward himself. Which direction would the rod turn? Toward Inch or toward Henry?

You may substitute other men for Henry- David Horne, Richard Sorin etc., and decide in your own mind what the outcome would be.

BUD JEFFRIES as you may know now has an Inch replica and is working toward a one hand clean with it. Kim Wood, who has been strength coach at the Bengals since a chariot driver's license was issued to Methuselah, witnessed Bud easily two hand clean the replica, then 'side press' it overhead, first with one hand, then with the other. Bud responded to Iron History's request for some answers, and here are parts of his email:

Bud Jeffries:
Bud Jeffries is one of the top natural strongmen in the world today. He has authored several books on a variety of training topics and regularly performs innovative feats of strength and endurance.

    "Have I deadlifted it yet? No. Deadlifted it with two hands, let go with one and held it for about two seconds."... "Deadlifted 170 on a dumbbell with 2" handle."

    "Most reps I could put it overhead after a two hand clean? Two."

    "Haven't really tried much rep pressing with it, but will be working on that. I wonder if anyone else who has pressed it has noticed or said anything about it being more difficult to press than a regular dumbbell because of its thickness and shortness of the handle, odd balance and tendency to roll and twist.

    Also did any of those who pressed it use a wrist wrap of any kind? I was just wondering. I have been doing it bare handed, but thought a tight wrap might help because of the dumbbell's tendency to move."

    "Can I clean it one handed? Not yet." "I'd say the handle makes the press much harder because I have pressed 212 lbs with my right hand on a regular dumbbell and I have one hand snatched 165 on a 7' barbell and done a one hand high pull with 220 chest high."

Then Bud switches topics to partial squats: "I did PR yesterday on quarter squats. Locked out 1800, set 2000 on the rack, moved it off the pins about an inch, but couldn't lock it out."

You couldn't lock out a one ton quarter squat and you call yourself a man?! Seriously, I think we all know it will be happening probably before years end, and we wish you good fortune. I'm sure we don't need to remind you to warm-up properly- you know, with a mere 1,000 or so...

Regarding the use of a wrist strap, please don't. Kim may have mentioned to you the technique that helped his son John one hand deadlift the original Inch, and the more difficult replica? They set up a teeter-totter.

Place the Inch on one end, and place off- setting weight on the other end. If you can deadlift 135 on the 2.38" bar, then place the replica on one end and 37 pounds on the other end. When you can consistently do that, remove some weight from the off-set end, so in reality you will be lifting 'more of' the replica. It is a brilliant idea.

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Inch In A Gladiator Costume.

-> An Appeal:

    If anyone reading this ever saw Inch lift the 172 bell in person, please contact me. And, if anyone has seen the handles of his other three identical challenge bells, did those also have a hole drilled in the handle midway between the globes?

    And to David Prowse, I ask, the Inch practice handle that you received when you also bought the Inch 172 from Reg Park- did that practice handle have a hole drilled in it? And where is that handle now?

Iron History
Apr 21, 1960 issue of Health & Strength announced: 'Mr. THOMAS INCH, World- renowned Physical Culturist and Bodybuilding Instructor, has been appointed President of the Health & Strength League.'
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INCH 101: Part 11

Jun 3, 1911 Inch vs Aston. Inch was 29 and lost to Edward Aston. Just weeks before this rematch Inch had fallen badly out of shape. He was able to barely clean 170 on a one inch diameter bar so how could he have claimed to be able to clean the 172 thick-handled Inch bell?

He also could clean only 210 pounds with two hands, and could bent press less than 200. So in the time period from Apr 20, 1907 until Jun 3, 1911, whatever Inch was doing was causing him strength loses, not strength gains.

But that was a few weeks before his match with Aston, at which time Inch was able to two-hand clean just over 264 pounds, one-hand clean 210.

May 17, 1913 Health & Strength issue: "Mr. Thomas Inch emphasized the necessity for testing the scales whenever records are made, and on the motion of Mr. Monte Saldo, seconded by Mr. Aston, the following resolution was unanimously passed: 'That a Government inspector of weights and measures shall in future be engaged to test and pass all weights and scales that are used for weighing the bells whenever any records are attempted under B.A.W.L.A. rules."

May 19, 1960 issue of H&S 'The Mighty Inch' by Gilbert Odd includes these goodies: "He saw such stars as Apollo, Atlas & Vulcana, Ajax. Lionel and Milo (later known as Brinn)."

Then the story is recounted of how in 1897 Inch at age 15 was demonstrating his strength at a visiting circus.

"Not long afterwards there appeared the first Inch Challenge Dumbbell. It formed part of his strength act and was the forerunner of the now famous dumbbells that have appeared on many a PC programme throughout the country." Never, again I say, never, have I encountered a reference to Inch presenting more than one challenge dumbbell at a time in a performance- he may have switched bells and thus involved more than one, but the audience did not know of this.

May 19, 1879 Opening day of Hengler's Circus in Dublin.

References to the Apr 20, 1907 intro to the Inch dumbbell appear in the May 24, 1930 issue of H&S as well as Jan 24, 1963.

May 27, 2001 I visited Kim Wood whom I have known for many years. I gave him a Jackson 1-A barbell set and he gave me an Inch replica. We were both happy. Years before, a friend and I had stopped by Hammer Strength headquarters, and while I was visiting with Kim, my friend was put through a high intensity workout by one of the staff members. It was about noon.

While I was driving toward Columbus for the Arnold show, my friend fell asleep, and later told me he had never before been put through such a difficult workout! After that he adopted the high intensity way of training and made great progress.

Inch Dumbbell
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The Original Thomas Inch Dumbbell.