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Joe Roark's Iron History: A Chronology Of Events In Bodybuilding (February, Part 1)!

The iron game has a very rich and entertaining history of both great and not so great moments. Here's the third part of many as we share this exhaustive & detailed chronology going back more than 100 years!

Feb 1, 1929

By the time Charles Rigoulot cleaned and jerked 402.25 lbs on this date, he had been a professional for about three and a half years. He apparently made the C&J on the eleventh attempt. Gord Venables, who in my opinion is one of the lesser reliable writers regarding matters of facts in lifting history asserted that the barbell was ten feet long!

Robert Cayeau asserted that the barbell was not excessive in its length- so not 10'? So the barbell shown in Anvils, Horse- shoes, and Cannons in volume 1 p 92 must not be the barbell used by Rigoulot because it certainly has 'excessive length'.

Willoughby offers that Rigoulot in his overhead lifts: "...used, not a regulation plate-loading bell, but a specially-made, shot-loading, spherical ended bell over 8 feet in length and in which the handle was exceedingly springy.

Evidently only Rigoulot had mastered the technique needed in lifting on this bar to take advantage of its springiness, rather than be defeated by it." A photo of this special barbell appears on page 106 of Willoughby's book, THE SUPER ATHLETES. Rigoulot stood 5' 7.7" tall and you can estimate the bell's length by using that fact in comparison. This bell appears to be the same bell as shown in AHC p 92.

Feb 1, 1929

On the very day that Rigoulot was involved in his situation, Henry Lenz was born in San Antonio, Texas. Lenz would later become Mr. Muscle Beach on July 2, 1952.

Feb 1, 1954

Bart Clifford Yarick was born. His mother was Alyce Yarick, who of course was married to Ed Yarick, the man who helped train Steve Reeves in the early years.

Feb 1, 1964

Sharon Bruneau, female bodybuilder who has more the look of a fitness competitor, was born. One of her gimmicks at the Arnold Classic was to address the east half of the audience and ask, "Do you LIKE what you see?" The resounding 'YES!' from the male fans was shouted back to her. She would then turn to the west half of the audience and ask, "Do you WANT what you see?". My memory fails me here regarding the response...

Feb 1, 1969

Charles Estes won Mr. Dixie

Feb 1, 1990

Lou Ferrigno's third child, Brent was born, weighing in at 9 lbs 2 ozs and was 21" long. Ferrigno's TV show The Incredible Hulk ran from March 10, 1978 to June 2, 1982, so he was starring in that show when his first child, Shanna Victoria was born on June 13, 1981. Ferrigno's hiatus from bodybuilding competition was from 1975 until 1992.

Feb 2, 1906

Clarence Johnson born. (not the Claerence Johnson who wrote for Ironman in April 2000) but the man who was a force in weightlifting, and in AAU bodybuilding for many years. Died July 22, 1998

Feb 2, 1919

Melvin Wells, one of the greatest, early, black bodybuilders was born on Feb 2, 1919, and would compete in the AAU Mr. America in 1949, taking second place, but winning best arms, and best back, and most muscular. The following year he again placed second, again winning best arms, and most muscular. He apparently competed in 1952 also though details are sketchy, and he was not listed in the top 29, and there were supposed to be 35 competitors.

(Strength & Health does not include the 7 additional names than Ironman listed including Van Cirsky (who was really Vic Seipke, but I digress...)

Wells was known as the Buffalo Hercules (for his city of residence) and Charles A. Smith told me he thought Well's arms were superior to Grimek's. On November 6, 1948 at Bob Hoffman's 50th birthday show, Melvin curled 145 lbs for 12 reps!

Melvin was born in Sulligent, Alabama and about 1927 at the age of eight he began lifting rocks for exercise. He had two younger brothers. In 1942 he bought his first set of barbells and his friends began calling him 'Hercules'. He attended Hutchinson High School, and later in the Army Air Force he lifted car wheels.

Oddly, a Muscle-Builder writer in 1958 in reply to a 'whatever happened to' question about Melvin, replied: "He worked in a motor factory, was forced to use dumbbells 'silently' in his upstairs flat and gradually lost interest." When I asked Melvin in 1993 if that statement was accurate he said no, that he had trained all his life, until very recently when his failing health prevented him from lifting. He also told me that he had stored many papers and photos in the basement under some water pipes...and when those pipes leaked, all that history was lost.

In Melvin's day there was little chance of a black man winning a major physique title. Current bodybuilding is different. Only black men have won the Ironman Pro Invitational, for example, a fact Melvin did not live to know.

Melvin died March 17, 1994 at age 75.

Feb 2, 1964

Bill Seno won Mr. Chicagoland

Feb 2, 1968

Arnold Schwarzenegger's nephew, Patrick, born.

Feb 3, 1906

Glen Ellis, childhood friend of Joseph Curtis Hise, was born. I interviewed Mr. Ellis for my former newsletter MuscleSearch, and he had fun memories of seeing Curt (the name everybody called Joe Hise in his youth) working out, and Glen was present on the day when Curt's first set of weights arrived.

Feb 3, 1936

Frances Hise (Joe's sister) and Ralph Gurnea married. I also interviewed Frances, a most sweet lady, who remembered Curt with love. She had some health problems late in life and told me that one night she awoke WITHOUT pain, and stayed awake to simply enjoy a few minutes without pain. She now rests a few feet from her brother in the Homer GAR Cemetery about 12 miles from where this is being written.

Feb 3, 1941

From Feb 3 to March 1 in 1941 Jake Hitchens was at Macy's Department Store in NYC touting barbells and their benefits.

Feb 3, 1979

Repeating his victory at the inaugural IFBB Night of Champions the previous year, Robby Robinson again won the event. Wayne Demilia had staged the 1978 event with no plans for another edition, until someone called him and asked about tickets and details, so Wayne got in gear and staged the 1979 version, and with the exception of 1984 the NOC has been held each year, making it the second longest running IFBB pro show (after the Olympia which began in 1965).

Feb 4, 1898

The British Amateur Weightlifter & Bodybuilder, May 1948: by W.J. Lowry reported: "The first serious effort to form an association of weight-lifters, for the benefit of weight-lifters, and to be governed by lifters, appears to have been undertaken on Friday, 4th, February, 1898, at Professor Atkinson's Institute, Kinnerton Street, London, and this meeting was attended by a number of representative lifters. These included Pevier, Elliott (sic), the two Spencer Brothers, Sergt. Hawthorn, of Woolrich, Professor Szalay and a representative of Sandow's Schools of P.C. a Mr. W. Brooks."

No Association was decided on but weight classes were: 10 stone and under, 12 stone, and over 12 stone. [a British stone equals 14 pounds]

(a personal note: would anyone having all the 1947 and 1950 issues of the Britain Am Wl & BBer please leave a comment with your email address?)

Feb 4, 1904

Roland Morgan, better known to strength fans as Warren Lincoln Travis was not much of a lifter of barbells or dumbells but was more suited to backlifting and to harness lifting. The publication MIGHTY MEN of OLD asserts that Travis on Feb 4, 1904 backlifted about 4,000 pounds.

Feb 4, 1937

Bill March's birthday. March was one of the few men to criss-cross lifter/bodybuilder lines. He won the FIHC Mr. Universe in 1965, the same year he won the 198 lb class at the Sr. Nats via 340 - 300 - 370 = 1010.

At the 1969 Sr. Nats he pressed 390 lbs while weighing 224. Had his style in the press been used by other lifters- which is to say, a proper style- the press would still be part of Olympic weightlifting competition. In training he once pressed 410.

Feb 4, 1949

The seventh Mr. New York City contest drew 5 dozen competitors with Val Pasqua winning the overall of the four classes.

Feb 4, 1954

In the February 4th issue of Health & Strength magazine in 1954, Thomas Inch suggested a 250 pound bodyweight limit as suitable for a super-heavyweight category.

Feb 4, 1967

In Chicago the Mr. Midwest title was won by Bill Seno

Feb 4, 1969

I knew Bob Holden briefly in the late 1960s while living in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. He was in college and worked part time in a grocery store. When he worked the cash register, his huge upper arms strained against the cloth, and I can remember seeing one young lady's eyes bulge when she glanced up after placing her groceries on the counter!

On Feb 4, 1969

Bob won the title Mr. Sunshine State, but was later defeated by a very thin, lean, older, bodybuilder in another contest, and Bob was so upset by this unfair judging that he told me he may well stop competing. But in fact, on June 14, 1970 Bob competed in the AAU Mr. America contest, placing 9th as Chris Dickerson became the first black man to win that title. Things had changed since the days of Melvin Wells.

I moved to Illinois, and I think Bob went on to attend Georgetown University, though we lost contact. Does anyone know where Bob is these days? I would appreciate knowing.

Feb 5, 1878

William Pagel was born in Pomerania, North Prussia with the name [Frederich Wilhelm August Pagel]. This is the man who used to climb two parallel ladders (facing each other) while a 1,000 lb horse was suspended beneath him by means of a harness. Pagel would climb about 9' high on the ladders, whose rungs were 9 inches apart; then he descended until the horse was on the ground and could be unharnessed.

Pagel's Circus was his [circus], and he performed as a strongman in Australia and in South Africa around 1900, and Pagel's Circus played in South Africa circa 1905. Pagel could also bent press 280 lbs at a bodyweight of 238. He died Oct 13, 1948. [a photo of the horse feat appears in Ironman Feb 1963 p 27 and in Webster's SONS of SAMSON, Vol. 1 on page 50]

Feb 5, 1915

W.A. Pullum on this date in London performed a Two Hands Any How (THAH) with a total of 272 pounds while he weighed only 121 pounds! He jerked a barbell of 210 pounds from the shoulders using both hands, then transferred the bell to his right hand, to put it overhead, then reached down, grabbed a kettlebell of 62 pounds and put that overhead.

A word about the THAH. The clean and jerk is a separate lift from the THAH, that's why they have different names. So the fact that the THAH record has been surpassed by the clean and jerk does not mean that you can say the THAH record now matches the clean and jerk record because two hands are used in the clean and jerk and certainly the method used in the clean and jerk falls under the description of 'anyhow'.

Implied in the THAH are TWO implements, that is a separate implement for each hand, hardly the case in the standard clean and jerk. Even the two dumbells clean and jerk is a separate lift from the standard C&J.

Feb 5, 1927

Arthur Robin, who would win the NABBA Pro Universe on Oct 19, 1957, was born Feb 5, 1927, and so won the U at age 30. Health & Strength magazine ran a two part story on Robin in the Feb 13 and Feb 27th issues in 1958.

Feb 5, 1982

Al Beckles won the World Pro Championships at a claimed age of 43. A couple of years after this, references to his age would jump by an additional eight years.

Feb 6, 1932

The issue of Health & Strength of this date refers to 51 year-old Thomas Inch as 'the famous old-timer'. Inch later said that in 1931 he had brought his 172 pound Challenge dumbell out of retirement for a film to be made of him lifting it. He warned the camera man to be ready because he would probably be able to lift the bell only once.

The camera man missed the take, and it took hours for Inch to gather the strength for a second, successful lift. Yet we have people who still believe Inch could lift that bell 18 years later! Keep in mind that Inch owned four IDENTICAL bells of 75, 140, 153, and 172 pounds, and that the 75 and 172 could be distinguished ONLY by himself and his inner circle.

Side note: As this year unfolds and relevant dates regarding Inch and his bells are encountered, I will treat specifics about those dates and compare the varying accounts that have been offered thru the years, and share the conclusions I have drawn after several months of intense study regarding Inch. We will call this 'Inch 101' and by the end of the year enough evidence will have been presented for a fair conclusion to be drawn. The first installment begins next week.

Feb 6, 1937

Bob Harley bent pressed the 209 pound Rolandow dumbell. He weighed 175-180.

Feb 7, 1908 Buster Crabbe born. He was the M.C. at the IFBB Mr. Universe when Zane beat Schwarzenegger. One of Crabbe's questions to the bodybuilders was, "What would you do if you had a million dollars?". Buster died Apr 23, 1983.

Feb 7, 1964

Kathy Unger born. Posed for fashion shots in Female Bodybuilding magazine in December 1986 and October 1987 as her debut in the pages of bodybuilding magazines. Later competed and on November 5, 1994 won the WNBF Pro Natural World Championship.

Feb 7, 1944

Dan Lurie's brother Morris was killed in WW II. Dan published Muscle Training Illustrated from November 1965 thru June 1993, with a full collection of MTI requiring 177 issues. He also published some special issues separate from his bi-monthly magazine.

Feb 7, 1981

Chris Glass, in the early years of female bodybuilding won the Ms. Mission Vieho Muscle Classic.

Next week Inch 101 begins. If you know anyone who fancies that the Inch matter and his four bells are clearly understood, and that Inch ever really lifted the 172 one handed all the way, mention this series to that person. My conclusions will probably be different than what is commonly thought.

Feb 8, 1912

On this Thursday Edward Aston presented a lifting display at the Camberwell Club to benefit Prof. Szalay's upcoming benefit scheduled for March 2. The profit would go to the Prof.

One of the feats that Aston demonstrated on February 8 was the bent pressing of two barbells at the same time in the same hand; the bells weighed 84 and 56 pounds, for a total of 140 pounds. When the bells were overhead, Aston then used his left hand to pick up a 40 pound ringweight- a feat that W.J. Lowry said he had never seen anyone else do. Try lifting two Olympic barbells EMPTY in the bent press to appreciate the grip needed when the bars begin their 'twirl'.

Aston had more to lift. He set about establishing four new Heavyweight records for British lifting:

Right hand Clean and Jerk of 173 lbs. Left hand Snatch of 162 lbs Left hand Clean and Bent Press (device) 210 lbs! Two hands Continental & Jerk of 297 lbs. Aston declined to be weighed but Lowry offered 'It is unlikely that he exceeded 12 st.' (168 pounds). Hardly a heavyweight, but Lowry continued that as of May 1950 "...some of the records he established in his career remain unbeaten in the Heavyweight class".

Feb 8, 1922

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

Feb 8,1957

Inger Zetterqvist born; placed 3rd in 1983 Ms. Olympia

Feb 8, 1964

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

Feb 9, 1895 [probably April 9]

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

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

Feb 9, 1911

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

Feb 9, 1946

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

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

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

Feb 9, 1969

Bob Boyd wins Mr. Illinois

Feb 9, 1989

Henry 'Milo' Steinborn died; was born March 14, 1983 in Siegburg, Germany. Became known for his heavy squats which he placed on his shoulders unassisted by up-ending the bell, squatting down and letting the bar angle down upon his back. In 1937 Strength & Health mag reported that Steinborn had done 'several' reps in the Deep Knee Bend with 408 lbs. in this manner.

By 1954 he maintained the power to squat 475 for reps. On his 68th birthday he did a full, unassisted squat with 400 lbs. His most famous was the 552.5 pound unassisted 1924 squat. Not impressive by today's standards? Try it, and remember not to wear any powerlifting gear. He once did 33 reps with 315 pounds!

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

Feb 10, 1736

David Horne of England, current grip master and a man who knows about hand strength (385 lbs wrist curl for 5 reps, and about a 600 lb table-top wrist curl) and Elizabeth Talbot, who, strengthwise is his counterpart, have written a book about Thomas Topham, titled: Strength Prov'd Thomas Topham, Strongman of Islington. In that book they show the Playbill for the Feb 10, 1736 performance by Topham at the Play-House in the Castle-Yard, which lists the feats he will attempt- bending iron bars, rolling up a strong pewter dish etc.

When this book is no longer available you'll regret not buying a copy, so... David Horne, 27 Ingestre Road, Stafford, ST17 4DJ, ENGLAND USA $20 Europe $18 cash. He also published Iron Grip, a quarterly magazine devoted to hand and forearm strength.

Feb 10, 1908

Apollon & Padoubny wrestle to a non-decision at Hengler's Circus.

Feb 10, 1948

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

Feb 10, 1967

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

Feb 10, 1968

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

Feb 10, 1968

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

Feb 10, 1971 or 1974?

Lisa Varon born; won the Debbie Kruck Fitness July 10, 1999

Feb 10, 1973

On this date Sig Klein wrote a letter to Leo Gaudreau explaining why he did not think that Eugene Sandow had appeared in New York City before 1893. Sig explained that a man named Montgomery Irving was appearing in those days in NYC as SANDOWE (Sandow with an 'E') and this Irving became known as 'The False Sandow'.

Anyway, Sig thinks that many simply mistook Sandowe for Sandow. In a similar way, folks had told Klein that they had seen Sandow in person in America after 1910, when they probably had seen Adolph Nordquest who had been dubbed 'Young Sandow' by Prof. Attila. Sandow in fact was not in America after 1903.