Eugen Sandow

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Eugen Sandow
Falk, Benjamin J. (1853-1925) - Eugen Sandow (1867-1925).jpg
Born Friederich Wilhelm Müller
(1867-04-02)April 2, 1867
Königsberg, Kingdom of Prussia
Died October 14, 1925(1925-10-14) (aged 58)
London
Resting place
Putney Vale Cemetery
Other names Eugene Sandow[1]
Known for Bodybuilding
Spouse(s) Blanche Brooks
Children Helen and Lorraine Sandow[2]

Eugen Sandow (April 2, 1867 – October 14, 1925), born Friedrich Wilhelm Müller, was a German pioneering bodybuilder known as the "father of modern bodybuilding".

Early life[edit]

Sandow was born in Königsberg, Prussia (now Kaliningrad, Russia) on April 2, 1867, to a German father and a Russian mother. He left Prussia in 1885 to avoid military service and traveled throughout Europe, becoming a circus athlete and adopting Eugen Sandow as his stage name.

In Brussels he visited the gym of a fellow strongman, Ludwig Durlacher, better known under his stage name "Professor Attila".[3] Durlacher recognized Sandow's potential, mentored and in 1889 encouraged him to travel to London and take part in a strongmen competition. Sandow handily beat the reigning champion and won instant fame and recognition for his strength. This impetus launched him on his career as an athletic superstar. Soon he was receiving requests from all over Britain for performances. For the next four years, Sandow refined his technique and crafted it into popular entertainment with posing and incredible feats of strength.

Florenz Ziegfeld wanted to display Sandow at the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago,[4] but Ziegfeld knew that Maurice Grau had Sandow under a contract.[5] Grau wanted $1,000 a week. Ziegfeld could not guarantee that much but agreed to pay 10 percent of the gross receipts.[5]

Sandow in 1894

Ziegfeld found that the audience was more fascinated by Sandow's bulging muscles than by the amount of weight he was lifting, so Ziegfeld had Sandow perform poses which he dubbed "muscle display performances"... and the legendary strongman added these displays in addition to performing his feats of strength with barbells. He added chain-around-the-chest breaking and other colorful displays to Sandow's routine. Sandow quickly became Ziegfeld's first star.

In 1894, Sandow featured in a short film series by the Edison Studios.[6] The film was of only part of the show and features him flexing his muscles rather than performing any feats of physical strength. While the content of the film reflects the audience attention being primarily focused on his appearance it made use of the unique capacities of the new medium. Film theorists have attributed the appeal being the striking image of a detailed image moving in synchrony, much like the example of the Lumière brothers' Repas de bébé where audiences were reportedly more impressed by the movement of trees swaying in the background than the events taking place in the foreground. In 1894, he also appeared in a short Kinetoscope film that was part of the first commercial motion picture exhibition in history. In April of that same year Sandow gave one of his "muscle display performances" at the 1894 California Mid-Winter International Exposition in Golden Gate Park at the "Vienna Prater" Theater. [7]

While he was on tour in America, Sandow made a brief return to England to marry Blanche Brooks, a girl from Manchester. Soon, due to stress and ill health he returned permanently to recuperate.

He was soon back on his feet, and opened the first of his Institutes of Physical Culture, where he taught methods of exercise, dietary habits and successful weight training. His ideas on physical fitness were novel at the time and had a tremendous impact. The Sandow Institute was an early gymnasium that was open to the public for exercise.[8] In 1898 he also founded a monthly periodical, originally named Physical Culture and subsequently named Sandow's Magazine of Physical Culture that was dedicated to all aspects of physical culture. This was accompanied by a series of books published between 1897 and 1904 - the last of which coined the term 'bodybuilding' in the title (as "body-building").[9]

He worked hard at improving exercise equipment, and invented various devices such as rubber strands for stretching and spring-grip dumbbells to exercise the wrists. In 1900 William Bankier wrote Ideal Physical Culture in which he challenged Sandow to a contest in weightlifting, wrestling, running and jumping. When Sandow did not accept his challenge Bankier called him a coward, a charlatan and a liar.[10]

In 1901, Sandow organized the world’s first major bodybuilding competition in London's Royal Albert Hall. The venue was so full that people were turned away at the door. The three judges presiding over the contest were Sir Charles Lawes the sculptor, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle the author and Sandow himself.[11]

He travelled all around the world on tours to countries as varied as South Africa, India, Japan, Australia, New Zealand. At his own expense, from 1909 he provided training for would-be recruits to the Territorial Army, to bring them up to entrance fitness standards, and did the same for volunteers for active service in World War I.[12]

He was even designated special instructor in physical culture to King George V, who had followed his teachings, in 1911.[13]

The Grecian Ideal[edit]

Sandow models the statue The Dying Gaul, illustrating his Grecian Ideal.

Sandow's resemblance to the physiques found on classical Greek and Roman sculpture was no accident, as he measured the statues in museums and helped to develop "The Grecian Ideal" as a formula for the "perfect physique." Sandow built his physique to the exact proportions of his Grecian Ideal, and is considered the father of modern bodybuilding, as one of the first athletes to intentionally develop his musculature to predetermined dimensions. In his books Strength and How to Obtain It and Sandow's System of Physical Training, Sandow laid out specific prescriptions of weights and repetitions in order to achieve his ideal proportions.

Personal life[edit]

Sandow married Blanche Brooks 1896,[13] with whom he had two daughters, Helen and Lorraine.[2][14] He was unfaithful to her later in marriage, and she refused to mark his grave.[15]

Death[edit]

Sandow's grave at Putney Vale Cemetery, in 2012

Sandow died at his home, 61 Holland Park Avenue, Kensington, London on October 14, 1925, of what newspapers announced as a brain hemorrhage at age 58.[1][16] It was allegedly brought on after straining himself, without assistance, to lift his car out of a ditch after a road accident two or three years earlier.[15]

However, without autopsy, his death was certified as due to aortic aneurysm, which his biographer in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography states may have been syphilitic in origin.[15]

He was buried in an unmarked grave in Putney Vale Cemetery at the request of his wife, Blanche. In 2002, a gravestone and black marble plaque was added by Sandow admirer and author Thomas Manly. The inscription (in gold letters) read "Eugen Sandow, 1867–1925 the Father of Bodybuilding."

In 2008, the grave was purchased by Chris Davies, Sandow's great-great-grandson. Manly's items were replaced for the anniversary of Eugen Sandow's birth that year and a new monument, a one and a half ton natural pink sandstone monolith was put in its place. The stone, simply inscribed "SANDOW" (written vertically), is a reference to the ancient Greek funerary monuments called steles.

Legacy[edit]

The Sandow: Lithograph - 1894 from the Library of Congress

Sandow was befriended by King George V, Thomas Edison, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and classical pianist Martinus Sieveking. He was portrayed by the actor Nat Pendleton in the Academy Award-winning film The Great Ziegfeld (1936). In a third season episode of The Venture Bros. titled "ORB," Sandow was portrayed as a bodyguard of the main characters' great-great-grandfather.

As recognition of his contribution to the sport of bodybuilding, a bronze statue of Sandow sculpted by Frederick Pomeroy has been presented to the winner of the Mr. Olympia contest, a major professional bodybuilding competition sponsored by the International Federation of Bodybuilders, since 1977. This statue is simply known as "The Sandow".

In professional wrestling, Wilhelm Baumann of the Gold Dust Trio would adopt his ring name as Billy Sandow in honor of Sandow. Nearly a century later, current WWE superstar Damien Sandow would adopt his ring name in honor of Billy Sandow and, indirectly, Eugen Sandow as well. This is not unlike one of Sandow's contemporaries, Stanislaus Zbyszko, whose name would later be adopted by Lawrence Whistler as a tribute to Zbyszko and became more well known as Larry Zbyszko.



Publications[edit]

  • Sandow's System of Physical Training
  • Sandow, Eugen (1897). Strength and How To Obtain It.. 
  • Body-Building
  • Strength and Health
  • Life is Movement
  • The Construction and Reconstruction of the Human Body
  • Sandow's Magazine of Physical Culture

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Death of Sandow". Time magazine. October 26, 1925. Retrieved 2009-02-19. As it must to all men, Death came last week to Eugene Sandow, aged 58, chest expansion 14 inches. 
  2. ^ a b Sandow, Eugen (2005) [1911]. Strength and How to Obtain It (4th ed.). Elibron Books. ISBN 1-4021-5900-5. Retrieved 2012-07-29. 
  3. ^ "Louis Attila". Legendary Strength. Retrieved 2014-08-08. 
  4. ^ "Eugen Sandow". Encyclopaedia Britannica. Retrieved 2009-02-19. At the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago he joined Florenz Ziegfeld’s Trocadero Company and toured the continent for several years. Ziegfeld’s Follies and his glorification of the American girl were inspired in part by his earlier successful showcasing of Sandow. Noted physical educator Dudley Sargent of Harvard University examined Sandow and judged him to be the finest specimen of manhood he had seen. By the time he left America, Sandow’s name was a household word, and he had earned more than a quarter million dollars. 
  5. ^ a b "Florenz Ziegfeld Dies in Hollywood After Long Illness". Associated Press in New York Times. July 23, 1933. Retrieved 2009-02-19. In New York the younger Ziegfeld knew Maurice Grau, grand opera impresario, had under contract Eugene Sandow. The "perfect man" Mr. Grau esteemed as worth $1,000 a week. Mr. Ziegfeld could not guarantee anybody $1,000 a week and so offered 10% of the gross. The deal was made and Sandow went to the World's Fair. 
  6. ^ "Souvenir Strip of the Edison Kinetoscope". Film Threat. Retrieved 2008-04-20. The film began with Sandow holding his hands behind his head, enabling a conspicuous bit of biceps flexing and abs display. (Speaking of display, Sandow’s posing shorts left very, very little to the imagination.) Sandow then folded his arms across his meaty chest, followed by a modified version of the crab pose that enabled another view of his abs while showing off his forearms. After a quick single biceps pose, Sandow turned around for a lat spread, showing off a ridiculously well developed back. After a few stretching exercises, Sandow turned back to the camera and repeated his poses. 
  7. ^ http://cdnc.ucr.edu/cgi-bin/cdnc?a=d&d=SFC18940429.2.46&srpos=1&e=-------en--20-SFC-1--txt-txIN-sandow+vienna------#.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  8. ^ "Plaque to father of body-building". BBC. February 16, 2009. Retrieved 2009-02-19. Fitness pioneer Eugen Sandow devised the first major body-building contest, which was held at the Royal Albert Hall in 1901. Sandow opened a gym, the Institute of Physical Culture, and performed on the stage all over the world. The plaque was unveiled at 161 Holland Park Avenue, where he lived from 1906 until he died aged 58 in 1925. 
  9. ^ Patrick Scott, 'Body-Building and Empire-Building: George Douglas Brown, The South African War, and Sandow's Magazine of Physical Culture, Victorian Periodicals Review, 41:1 (2008), pp. 78-94
  10. ^ Chapman, David L. Sandow the Magnificent: Eugen Sandow and the Beginnings of Bodybuilding University of Illinois Press (1994) pg 171 Google Books
  11. ^ Eugen Sandow: Bodybuilding's Great Pioneer by David Chapman - Author of 'Sandow the Magnificent - Eugen Sandow and the Beginnings of Bodybuilding'
  12. ^ Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Volume 48. Oxford University Press. 2004. pp. 904–905. ISBN 0-19-861398-9. Article by Mark Pottle.
  13. ^ a b Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Volume 48. p. 904. 
  14. ^ Цитатник Mug (2011-01-31). "Eugen Sandow, the father of bodybuilding". Live Internet Russia. Retrieved 2012-07-29. 
  15. ^ a b c Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Volume 48. p. 905. 
  16. ^ "Eugen Sandow.". Hartford Courant. October 15, 1925. Retrieved 2008-04-20. Poor boys often make rich men and weak boys become strong men Eugen Sandow, who died yesterday in London, was a physical weakling as a child and yet he became known as "the world's strongest man" and was probably entitled to the honor. ... 

Further reading[edit]

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