John B. Gagnon

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John Baptist Gagnon (October 5, 1883 - May 4, 1939) was a strongman performer in the 1920s. At one time, he claimed the unofficial title of "World's Strongest Man."

Biography[edit]

He was born on October 5, 1883 in Caribou, Maine. Deferring to the wishes of his family, Gagnon gave of performing in the late 1920s. He took a job with the Vicory and Hill Company in Augusta, Maine, where his job was to handle large rolls of paper, each weighing between 500 and 1,000 pounds. Normally, two men were required for the job, but Gagnon did it alone and collected double pay. He died on May 4, 1939 in Augusta, Maine.

World's Strongest Man contest[edit]

Gagnon was 5- foot-10-inches tall, weighed 230 pounds, and had 17-inch biceps. In a contest against Warren Lincoln Travis in 1923, Gagnon bested the champion. A platform weighing 710 pounds was set up that could be lifted from above and also back lifted from below. Here are Gagnon's accomplishments with the platform:

  • Finger Lift – 794 pounds
  • One Hand Lift – 1,111 pounds
  • Two Hand Lift – 1,575 pounds
  • Two Hand and Knees Lift – 2,195 pounds
  • Neck Lift – 1,317 pounds
  • Harness Lift – 2,689 pounds
  • Teeth Lift – 627 pounds
  • One Arm Lift – 924 pounds
  • Two Arm Lift – 1,248 pounds
  • Back Lift – 4,170 pounds
  • Total – 16,650 pounds, total time taken 25 minutes

Physical abilities[edit]

Among the Gagnon's alleged physical abilities are the following:

  • He could take deep breaths, expanding his large chest to the point where he would begin popping buttons off his shirt, sending them flying.
  • He could take a horseshoe in his bare hands and twist it until it broke in half.
  • He could bend a standard metal can-opener into a U-shape.
  • He could bend a silver dollar coin between his thumb and fingers.
  • He could pick up and carry an upright piano by himself.
  • He could stand with his back against a wall and with his feet flat on the floor stretch his body to increase his height by 4 inches.


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