Barbells & Bios: David Chapman, Sandow the Magnificent (Original Manuscript)

Barbells & Bios: David Chapman, Sandow the Magnificent (Original Manuscript)

Few scholars of physical culture and bodybuilding more generally will be unfamiliar with the name Eugen Sandow. Known by many as the father of modern bodybuilding, Sandow helped to popularize health, exercise and weight training to large swathes of individuals in Great Britain, the United States and further afield. He counted Kings and Queens as his admirers, opened his own line of gymnasiums, promoted health foods, workout devices and even his own magazine. For later scholars, Sandow’s legacy and importance was brought to the masses through David Chapman’s Sandow the Magnificent. While previous scholars discussed Sandow’s importance, including some wonderful work by Terry Todd and David Webster respectively, Chapman was one of the first individuals to condense Sandow’s multifaceted career and produce a highly accessible and readable account of his life.

As a young student of physical culture in the early 2000s, Chapman’s book provided my introduction to a bygone world of vaudevillian strongmen and larger than life characters. Tucked alongside the Chapman Collection in the Stark Center is David’s original manuscript for Sandow the Magnificent. For scholars, the manuscript is undoubtedly part of the history of the field of physical culture. Since its original publication in the early 1990s, Chapman’s book has been used by those interested in physical culture but also British society more generally. Sandow the Magnificent has thus provided a starting point for many later physical culture works. It is rare for original manuscripts to survive, a point which makes Chapman’s donation to the Stark all the more special. 

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