Barbells and Bios: Health and Strength Magazine, Part II

Barbells and Bios: Health and Strength Magazine, Part II

Front cover of Health and Strength February 7, 1920. A man balances a pole on his chin. A child balances at the top of the pole.
‘Front Cover’, Health and Strength, Feb. 7, 1920.

Continuing my dive into the backcatalogue of Health and Strength magazine is today’s discussion of an important, at least in my eyes, cover from the early 1920s. The cover features T.W. Standwell from, Dublin, Ireland. Standwell was one of the first Irishmen to appear on the cover of Health and Strength despite the fact that Irishmen had long appeared in articles, contests and advertisements. Given that my own research is broadly interested in Irish physical culture perhaps biases me to this image but for those interested in physical culture, and weightlifting, the cover holds interest. At the time of publication, Health and Strength was attempting to revive its weightlifting organization. Since 1911, the magazine had overseen the growth, and competitions, of the British Amateur Weightlifting Association (BAWLA). Disrupted by the Great War of 1914-1918, BAWLA events were effectively put on hold during the conflict.

            It was only in 1919 that the magazine, and BAWLA, began promoting weightlifting events once more. Standwell, shown above, was one of BAWLA’s new regional organizers, tasked with bringing organised weightlifting competitions to Ireland. Alongside another Irish weightlifter, Anthony Stokes, Standwell proved pivotal in BAWLA’s regional contests. Ultimately Standwell’s, and Stokes’, efforts came to nothing – the Irish War of Independence from 1919 to 1921 disrupted BAWLA’s influence in Ireland. Regardless of this failure, the above front cover shows the optimism and enthusiasm once surrounding Irish weightlifting. For those interested in weightlifting more generally, the front cover shows the humble beginnings of organized weightlifting.

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