Barbells and Bios

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Attila painting before restoration

Professor Attila’s Scrapbook in the Classroom

  Like many of my colleagues, online learning has been something of a mixed experience. Entire courses have been completely redesigned, I’m often left lecturing in my spare bedroom and I live, almost constantly, in fear of my two dogs taking over a lecture owing to their indignation with our mail carrier. Students, I’m well...

November 24, 2020November 24, 2020

Barbells and Bios: Health and Strength Magazine, Part V

One of my favourite treats at the end of the year was the publication of sporting annuals. Based in Ireland, I would eagerly await the sale of soccer, rugby, boxing and wrestling annuals more so than my Christmas presents. Annuals offered an opportunity to reflect on the successes, and failures of the previous year. Much...

October 21, 2020August 27, 2020

Barbells and Bios: Health and Strength Magazine, Part IV

Born in Leeds in 1928, Reg Park was one of the most impressive bodybuilders of the mid-twentieth century. For many in the 1940s and ‘50s, the top physique athletes were Park, Steve Reeves and John Grimek.  Over the course of his bodybuilding career, Park won the Mr. Britain, Best Developed Athlete in America and Mr....

October 7, 2020August 27, 2020
Barbells and Bios, Health and Strength Magazine, Part III

Barbells and Bios, Health and Strength Magazine, Part III

There was a time when Indian club swinging was one of the most fascinating, and even popular, elements of gym culture. Originally brought to Western Europe and the United States in the first half of the nineteenth century, when it was transported from the East India Company, club swinging involved swinging lightweight clubs around the...

September 23, 2020October 2, 2020
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.

Barbells and Bios: Health and Strength Magazine, Part II

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...

September 9, 2020September 11, 2020
A section of the front cover from Health and Strength, December 6, 1919. Caption "Flu. Fiends." with illustrations of a rat in human hand and insects, likely ticks and mosquitoes.

Barbells and Bios: Health and Strength Magazine, Part I

Health and Strength magazine began publishing in the late nineteenth century and, up until very recently, was still in circulation. Designed for a British audience, the magazine quickly became one of the most well read and well esteemed pieces of its time. In an age when information on weightlifting was hard to come by, Health...

August 27, 2020September 11, 2020
A box for two of strongman (Eugen) Sandow's Adjustable Grip Testing Dumb Bells and the two dumbbells, with one lying horizontally and the other standing vertically.

Barbells and Bios: The Sandow Ringing Dumb-Bell

Old physical culture dumbbells really are a strange phenomenon. From squeeze grip dumb-bells to old wooden objects, the devices people used to build their bodies in the early twentieth century sometimes defy belief. One of my favorite examples of this is undoubtedly the Sandow ‘ringing’ dumbbell. Eugen Sandow, who was recently covered in a Rogue...

August 19, 2020April 15, 2020

Barbells and Bios: A Stark Experience with Graham Hudson

In 2019, I had the opportunity to spend a month traversing through the Stark Center’s numerous collections. Then in the final stages of completing my Ph.D. research, I left Austin after three weeks of frantic typing and photocopying with the unhappy realization that I had a lot more work to do than I realised. This,...

August 5, 2020February 13, 2020