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David Willoughby Collection
Material Types

Art, Books, Letters, Manuscripts, Photos

Willoughby was a weightlifting historian, artist, and anthropometrist. He authored a number of books, including The Super Athletes; helped form the ACWLA; and wrote hundreds of articles on physical culture.  He began weightlifting as a teenager, winning an A.A.U. National Championship in 1924.  Along with George Jowett and Ottley Coulter, he formed the American Continental Weight Lifters Association.  He interest in the history of the iron game continued throughout his life, even as he earned his living as  technical illustrator.

David Willoughby was an early weight lifter and body builder of some renown. But it was only after his retirement that he truly left his mark on the Iron Game. After a sojourn through academia and a brush with the space race, Willoughby would return to the sport of his youth, writing extensively on it for many of the industry’s most prominent magazines. By the time of his death, Willoughby would be called by his contemporaries “perhaps the world’s greatest weightlifting historian of our time.”

By trade, Willoughby was a technical illustrator, producing schematics and drawings with great precision.  His career was split between the California Institute of Technology’s Mudd Laboratory and NASA.  Perhaps due to his technical art skills, Willoughby was fascinated by anthropometrics – the measurement of the body.  His forays into this field help to provide foundations for his books on strongmen (The Super Athletes), horses (The Empire of Equus), and apes (All About Gorillas).

Much of the information for this abstract come from a presentation by a UT graduate student, Ryan Murtha, which will soon be published in Iron Game History.

His collection is full of his art, correspondence, clippings, manuscripts and photographs.  The collection has been minimally processed; an basic inventory of files is available.