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September 6, 2022

Incredible Portraits of Early Bodybuilders From the Turn of the Century

Bodybuilding developed in the late 19th century, promoted in England by German Eugen Sandow, now considered as the “Father of Modern Bodybuilding”. He allowed audiences to enjoy viewing his physique in “muscle display performances”. Although audiences were thrilled to see a well-developed physique, the men simply displayed their bodies as part of strength demonstrations or wrestling matches.


On September 14, 1901, the first bodybuilding contest, called the “Great Competition”, was organized by Sandow at the Royal Albert Hall in London, with judges including Sandow, Sir Charles Lawes, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The contest was a great success and many bodybuilding enthusiasts were turned away due to the overwhelming number of audience members. The winner was William L. Murray of Nottingham. The winner was William L. Murray of Nottingham.

From December 28, 1903 to January 2, 1904, the first large-scale bodybuilding competition in America took place at Madison Square Garden in New York City. The competition was promoted by Bernarr Macfadden, the father of physical culture and publisher of original bodybuilding magazines such as Health & Strength. The winner was Al Treloar, who was declared “The Most Perfectly Developed Man in the World”. Two weeks later, Thomas Edison made a film of Treloar's posing routine.

Take a look at these fascinating portraits of early bodybuilders prior to 1930:

Eugen Sandow, 1894.

Eugen Sandow, 1896.

Eugen Sandow.

A Russian bodybuilder, circa 1900.

George Hackenschmidt, circa 1900.

Louis Cyr, circa 1900.

Louis Cyr.

Strongman, circa 1901.

Eugen Sandow, 1902.

Eugen Sandow, 1902.

Lionel Strongfort.

George Hackenschmidt, circa 1905.

Frederick Winters, 1904 Olympics.

Mr. Murray, winner of the Sandow bodybuilding competition, 1905.

Mr. Eggleton, the manager of Sandow's physical school, 1905.

The strong man of the police school, 1906.

Georg Lurich, circa 1910.

Georg Lurich, circa 1910.

Bernarr Macfadden, c. 1918.

Strongman, circa 1920.

A. Dandurand, 1927.




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