Having a belly was a good thing once. Men in Victorian time carried with pride and joy their bellies, since rounded stature was a synonym for wealth and good fortune. Even the men working in circus, lifting weight and dealing with wild animals were over weighed. Anyway, it was just one guy enough to enter the scene and the measure for beauty of men’s body to be changed.
Eugen Sandow (1867- 1925) was born in Königsberg, now Russia, as Friedrich Wilhelm Müller. When he became famous, for his fans he had already prepared a story about his reasons for working on his body. He was ten years old when he went with his father to Italy. The thing which captured his mind were the fabulous statues of Roman Gods, which his father shown to him while they were visiting museums and the ones on squares in the capital city. Little Eugene was so delighted with those beautiful bodies which he had seen, that he immediately started working out. The story sounded great, but unfortunately it was not the truth.
Sandow obviously, was not only good in developing muscles, but also in marketing himself. Even though we don’t know a lot about his beginnings, one thing is for sure, he had changed his name early, and in 19th century in 80s’ he traveled from town to town round the Europe in search for a job as a acrobat, but with no such luck. And the strange thing happened one day. As he was in Brussels with no money in his pocket, he met Louie Dirlaherr, known as the professor Attila.
In that time ruled an opinion that a man shouldn’t lift up more than 3 kg. If he was to do something like that he was in threat for his muscles to wrinkle and stay paralyzed. Professor Attila, as he also was dedicated to exercising, wanted to prove the nonsense of that believing.
He developed system of exercising in lifting every day more and more weight, as the muscles were getting bigger, which is the basic of bodybuilding.
Professor Attila knew that he will best point out that he is right on Sandow. Two of them have moved to London in 1889. The next task was to figure out how to draw everybody’s attention.
At that time the biggest circus attractions in the capital on Great Britain were Samson and Cyclops, as people called them. As Samson was able to lift heavy weight (more than 100 kg), Cyclops was able to split coins. Sandow to prove that he is better than these two first challenged Cyclops. That night he came in his best suit and as soon as he had challenged Cyclops and was standing in arena lighted he took off his suit, which was specially designed to easy fall and he remained in a tight suit which pointed out all the muscles on his body. People sitting on their seats at first went silence and than they started to applaud and shout. Sandow easily won. It was next for him to overcome Samson. One week later the fight was set. Sandow was ready, he was prepared for that. He found out from a snitch that Samson was faking the scene when he was breaking the chains, so he arranged that Samson should be tided up now with real chains. He had won again. And now the new star was born.
Fame of Eugen Sandow was growing. The newspaper wrote about him, where ever he went the crowd was waiting for him, to see him and talk with him. Most of the people came to see his body. Finally he got the chance to enliven the Roman and Greek statues. He stroke different posses to point out different muscles, the same as bodybuilders are doing it today.
Sandow was conscious that performing is just one part of fame, so he kept on with advertising himself. He had his naked photos taken, which were sold all over the Europe, which enabled people from different parts to get to see him and hear about him, if they didn’t have opportunity to see him alive. For certain amount of money he was appearing at the private parties. Guests gathered in some rich man’s house waited only for that, for him to appear.
When he had conquered the Europe, Eugen Sandow decided to try his luck in America. He first arrived to New York in 1893. Florenz Ziegfeld got interested in him, and two of them went all over the America with a Broadway musical, where, of course Sandow was a leading star.
At the end of 19th and the beginning of 20th century, name of Eugen Sandow was a synonym for strength, muscles, good looks, success and fame. Expressions like “Strong as Sandow” were used all over the world. He knew how to use his name well. He was the first one who, for more than a good price, was willing to lend his name for sport equipment.
In 1901 he decided to make a contest, where will for the first time in modern history, the competitors is valuated by their appearance. Sandow asked his friend Arthur Conan Doyle (the famous writer, the creator of Sherlock Holmes) to be in jury.
Even if the name on Eugen Sandow, except in some circles of bodybuilders, is mainly forgotten, I should point out that he was the one who started the big bodybuilding industry, which now is rated to billion and billion of dollars. Even if there are not so many people who remember this guy, I think that he would be pleased to know that his body became a statue. On the contest “Mister Olympia” which takes place once a year, the best bodybuilder gets a statue made by face and body of Eugen Sandow!