April 2, 1867 - October 14, 1925
Current bodybuilders never carry barbells or dumbbells – the very implements used to build the bodies they so proudly display – to the stage. However, at the dawn of the 20th century, it was common for Eugen Sandow to demonstrate his strength onstage with various weights before posing to show his development.
Sandow, in spite of his claims, was not the strongest man in the world, but he was skilled at self-promotion and convincing audiences that he was much stronger than reality could document. Sandow, born in Konigsberg, Prussia, was the most famous strongman in the world for the first two decades of the 1900s, being hired by Flo Ziegfeld of Ziegfeld Follies fame.
Sandow opened his first gym in 1899 at Saint James Street (near Piccadilly Circus), London, and he would later govern about 20 Sandow Institutes, thus claiming the first chain of gyms decades ahead of anyone else. He would also publish his own magazine for several years.
Sandow, the Schwarzenegger of his era, traveled around the world to perform his strength act and to pose his muscles. At the time, it was asserted that he had a perfectly proportioned physique. When the IFBB decided, in 1977, that a statue should accompany the cash prize awarded to the Mr. Olympia winner, they modeled it after the Sandow statue that was given to the winner of a 1901 contest.
Thus it is that Sandow has appeared onstage in more Olympias than any other flexing legend of the sport.
*Special thanks to David L. Chapman, Official Biographer of Eugen Sandow, for provided this photograph (Sandow's favorite).