August Johnson, The Lion of Scandinavia

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August Johnson, The Lion of Scandinavia

From “Mighty Men of Old” Vol. I (n.d.) (Author unknown)

August Johnson

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“August Johnson, “The Lion of Scandinavia,” was considered the most honest and modest of all professional strongmen.  Active at a time when his contemporaries were prone to exaggerate their lifts, Johnson made his reputation by having all his lifts properly weighed and certified by expert judges.  He held the world’s record in the clean and jerk with 328 pounds.  In 1892 in St. Petersburg, Russia, August made a bent press of 255 pounds which was accepted as the record until Sandow pressed his 271.

In 1896 lovers of the Iron Game accepted Louis Cyr as the strongest man in the world.  Johnson challenged that statement.  He came to America to compete against Cyr in Chicago.  Cyr had successfully defeated enough internationally known strong men that no one except Johnson challenged his claims.  This match was to decide the title of the strongest man in the world with a $1,000 side bet.  The result was very sad for Johnson for Louis beat him at everything, though the doughty Swede did make a one hand dead lift of 475 pounds using a 1½ inch bar.  Cyr, however, was warm in his praises for Johnson, whom he claimed to be the strongest competitor he had yet met.

Since most of the Continental lifters were of the beer-barrel type, ponderous chest and ponderous waists to match, Johnson was actually called “skinny’ by his big rivals.  Those iron men who scoffed at the best press often cited Johnson as proof that it was nothing more than a balancing trick.  Oddly enough there has never been a massively built good bent presser.  Saxon wasn’t really big in the light that Swoboda, Cyr or Apollon were big.  A big waist is a hindrance to the bent presser. While a long trunk and long legs are a decided advantage.

In the contest one of Cyr’s feats that surely took the wind out of Johnson’s sails was the shouldering of a 314-pound barrel of cement with one hand!  Cyr pulled the barrel to his shoulder without using his legs. August Johnson was slightly over 6 feet tall and weighed 207 pounds.”

©Mighty Men of Old

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