A SHORT LIFE STORY OF LIONEL STRONGFORT
1878 -1970 -
From the Iron Game Collectors Series
Lionel Strongfort, whose real name was Max Unger, was born in
Berlin, Germany, November 23, 1878.
He began his famed stage career
around 1897, becoming world renowned for his "Human Bridge Act" (The
Tomb of Hercules position). Strongfort's greatest fame came after
retiring from the stage in the early 1900s, launching his world famous
mail order course, "Strongfortism," which appeared in popular
publications the world over.
For more than 25 years until about 1935, "Strongfortism"
was one of the most successful train-by-mail correspondence school
adventures. Unfortunately, the Great Depression of the thirties proved
to be an economic disaster for most mail-order concerns.
full-length physique pose, his trademark, became famous in all his ads the
world over. His well-balanced, symmetrical physique was in demand by the
world's greatest artists and sculptors. Lionel Strongfort lived a healthy,
active life until he passed away at the ripe old age of 92.
At 16 years of age Lionel Strongfort was a watch and clockmaker's
apprentice. A lover even then of the art of the sculptor, he accidentally
met the original Professor Attila.
His admiration of this famous trainer's
fine physique aroused Professor Attila's interest in him. Lionel needed
but little encouragement. He attended the Attila training quarters as
often as possible.
At 17 years of age (seen left) he was able to do a double-handed
lift of 250 lb. without any great exertion -- the Professor prevented his favourite and most promising pupil from premature overstrain. Strongfort's
single-handed lift overhead at this time was 130 lb. In other ways, too,
Attila guarded his favourite pupil.
He discouraged smoking, drinking, late
hours, and everything that would militate against Strongfort becoming the
world's champion athlete. The latter was encouraged to take part in
boxing, wrestling, and other strenuous games and sports.
aroused enthusiasm by the terrific fights he put up against the Turkish
wrestlers at that time touring the world.
One was the gigantic Yussuff
(whom the "Terrible Greek" himself described as the strongest wrestler
he had ever met), who was drowned in the sinking of the Transatlantic
line "La Burgone."
Another was the almost equally formidable Halil Adali.
Where Strongfort scored was with his wonderful strength and endurance.
The appreciative Turkish wrestlers pressed him again and again to become
one of them, telling him that they would teach him all the areas of
wrestling and make him a world's champion wrestler.
About this time, however, there arose a world-wide variety theatre
demand for what was known in the profession as "Strong Man Turns."
in the late 1890s and 1900s the preference was for athletes of the
classical rather than the clumsily strong figure. The late Eugene Sandow
was the first to rise to world pre-eminence in this respect, and Lionel
Strongfort, a younger man, became his world-acknowledged successor.
It is well nigh impossible for the blasé young man of today to imagine
the awe and admiration that hushed the theatres when Lionel Strongfort
made his appearance. In the eyes of the audience he was the living
reincarnation of the ancient Greek athlete as he reproduced the poses of
the world's most famous sculptures of the human form divine, such as the
javelin thrower, runner, boxer, discus-thrower, wrestler, gladiator, and
other admired examples that express the beauty and strength of the
ancient Greek athletes.
Gasp after gasp of astonishment rippled through the London Pavilion, The
Alhambra, and others of the then-leading theatres of London, the
Provinces, and other parts of the World, as Strongfort suddenly changed
his programme from the passivity of beauty to the Herculean efforts of
his superhuman feats of strength.
He turned graceful somersaults while
holding a 50-lb. weight in each hand. Then he turned another
lightning-like somersault while holding a 150-lb. barbell. About this
time, too, he set up a world's record lift of 312-lb., over Louis Cyr's
Strongfort's most sensational feat was his "Human Bridge Act," where he
supported a fully occupied motorcar . It was performed in full view of
the theatre audience right at a time when the motorcar was something of
But there was much more in this spectacular feat of human
muscular co-ordination than was apparent to the great majority of the
Seen right: Lionel Strongfort in his 90s
The "motor" of those days was not the docilely smooth
vehicle of today. Its progress was apt to be jerky and explosive,
thereby almost doubling the effect of the colossal weight of the car and
Further, it was not a case of merely lifting or
sustaining a slowly descending weight. The car approached and departed
at a side-twist angle of its huge weight of 7,000 lb. Actually, the
easiest split-second of the feat's time was when the car was equally
balanced over Strongfort's supporting body.
Such spectacular feats as were being performed by Strongfort naturally
attracted the attention of scientists, doctors, surgeons, sculptors, and
Join our Library where you will find articles, reproductions and
books on this legendary iron man.