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This footage from 1894 shows Eugen Sandow- the father of modern bodybuilding

Neil Patrick

Eugen Sandow was a German pioneering bodybuilder known as the “father of modern bodybuildingIn 1894, Sandow featured in a short film series by the Edison Studios. The film was of only part of the show and features him flexing his muscles rather than performing any feats of physical strength.

While the content of the film reflects the audience attention being primarily focused on his appearance, it made use of the unique capacities of the new medium. Film theorists have attributed the appeal being the striking image of a detailed image moving in synchrony, much like the example of the Lumière brothers’ Repas de bébé where audiences were reportedly more impressed by the movement of trees swaying in the background than the events taking place in the foreground. In 1894, he also appeared in a short Kinetoscope film that was part of the first commercial motion picture exhibition in history.

In April of that same year Sandow gave one of his “muscle display performances” at the 1894 California Mid-Winter International Exposition in Golden Gate Park at the “Vienna Prater” Theater.

While he was on tour in the United States, Sandow made a brief return to England to marry Blanche Brooks, a girl from Manchester. Soon, due to stress and ill health he returned permanently to recuperate.

He was soon back on his feet, and opened the first of his Institutes of Physical Culture, where he taught methods of exercise, dietary habits and successful weight training. His ideas on physical fitness were novel at the time and had a tremendous impact. The Sandow Institute was an early gymnasium that was open to the public for exercise. In 1898 he also founded a monthly periodical, originally named Physical Culture and subsequently named Sandow’s Magazine of Physical Culture that was dedicated to all aspects of physical culture. This was accompanied by a series of books published between 1897 and 1904 – the last of which coined the term ‘bodybuilding’ in the title (as “body-building”).

He worked hard at improving exercise equipment, and invented various devices such as rubber strands for stretching and spring-grip dumbbells to exercise the wrists. In 1900 William Bankier wroteIdeal Physical Culture in which he challenged Sandow to a contest in weightlifting, wrestling, running and jumping. When Sandow did not accept his challenge Bankier called him a coward, a charlatan and a liar.