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Todd-McLean Physical Culture Collection

PHOTOS BY Marsha Miller

This large oil portrait of Professor Attila was done in 1887 in London by an artist employed by the British Royal Family. Attila had provided instruction in physical training for several members of the royal family, and they commissioned the portrait as a way of thanking the Professor. The leopard-skin costume worn by Attila was supposedly shot by the Prince of Wales, who gave it to Attila as a token of his appreciation, and the medals on the Professor’s chest are also on display in the collection. The Todds bought the painting in 1987 from Sig Klein, Attila’s son-in-law and a famous gym owner in his own right.

Joe Bonomo had a long and very successful career in the early days of Hollywood as both a stunt man and character actor. This large montage of photos is one of two that were given by Bonomo to Vic Boff, the late president of the Oldetime Barbell and Strongman Association, who gave them to the Todds. Bonomo was also very effective as a physical culture entrepreneur, and is generally credited with being the first person to create small, pocket-size “how-to” books for display in the check-out lines at supermarkets.

The Todds acquired the collection of Ottley Coulter in 1975, and this acquisition convinced them to dedicate themselves to preserving the legacy of physical culture, broadly defined, by continuing the work of Coulter, who had begun collecting in the first decade of the 20th century. A circus strongman, a writer, an historian and one of the founders of the sport of weightlifting in the U.S., Coulter assembled many scrapbooks such as the one depicted here. He met Terry Todd in 1964, visited the Rare Books Collection at UT in 1965, and knew that Todd wanted to build a great library at a major university. Because of this, he instructed his family not to sell his collection to anyone but the Todds when he died.

George Hackenschmidt was almost as famous for his massive, yet muscular body as he was for his invincibility as a wrestler—as this photograph from his scrapbook demonstrates. He always drew large crowds whenever he appeared, and he became quite wealthy as a result of his fame. Agile of mind as well as of body, Hackenschmidt retired from wrestling and personal appearances while he was still in his thirties, and after that he turned his attention to research in the field of natural philosophy. He wrote a number of books in this area and lectured at places such as Columbia University in New York City. Hackenschmidt lived to be 89, and he remained nimble and powerful well into his eighties.

This scrapbook, which is six inches thick, was compiled in 1907 for George Hackenschmidt by a friend and admirer. Hackenschmidt was a weightlifting champion who became internationally famous as a wrestler. Known as the “Russian Lion,” Hackenschmidt is considered by most authorities to have been the greatest wrestler in the world in the early years of the 20th century, and his matches generated enormous publicity in the sports pages of the day. His personal scrapbook contains hundreds of clippings from around the world and was given to the Todds—along with another scrapbook, photos and manuscripts—by his widow, Rachel.

This original poster advertising “The Labor of Hercules,” one of Steve Reeve’s hugely successful “sword and sandal” films in the late 1950s and 1960s, was given to the Todds during a visit to his ranch in 2000. Reeves got his start as a competitive bodybuilder, winning the Mr. America title in 1947 and becoming arguably the most popular physique star of his era. His films, made in Europe, did more business for several years than those made by any other actor, and Reeves became a worldwide celebrity. He had such broad shoulders and narrow hips that he was forced to do his own stunts as no stuntman came close to matching his proportions. Following a serious injury sustained in the filming of a chariot race in a film, Reeves decided to retire and to breed and train Morgan horses.

This is only a sampling of the hundreds of different magazines collected by the Todds in the field of physical culture. Some of their magazines date back to the 1830s, yet many are less than a month old. They run the gamut from magazines focusing on only one sport, such as powerlifting or arm-wrestling, to magazines dedicated to research into the best ways for an athlete to train; to magazines aimed at young men who want to build more strength and muscle; to magazines specializing in various aspects of alternative medicine; to magazines geared to the needs of middle-aged people who want to use exercise to help them maintain the characteristics of youth for as long as possible.

This dumbbell, first produced by the Milo Barbell Company in 1902, is the only one known to still exist. It is adjustable so that its weight can be increased or decreased by varying the amount of lead shot that is inside. The round, flat plate in the photo can be screwed on and off to allow the weight of the bell to be altered. The Milo Barbell Company was founded by Alan Calvert, a pioneer in the field of weight training in the U.S. who also went on to found Strength magazine in 1914. This dumbbell was given to the Todds in the 1980s by Dale Friez.

This original poster of the professional strongwoman known as Madame Montagna dates from the first decade of the 20th century. In the days when the circus and vaudeville were the most popular forms of mass entertainment a number of women, as well as men, took to the stage in an amazing variety of strength acts. Montagna was born in Bologna, Italy, in 1874, and toured with her husband, a professional strongman. Besides lifting the cannon shown in the poster, she could reportedly hold it while it was fired. She also, in front of witnesses, tore a pack of playing cards in half.

This original Norman Rockwell poster captures the iconic image of a father passing along a love for sports and physical activity to his son. It also captures the desire of boys to grow up to be “big and strong,” and this was a theme to which Rockwell often returned with his drawings of skinny boys flexing their meager muscles as they stare into mirrors hoping to see the man they’ll one day become. This dream of personal transformation is the primary engine that has driven the popularity of physical culture for more than a hundred years, and it continues unabated.

The “Olympian System,” developed and marketed by Bernarr Macfadden, was one of the things that helped to make this remarkable man a successful publisher and a multi-millionaire. Macfadden, who is shown here demonstrating some of the exercises in the system, didn’t make the mistake of other pioneering 20th century entrepreneurs and concentrate all his energy on boys and young men. Macfadden realized early on that women no less than men wanted to improve themselves, and with magazines such as Physical Culture he built a publishing empire that at one time in the 1920s was larger than that of William Randolph Hearst.

Inside the suitcase-like box in the photo is a portable rowing machine personally owned by George F. Jowett, a very influential writer, athlete and promoter of weight training during the first half of the 20th century. Called the “Seat of Health,” this rowing machine is made of stainless steel and was marketed as a device which could be carried on trips by busy, but fitness-conscious, travellers. It is still fully functional, and was given to the collection by Jowett’s daughter, Phyllis Jowett, who also donated scrapbooks, photographs, barbells, artwork and correspondence. Ms. Jowett also endowed a scholarship at UT in her father’s name.

Artifacts from the history of physical culture are stacked on every shelf top in the collection. Here a statue of the famous bodybuilder John Grimek rests alongside boxes for the Whitely Exerciser and a pair of Sandow’s Spring Grip Dumbbells. The large photo is of Earle Liederman, who rivaled Charles Atlas in the mail order business in the 1920s. The wood carving, from the Basque region of Spain, depicts stone lifting, a tradition that still continues there. The spherical weight in the center is called a kettlebell.

Following the death of David P. Willoughby, the Todds purchased his books, photographs, manuscripts, correspondence, drawings and unpublished articles from his widow. Willoughby was a prolific writer who concentrated on the history of the “iron game” and on the limits of human strength and muscle size. He had a full-time job as a medical illustrator, but in his spare time he produced hundreds of carefully researched articles and a number of important books such as “The Super Athletes.” The photo depicts examples of the many tables Willoughby used in his calculations about the relative ability and measurements of strongmen and strongwomen.

This pillow was given to the Todds by Alda Ketterman Hoffman, the widow of Bob Hoffman—who founded the York Barbell Company in 1932 and went on to become the most influential person in physical culture in the U.S over the next 40 years. He bought the Milo Barbell Company, which had been founded by Alan Calvert in 1902, in 1932, but almost immediately named it after the town in which he lived—York, Pennsylvania. Hoffman, who began publishing Strength & Health magazine in 1932, was a great believer in the importance of “Olympic-style” lifting in the improvement of health as well as the improvement of athletic performance, and his York Barbell Club won the national team championships for 48 consecutive years.

This small but beautiful painting was done in the 1920s by C. Bosseron Chambers, a successful artist who specialized in religious and heroic images. The model in this study was Sig Klein, who operated a health studio in downtown Manhattan from 1925 to 1975. Chambers gave this painting to Klein, as well as a much larger version that was, unfortunately, destroyed by vandals in 1957, who broke into Klein’s studio on Times Square. The small painting was put up for auction at Sotheby’s by Sig’s daughter in 1996 and Joe Weider purchased it, only to donate it to the collection several years later.

Professor Attila

Joe Bonomo

Ottley Coulter

George Hackenschmidt

The Russian Lion

The Labor of Hercules

Physical Culture Magazines

Milo Barbell Company

Madame Montagna

Norman Rockwell Poster

The Olympian System

The Seat of Health

More Than 150,000 Artifacts

David P. Willoughby

York Barbell Company

Sig Klein

Oil portrait of Professor Attila done in 1887 in London by an artist employed by the British Royal Family Photo montage of Hollywood stunt man and character actor Joe Bonomo Scrapbook assembled by Ottley Coulter, circus strongman, writer, historian and one of founders of the sport of weightlifting in the U.S. Historical photo of personal appearance by famous wrestler George Hackenschmidt
Scrapbook, which is six inches thick, compiled in 1907 for George Hackenschmidt by a friend and admirer Original poster advertising The Labor of Hercules, one of Steve Reeve's hugely successful 'sword and sandal' films in the late 1950s and 1960s Sampling of the hundreds of different magazines collected by the Todds in the field of physical culture Dumbbell, first produced by the Milo Barbell Company in 1902, is the only one known to still exist
Original poster of professional strongwoman known as Madame Montagna from the first decade of the 20th century Original Norman Rockwell poster captures iconic image of a father passing along a love for sports and physical activity to his son The 'Olympian System,' developed and marketed by successful publisher and multi-millionaire Bernarr Macfadden Portable rowing machine personally owned by George F. Jowett, a very influential writer, athlete and promoter of weight training during the first half of the 20th century
Artifacts from the history of physical culture are stacked on every shelf top in the collection Examples of the many tables David P. Willoughby used in his calculations about relative ability and measurements of strongmen and strongwomen Pillow promoting York Barbell Company from Bob Hoffman in 1932, the most influential person in physical culture in the U.S over the next 40 years Painting from the 1920s depicting Sig Klein, who operated a health studio in downtown Manhattan from 1925 to 1975
Large version of rollover thumbnails above.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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  Updated 2005 May 16
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