Bodybuilders Through the Ages | History | Smithsonian
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Jack LaLanne (1914 - 2011) (Bettmann / Corbis)

Bodybuilders Through the Ages

Over the past 150 years, bodybuilders have gone from circus sideshows to celebrities, imparting fitness lessons along the way

Sandow

Eugen Sandow
(Maura McCarthy)

Unlike other strongmen of the late 1800s, the Prussian-born Sandow was not just adept at exhibiting feats of strength—he was a sex symbol and among the first to capitalize on displaying his developed, muscular physique. While touring in Florenz Ziegfeld’s Trocadero Vaudevilles, the 5-foot-8, 220-pound Sandow attained stardom in America and immortalized his flexing routine in front of Thomas Edison’s movie camera. In 1901, this “Father of Modern Bodybuilding” organized the first major bodybuilding contest, which was held in England’s Royal Albert Hall.

About Jesse Rhodes

Jesse Rhodes is an editorial assistant for Smithsonian magazine. Before he became an editorial assistant, Jesse worked at the Library of Congress Publishing Office, where he was a contributor to the Library of Congress World War II Companion.

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