Bodybuilders Through the Ages

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

Jack LaLanne (1914 - 2011) (Bettmann / Corbis)

Zishe Breitbart

Siegmund ne Zishe Breitbart
(Maura McCarthy)

Dubbed “The Iron King,” Breitbart attained fame on the post-World War I European and American vaudeville circuit by bending iron bars, biting through chains and pounding nails into boards with his bare fists. The consummate showman, Breitbart donned an array of costumes—from a skimpy Tarzan outfit to the elaborate garb of a Roman gladiator—that highlighted his physique and amplified the spectacle of his performance. For marginalized Jewish populations, Breitbart was a folk hero whose empowering displays of strength exploded cultural stereotypes.

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.

Read more from this author

Comment on this Story

comments powered by Disqus