During my dissertation research on the history of women’s exercise in the nineteenth century, I kept turning up references to dumbells, barbells, and other early resistance apparati in unexpected places. In some instances, the printed references were surprising because of the early date at which they were published. In other instances, the references surprised me because of the manner in which the implements were used. After searching unsuccessfully for an authoritative text which would allow me to place these references in proper historical perspective, I decided to attempt the following brief history of these hand-held weightlifting appliances. I do not doubt that I may be overlooking parts of this evolutionary tale, and I welcome your additions and corrections.