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Strength is Health: George Barker Windship and the First American Weight Training Boom – Iron Game History – September, 1993

Bryan Hall filled up quickly that chilly February night in 1861 as Chicago’s sporting crowd gathered to see the strongman contest. Dr. George Barker Windship, the health reformer known throughout the United States as the “American Samson” and the “Roxbury Hercules” was scheduled to lecture that evening, and he had agreed to pit his strength against all comers in a public contest following his lecture. Windship normally gave an exhibition of his strength at the end of the lectures he’d been delivering for the past two years, but this night was different. Following the lecture, any man could come on stage, try the weights, and vie for the two hundred dollars in prize money put up by the local promoter. A buzz of speculation filled the hall. How many men would try? Was it true that Windship weighed less than 150 pounds? Wasn’t it dangerous for him to lift such big weights?