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Heidelberg Historical Society

Eye Spy: Body Building!

Posted on Saturday, 9th September 2023 by Janine Rizzetti

Have you ever heard of Eugen Sandow?

It was the stage name used by German body-builder and strongman Friedrich Wilhelm Müller, based in London, who toured the world demonstrating his physique and strength. He appeared at the Melbourne Opera House in Bourke Street when he visited Victoria in 1902.

A newspaper report of his visit to Melbourne on 2nd September 1902 described him as A smart, handsome young man, certainly not above the middle-height with close-crossed light brown curly hair, a broad forehead, a delicate aquiline nose, a firm square chin and a smiling mouth, topped with a moustache cut in the German Emperor’s fashion…He does not look a day older than his stated age of 34, and but for a certain gravity of expression and a phenomenal breadth of shoulder,might pose as a ball-room exquisite. (Herald Fri 5 September 1902 p.5)

As part of his Victorian tour, he visited major cities including Bendigo where he inspected the local Fire Brigade.

Bendigo Independent Sept.4 1902,via Trove

He also visited a display by young schoolgirls in their white dresses

Bendigo Independent Sept 4 1902, via Trove

As part of his tour he also marketed publications and exercise devices like ‘Sandow’s Own Combined Developer’ exercise kit, consisting of two hand grips and two sets of expanding rubber cords. The set in our collection, along with its explanatory booklet, was purchased by an Ivanhoe family in the early 1900s from Melbourne Sports Depot in Elizabeth Street for the price of 16 to 18 shillings.

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