Many historians consider Eugene Sandow to be the father of modern bodybuilding. Sandow began as a circus strongman and then became a featured act at the 1893 Chicago World Expo. Strongmen showed off their bodies by lifting heavy objects such as barbells and by breaking chains and cables that had been wrapped around their chests.
He soon discovered that the crowds at the Expo were more interested in the actual movements of his muscles than his basic strongman routine. He began moving in different poses and flexing his muscles for the audience instead, which his manager Florenz Ziegfeld called "muscular display performances." Sandow's performances were incredibly popular at the Expo, and he became famous in both America and the United Kingdom. Some of his famous friends included Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Thomas Edison. The latter featured him in a short film in 1894.
A few years later, Sandow built one of the first gyms dedicated to bodybuilding, called the Institute of Physical Culture, in London. He created his own line of supplements and exercise machines and published pamphlets and books on what was then called "physical culture." In 1901, Sandow organized the first real bodybuilding contest at London's Albert Hall. It sold out and paved the way for more bodybuilding contests and competitions.
Even decades after his death, Sandow's particular physique has still been recognized for its perfection as based on the Grecian ideal -- a body type that he formulated based on measurements of Greek and Roman sculptures.
Next, we'll meet the man whose ads in comic books made him a household name.