Gough was one of the very first (if not the first) strongman to impress crowds by ripping phone books in half.
If you were looking for dumbbell exercises from back around the time of the Civil War, here's one you might have run across: "The Bow Mill Exercise," as discussed by Dio Lewis in 1864:
"The Bow Mill Exercise: The apart position is taken from which the dumb bells are made to describe a circle, the circumference of which shall be as near as possible to the floor, and as high up on the right as possible, and thus is followed by another circle of the same description to the left."
Pat Povilaitis, "The Human Vise", is a modern strongman and one of the few human beings who can stand toe-to-toe with many of the oldtime greats. As you can likely tell by his moniker, "The Human Vise" excels at Steel Bending: spikes, nails, horse shoes, frying pans - no piece of steel is safe in his hands! Pat also likes to do combo feats, usually bending something with a 300+ pound stone in his lap!
Over the last decade and a half, Dennis Rogers has become the most widely seen Strongman in history. More people have probably seen Dennis than all the other performing strongmen - ever!
Dennis has appeared on The Discovery Channel, The Best Damn Sports Show Period, Ripley's Believe It or Not!, Live with Regis and Kathie Lee, The Late Show with David Letterman, The Oprah Winfrey Show, Stan Lee's Superhumans and dozens of other television shows in the US and all over the world.
You may not believe this but Dennis Rogers weighed 79 lbs. in high school and even today tips the scales at only 160 pounds. Even though he may not fit what you think of as a typical "Strongman" Dennis has performed feats that have yet to be duplicated.
The great British strongman Thomas Inch graces the cover of the October 26th, 1907 issue of Health and Strength Magazine with his latest feat: holding a loft a bicycle and its rider. These old Health and Strength mags are all but impossible to find, luckily, we just came across a few of them...
Joe Rollino learned the strongman trade as an assistant to Warren Lincoln Travis at the famed Coney Island. In the 1920's, Rollino branched out into his own strongman act.
Joe stood 5'5" and weighed just under 150 pounds but possessed the strength of someone twice his size. He easily performed all the traditional feats of strength such as back lifting, finger lifting, nail bending, phonebook and playing card tearing and, shown here, bending a spike in his teeth. He once lifted 635 pounds with one finger.
Rollino was also a boxer under the name "Kid Dundee" and, like many strongmen of the day, was a very good hand balancer. Joe was a lifelong vegetarian and lived to 105 years old. He passed away a few years ago, not from sickness or disease but from getting hit by a van while crossing the street to pick up his morning paper.
Aaron Molyneaux Hewlett was the first African American on the Harvard University staff and the director and curator of the Harvard Gymnasium from 1859 to 1871. He also taught gymnastics, boxing and the use of dumbbells.
He is pictured here with the tools of his craft: boxing gloves, Indian Clubs, Dumbbells, medicine balls and the wooden wand. It should also be known that this picture represents the very first time a medicine ball was photographed in the US (taken around 1860). Interestingly, at the time most physical culture figures generally recommended very light apparatus work but Hewlett appeared to favor much heavier clubs and dumbbells. Also of note are those pretty nifty "dumbbell clubs" on the left.
Two other items of interest about Mr. Molyneaux:
His daughter, Virginia married Frederick Douglass.
In 1900, his son, E.M. Hewlett, became the first African American lawyer to win a case before the Supreme Court of the United States (Carter vs. Texas).