Born eleven years later, Arthur “The Iron Master” Saxon was in many ways the antithesis of Eugen Sandow.
Despite taking a very similar route in the iron game, both were German strongmen in European circuses, Saxon’s motivations were purely based in strength whereas Sandow concentrated on the aesthetic body.
Learning the Craft
Not the consummate academic, Saxon at the age of 14, dropped out of school. He promptly took up strength training with weights made by himself out of stone.
Like so many future strength stars, Doug Hepburn and John Davis to name a couple, Saxons initial training was carried out in the cellar of his parent’s home.
By the age of 15, Arthur and his brothers, Kurt and Hermann, held strength and wrestling contests in their family backyard. They took on opponents of their own age and remained undefeated to all comers. This gave them some measure of fame in Leipzig.
Fame and Fortune
Their prowess came to the attention of strongman and wrestler Amo Patschke aka Amo Saxon. Ever the entrepreneur, Patschke persuaded Saxon (still known as Hennig), and another weightlifter Oscar Hilgenfeldt to travel England on the lucrative circus circuit as a strongman trio.
They performed under the name ‘The Saxons’ and the lineup of strongmen changed as the itinerant lifestyle and injury demanded of their chosen career. Eventually, things came full circle and Arthur performed with his brothers in the newly named ‘Arthur Saxon Trio’.
From then on their fame grew, performing in the best circuses and variety halls of the world.
The USA cemented their fame as a strongman act. This was most notable when they toured with the Ringling Brothers in 1909 and 1910. They inevitably retained top billing with the famous circus company and did exhibitions in all 48 states in existence at that time.
Despite American fame it was the United Kingdom that they saw as their spiritual home. It was of this they made Manchester their business and training headquarters.
Sandow vs Saxon
The other hugely successful strength athlete of the time was of course Eugen Sandow.
On a momentous night on February 26, 1898, Saxon challenged “Sandow or any other man in the world for any amount” via a playbill.
Sandow was in the audience that night and professional pride or ego bit home. He leapt up on the stage and publically accepted the challenge – not the best idea he ever had.
- Saxon’s first challenge went like this. He lifted a 110lb kettle handled weight to his shoulder holding it in place with only his little finger. Then a 160lb man crawled over his back and sat on the weight still balanced with the little finger. He then proceeded to bent press the total 270lb weight. Sandow refused to accept.
- Saxon’s second challenge was to repeat the first challenge with a 180lb kettle handled weight and a 188lb man balanced with the whole hand rather that a little finger. He did not stand back up straight. Sandow did not accept the challenge.
- Saxons final challenge was full bent pressing (down and up) a 264lb barbell which he successfully achieved on the second attempt. By now a flummoxed Sandow attempted the lift five times, getting the barbell to arm’s length but not back up again.
Saxon’s victory was complete. He publically heralded his victory on posters and playbills and declared himself as the ‘New World’s Strongest Man’. Sandow successfully sued Saxon on the grounds that Sandow got the weight to arm’s length.
Saxons Strength Feats
- 371lb Bent Press
- 252lb Military Press
- 200lb One Handed Snatch
- 448lb Two Hands Anyhow
- 126lbs One Arm Military Press
- 342lb Two Handed Clean and Jerk
- 247.5lb One handed Clean and Jerk
Arthur Saxon died young at the relatively tender age of 43 in 1921 at Duisberg, Germany. There are various accounts about the cause of his death but none of them can be verified.