which was found clutched in his hand when he died.
My Quarter-Century in the Iron Game
A Tribute to Attila
by Siegmund Klein
One evening during my conversations with Mrs. Attila, she brought forth the Attila scrapbook. This book, about the size of a large bible, was beautifully bound in heavy leather, and had on the cover an imprint of two dumbells crossed over one another, and in large letters, “Attila’s Scrap Book.” Naturally I read and re-read this book, and it taught me much. In it I found newspaper clippings about the Professor from all over the civilized world! There were articles in French, German, Italian, Dutch, Spanish, Russian, English and other languages. Old reproductions of photographs of Attila and Sandow graced many of the pages. In short, this book was really a goldmine of information about Professor Attila.
At night I would often sit before a huge oil painting of Attila, painted in
I “saw” Attila going through his manual of arms with a huge ninety-pound steel bar, his famous Roman Column and Roman Chair feats, his juggling and his renowned “ball and cup” stunts. Again I would visualize Attila and Sandow performing, and would see them in the fashion of the day bow in acknowledgement to each other while one performed and the other stood on the side. Yes, it even seemed that Attila looked at me through his clear brown eyes and was pleased with his new successor. He was my spiritual mentor and my guide.
What a rare combination of mental and physical inspiration I had in Attila and Sandow, the two greatest forces in molding my life! While I exercised I would look at Sandow’s pictures. If any problems came up regarding my training, I tried to imagine what Attila would say or do under the same conditions. It helped me immeasurably; it gave me courage and fortitude. I knew m decision was then right. I patterned myself after these two athletes as much as possible. As to the extent that I have succeeded, I will leave to others to say.
This month (July, 1944) we are celebrating Attila’s hundredth anniversary. I think it would be very appropriate and fitting at this time to let my life story lapse for the time being and write about a man and athlete who was a guiding light and inspiration and was appropriately called “The Dean of Strong Men.” I will lift the curtain just a bit to reveal a few incidents about the man whose influence brought the strongman game and weightlifting to the heights of popularity it has enjoyed ever since.
Professor Louis Attila was born July 2, 1844 in
In his early teens Attila was on the stage doing a song and dance act. He was, however, interested in strength and strong-men even before this time and had taken some gymnastic lessons at the Turnvereins and also some private lessons from one Professor Ernst in
When Attila was old enough, he enlisted in the Baden Sharpshooters and soon became known as the best athlete amongst the outfit, excelling in swimming, running and jumping. While doing guard duty on the grounds of the Duke of Baden, a baby carriage in which the Duke’s son was sleeping accidentally rolled into a private lake nearby. Attila saved the baby fro drowning and thus gained the friendship of the elder Duke and the man who was later to become Duke of Baden.
After finishing his military service, Attila would accept numerous theatrical engagements. He would however open gymnasiums from time to time, and had them in
Attila was the originator of many of the exhibition feats of strength and barbell exercises which have become standard. He was the originator of the Bent Press, having taught this famous lift to Sandow and Strongfort. Others have learned the style from these two strongmen. He popularized the Roman Column, the Roman Chair and the
His fame was worldwide. he was an artistic performer, always preferring the artistic to a mere exhibition of strength. The highlight of his career was reached when he was summoned to appear at Queen
Frederick III, father of the late Kaiser Wilhelm of
Besides a huge financial remuneration for his exhibition at the Jubilee, he was presented by the Prince of Wales with a jeweled scarf pin the size of a half-dollar bearing a miniature of Hercules, with leopard skin and sandals all highly colored. This was carved out of crystal and was surrounded by thirty-six diamonds. The Prince, later to become King Edward VII, engaged the Professor as private physical instructor, and a class of Royalty was formed. Among his royal pupils were the six children of King Christian of
His distinguished clientele brought him other pupils from among the elite. Among them were the Rajah of Haidarbad, the Rajah of Baroda in British East
Attila was not only a strongman, but also a man of large mental caliber and of wide education. Among other accomplishments, he was master of five languages and was an accomplished pianist. The famous Professor Desbonnet of
His title “Professor” was not of his own creation but had been bestowed upon him by the beneficiaries of his scientific training. It was in 1886 that Sandow first came to him while Attila had a school in
In 1893 Attila came to
Before James J. Corbett’s match with Charley Mitchell in 1894, Corbett enrolled for lessons with Attila. So well pleased was he that during his performance at the Bijou Theatre in
During his professional career Attila was presented with over 200 medals. He had the honor of being a member in high standing in the lodge of which King Edward VII was Grand Master. He was also an Elk and a member of other orders and a Fellow Sloper, having received the degree simultaneously with King Edward VII.
Can Gottfried, the bandleader of the Coldstream Guard,
In 1896 the Professor was married to Miss Rosa Sanders, who was one of his pupils. The event of the marriage of the strongman and the strongwoman by Mayor Strong of
In 1908 Attila opened another studio in
When Attila was seventy-seven years of age, he still could do some exhibition feats of strength. He, on one occasion, lay on his back, brought a 220 lb. barbell over his head, and pressed it to arms’ length with a “shoulder-bridge.” I believe the last famous athlete to come to Attila for special training was Ernest Cadine, the French strongman, but Attila could not, at that late age, give Cadine the training that he needed; Cadine then went to
Professor Louis Attila died March 15th, 1924, at the age of eighty years. His name will live as long as barbells are used. Had it not been for Sandow, the physical culture teachers since his time would not have been the teachers of the present group of weightlifters and culturists, and you, reader, would probably not be reading this. Alan Calvert, who was the founder of “Strength” magazine, wrote some years ago that had it not been for Sandow, he would never have been inspired to make barbells and teach the methods of using them. It was through Attila’s famous pupils that the present generation of weightlifters and “Muscular Marvels” owe their success, for it was they who inspired us.
He was truly a “Friend of the Human Race.”