Gus Hill was a strongman most famous for Indian clubs performances born in 1858 in New York. Gus was rather slim by today’s standards, as he stood 5’8″ weighing 148lbs. Apart from mastering Indian clubs, Gus was involved in wrestling and boxing and that’s how he made his first public appearances. These were in a form of matches between Gus and local contenders and he managed to win 18 matches and 59 medals.
After several years of such performances, Gus toured with vaudeville and burlesque companies before starting his own ten years later. One of his best known performances during this time was the Hercules Act where he would challange anyone in audience to swing Indian clubs ranging from 10 to 115 pounds.
Gus Hill became one of the most successful theatrical men in the USA by using a trunk which contained scenery that was designed to fold into the trunk, which was great money wise as he didn’t need extra baggage cars. While touring the USA and performing with Indian clubs, Gus would challenge people in audience to lift some of his clubs. Some were able to lift the heaviest ones, but no one could replicate feats of strength and dexterity that Gus performed with ease on the stage. And there’s a good reason for that – they were filled with lead while on display, only to be emptied in the back stage before Gus’s performance. Even though he would be considered a charlatan in today’s world, these clubs had to be robust and pretty strong to hold that amount of lead shot and challenging enough for swinging even when empty.
Check out what Gus has to say about Indian clubs training.
As a means of physical culture, the Indian Clubs stand pre- eminent among the varied apparatus of gymnastics now in use. The evolutions which the clubs are made to perform, in the hands of one accustomed to their use, are exceedingly graceful. Besides the great recommendation of simplicity, the Indian Club practice possesses the essential property of expanding the chest and exercising every muscle in the body concurrently.Note in the crowded thoroughfare of Broadway now and then an occasional passer-by, with well-knit and shapely form, firm and elastic step, broad-chested and full blooded, and you may mark him down as an expert with the clubs.
Gus hill died in 1937 at the age of 79.