This article comes from George Jowett.
Few people who saw Charlie Vansittart on the street ever believed he was the man capable of the stupendous arm and gripping strength with which he was accredited. No less a person than the great Cyclops was badly fooled – and on one occasion it caused Cyclops considerable embarrassment.
Cyclops in his hey-day of fame was known throughout Europe as the man with the Iron Grip, but in Charles Vansittart he met a man who proved himself easily the master of Cyclops. The Englishman stood well over six feet tall, and when dressed, looked to be underweight for his height, but he was of the raw-boned cordy type whose strength cannot always be estimated on appearance. He had the finest pair of arms and shoulders that I ever saw grace the body of a man.
At the time of this story, Cyclops was in London appearing at the music halls and on the evening of this particular occasion, he, with a group of admiring friends were having a glorious time in a tavern along the Strand. As the evening wore on, Cyclops, stimulated with the praise of his companions, and no doubt the beer, grew very boisterous. Cyclops loved to dominate a crowd and the general attention he was attracting from all in the tavern encouraged him to demonstrate his physical prowess. Feat after feat he performed amidst great applause when he finally wound up by boasting how everyone, including Sandow and great Louis Cyr, were afraid to meet him in a contest of strength.
To this all seemed to agree with exception of two men who had sat unobtrusively by themselves, watching in silence and interest the performance of Cyclops. Finally the shorter of these two men rose from the table and stepped over to where Cyclops and his friends sat. Addressing Cyclops he said
“Truly a wonderful performance and by a wonderful man but I believe my friend can outdo you.”
Immediate interest was created and all eyes directed to the table where the tall man sat. Cyclops’ friends volubly refused to believe that any man could equal Cyclops let alone beat him and called the bets which were quickly covered by the man who had addressed Cyclops. As the bets were made, Vansittart rose from his seat and crossed over to stand by the side of the huge Cyclops. They exchanged courtesies, took off their coats, rolled up their sleeves and then the battle was on. Pewter plates were rolled in their hands like paper napkins – salt shakers squashed flat between the pressure of finger and thumb. Iron pokers of sturdy size were bent and twisted out of shape but for every stunt Cyclops performed, Vansittart duplicated with equal ease.
As a last resort Cyclops pulled his famous coin feat, breaking between his fingers a coin about the size of an half dollar.To the amazement of all the Englishman equaled the feat and then from his pocket took a tennis ball which he handed to the puzzled Cyclops and with a smile asked him to tear it apart with the strength of hand and fingers only. Some thought it a joke. Other voiced their incredulity of such a feat being possible, nevertheless Cyclops took the ball within his grasp and tried until his arms trembled with strain, but with no avail. Then Vansittart took the ball within his grasp and to the amazement of all tore the ball to pieces. As he did so the muscles on his arms stood out in great sinous masses of writhing steel. His wrist seemed to be alive with corded cables and for the first time during the contests, the watches noted the difference between the arms of both these two giants of strength. Vansittart’s grip seemed to be charged with super life that tore with all the destructive power of some giant animal claws. This feat stupefied Cyclops as much as it did the others, but more was to follow. Vansittart called for twelve regulation sized billiard cues. These he grasped by the pointed end within the fingers of his one hand, actually held them all out at once in a position horizontal with his shoulders for the space of one full minute. Men cried out in astonishment for never had any seen such amazing gripping power demonstrated. Cyclops was sobered into silence. He saw he had met his master and congratulated Vansittart with genuine praise.
Not even the great John Marx could equal this Englishman in feats of arm strength, so prodigious was his strength. Vansittart had a pair of eighteen inch biceps that were perfectly moulded, but his forearms only measured fourteen inches and his wrist seven and five eights, but there was dynamic steel in them there muscles, boys! Tearing three decks of playing cards stacked together was only a regular feat for him, and to span the bottom side of a 56 lb. block-weight and pick up with the pinch pressure of his thumb and second finger he hardly considered a stunt at all. Some time you try these stunts. You will better appreciate them and at the same time derive great gripping power from the practice. Space alone forbids me telling you more of the astounding feats this wonderful man could accomplish with his formidable arm and shoulders, but men who later proved to be greater than Cyclops will all tell you that for feats of gripping strength, Charles Vansittart was the real man with the Iron Grip.