The following is an article by George Jowett, the author of The Key to Might and Muscle, that was originally published in Klein’s Bell.
Pierre Bonnes, the great French strength athlete and professor of physical culture, the man whom every professional strongman met with a tremor in his heart! To be accepted or praised by Bonnes was the honor badge of French strongmanism and into his studio none but the genuine entered. The trick strong man had no place there, and in order to test them all, Bonnes had within his studio many strength testing devices but none so formidable as his famous dumbbell. Weighing 200-lbs, but with such an enormously thick grip it was reputed no man born ever had the hand to grip and raise the dumbbell off the floor and hold it within his grasp as he stood erect.
It has been lifted – but by so few, you can number them on the fingers of one hand; nevertheless, this formidable weapon was destined to give to us the nearest estimate of the gigantic power possessed by Apollon – the French Giant. Here was a man whose strength was never measured, a Colossus of power but consumed with laziness. Only anger or the stamp of his diminutive wife’s foot could spur him to effort. Yes, he was the idol of France. Lofty of stature, rugged in structure, with prodigious dimensions and the largest measured arm of any strength athlete, he was an imposing physical prodigy.
As often as he had frequented the Professor’s studio, he had never offered to test his grip upon the weight, then known as the unmovable dumbbell, until there stepped into his life the genial John Marx – one of the few to ever master the gravity of that dumbbell – a man full of fun and who constantly delighted to torment the huge Frenchman. On this memorable occasion, a group of young Belgian lifters had come to try their ability upon the “unmovable” object, and to their disgust were unable to budget it.
Time and time again they tried and every time their grasp slipped off the huge bar until their arms ached from wasted effort. Watching their efforts was Marx, Bonnes and Apollon, and without any coaxing Marx stepped up, grasped the bar in his mighty iron grip and slowly stood erect. Murmurs of admiration came from all except Apollon, who stood by glowering and silent. Questioning eyes were turned upon him but he did not heed them, and Marx, sensing another opportunity to have a joke at his French comrade’s expense pompously said with a grin and a wicked wink at Bonnes “I am the only man to ever lift this weight. The only man who can lift it. Apollon says he can lift it”, he continued with a disdainful gesture, “but none ever saw him, and I doubt if he has the strength to even grasp the bar”.
A deep flush spread over Apollon’s face, resentment and anger clouded his somber eyes. Marx saw it and goaded the Frenchman the more, until with a roar of rage Apollon rushed forward, and without testing his grip grabbed the weight as you or I would a toy. He swept it off the floor with terrific force, clear over his head, as a man sweeps and object much lighter than he expected. So great was the gorce exerted that the weight flew out of his hand, and went sailing toward the wall, smashing through the plaster partition to land with a crash in the next room. Even Marx and Bonnes were stupefied with amazement at this colossal demonstration.
None who saw it ever forgot. It was a perfect one hand swing wielded by an arm vastly superior to the weight of the dumbbell, and its clumsy, monstrous grip. How much Apollon could lift if he really tried, no one will ever know. The great feats he performed were much below his capacity. Only in moments like this, where his pride was pricked could he be urged into galvanic action. Prone to laziness but with a keen understanding of his physical superiority over all other strongmen, he feared none – but yet just one, and when that diminutive person stamped her foot from the wings of the stage he would instantly increase his effort. This person was his 90-lb wife – Madame Apollon. Can you beat it?