William Bankier

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William Bankier was a strongman and bodybuilder born in 1870 in Scotland. He was attracted by the idea of becoming a circus performer at an early age, so when he turned 12 he ran away from home to join a circus. His father found him few weeks later and brought him home. However, only a couple of months later he joined a ship’s crew and this time he was out of reach.

Following a shipwreck near Canada, Bankier moved to Montreal where he found a job on a farm. When he turned 14, he was still influenced by his childhood dream and finally joined Porgie O’Brien’s Road Show where he started training to become a strongman, studying his routine with great dedication.

William Bankier

William Bankier

Luckily for him, road show’s strongman was often drunk and couldn’t perform regularly, so Bankier used to perform instead of him more often then not. About a year later, Bankier left the road show and joined William Muldoon’s athletic combination to tour the United States and promote various athletic events. He added wrestling to his strongman performance, under the name Carly Clyndon, the Canadian Strong Boy.

In next couple of years William went from one circus to another, while polishing his strongman skills along the way. Some of feats of strength from this period include an elephant harness-lifting and balancing on two chairs while juggling plates with one hand and lifting a man with the other.

Plate juggling while holding a man with right hand. All while balancing on two chairs!

Plate juggling while holding a man with his right hand. All while balancing on two chairs!

At the age of 29, Bankier changed his stage name to Apollo, The Scottish Hercules and started touring the world. One of his most famous acts was the “Tomb of Hercules” where he supported a piano with a dancer and a six man orchestra on it. As a part of every show, he asked if anyone in public could carry 475 pounds sack off the stage for 10 pounds. Many have tried and failed to do this, so Bankier would just carry it out himself.

William lifting a fully grown elephant

William lifting a fully grown elephant

In a controversial book “Ideal Physical Culture” that he wrote in 1900, William actually challenged Eugen Sandow to running, weightlifting, wrestling and jumping matches. Surprisingly, Sandow refused the challenge and Bankier taunted him for being a charlatan and a coward. William started publishing his own magazine three years later where he wrote

Picture to yourself a good-looking man tripping on the stage with the short pitter-patter of a fussy little woman with sore feet trying to avoid treading on a companion’s dress, and forcing herself to look amiable. That is exactly how Sandow walks upon the stage.

Guess he really didn’t like Sandow.

He remained very active until he died in 1949, aged 79.


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