Friday, September 30, 2022

Review of the Book: Anvils, Horseshoes and Cannons, The History of Strongmen, (Volume 11), By Leo Gaudreau, The Arthur Saxon Trio is born - By David Sedunary

Kurt Saxon was one of the famous Saxon brothers the youngest of the powerful trio. At the end of 1947 Kurt asked longtime admirer of the famous trio Leo Gaudreau of Salem Massachusetts USA to write this book. Kurt was able to add much information that had never been made public. Kurt was able to send some photos to illustrate the book. Over a period of years Leo and Kurt became exceptionally good friends, which Kurt appreciated. Leo made comment had his brother Arthur been alive he also would have appreciated their friendship.

Kurt and the author Leo Gaudreau became good friends and conversed by letter for many years. Kurt’s brother Arthur Saxon at 32 years of age, height was 5 feet 9 and a half inches, his neck measured 16.5 inches and his biceps measured 16.5 Inches, his chest was 45.7 inches, forearm 14.2 inches with a wrist of 8.1 inches, his thighs measured 23.2 inches and he weighed 204 pounds. Arthur had powerful well-built hips which measured 40.9 inches. Strongmen in years gone by built their neck to the same measurement as their biceps. This to them was a sign of strength.

Arthur Saxon never had the symmetry to be body builder instead he was a powerfully built large boned man, whom could back it up with power. In those times Arthur Saxon was the most powerful weightlifter in the world. He could do feats of strength in practice that seemed incredible. In the four lifts combined, one hand bent press with the right hand of 336 pounds, one hand anyhow press, two hands clean and jerk, and two hands anyhow he lifted 448 pounds, there was no weightlifter amateur or professional who could defeat Arthur Saxon.

The same can be said of the remaining two brothers Hermann who was 4 years younger and Kurt who was 6 years younger than Arthur. Hermann was 5 feet 7 and a half inches in height had a neck and biceps which measured 16 inches, his chest measured 45 inches, his forearms were 14.5 and his wrist was 8.1 inches. Herman’s thighs were smaller than Arthur’s at 22 inches, and he weighed 166 pounds. The younger brother Kurt was the smallest at a little over 5 feet 8 inches in height and weighed 164 pounds, his neck and biceps measured 15.5 inches, chest 43 inches, a wrist of 8.2 inches and thighs 23.1 inches.

Kurt and Hermann could lift 332 pounds in the right-hand bent press two hands to shoulder. Kurt could two hand s clean and jerk 341 pounds and Hermann could clean and jerk 330 pounds. Kurt could lift 213 pounds in the right-hand snatch and Hermann could lift 206 pounds in the right-hand snatch. Both Kurt and Hermann could lift to arm’s length overhead, two kettlebells each weighing 119 pounds, and held only by the little finger of each hand. These were official records. Both could lift a barrel (contents 75 quarts of beer) to arm’s length. In September 1905 Kurt Saxon walked into the Athletic Club Ziska, Prague Czechoslovakia, and in street clothes, he performed two hands clean and jerk with 297 pounds and a right-hand snatch with 187 pounds.

On several occasions older brother Arthur bent pressed more than 300 pounds before weightlifting celebrities who were pleased to certify the amount of weight lifted in their presence. P Harrison, Manager of Sandow’s School of Physical Culture, at Liverpool, certified in writing, November 24th, 1904, That Mr. Arthur Saxon Lifted 331 pounds from the shoulder to above the head with one hand only. The trio of brothers started strength shows at an early age. In 1883, when Arthur was 15, and Hermann and Kurt were 11 and 8 years of age. They were able to put on a show in their back yard. They challenged all boys up to the age of 15 and offered a prize of 10 Pfennig (two and a half cents) if successful in defeating the brothers in either weightlifting or Swiss belt- wrestling, the brothers were never defeated. As Kurt said at the time, we were still kids but immensely powerful. In 1883, they were giving 10 or 12 shows every afternoon.

DIET AND EXERCISE

All three were strong eaters. In addition to being a partner in the act Kurt was appointed chief cook. For breakfast they ate 24 eggs, and 3 pounds of smoked bacon, porridge with cream, honey marmalade and tea with plenty of sugar. At three a clock they had dinner, ten pounds of meat was consumed with vegetables (but not many potatoes) sweet fruits, sweet cakes, puddings, cocoa and whipped cream and very sweet tea. Supper after the show they had cold meat, smoked fish, much butter, cheese, and beer. Hermann and Kurt were partial to sweet foods and sugar. They tried very hard to gain weight and had a terrific appetite sometimes consuming 1 pound of butter between them. Arthur did not care for sweets and   butter, instead he would use the lard from pork. Kurt was the heaviest eater of the three and for breakfast alone he would consume 24 eggs (cooked in  half a pound of butter). Their late supper included herrings when they could get them and eaten in the manner they had been accustomed to in childhood. All three brothers did not care for milk they developed no taste for it, only at teatime they had whipped cream. At 9 o’clock in the morning they arose and always had a cold rub down over the whole body, if possible, they would have a shower bath and a massage.

Arthur was never one for light exercises and their whole program was directed towards building greater strength. Their favorite exercise was performed with ring weights Kurt and Hermann would perform many repetitions with different lifts and exercises with the heavy ring weights. For the grip, back, and leg muscles they used to carry a pair of 199-pound ring weights, at the hang, around the stage ten times. They also, used to walk around the stage carrying their 423-pound barbell a few times. The warmup exercise was always leg press with a heavy barbell, doing twenty repetitions then up into a shoulder stand, and then while in this position, the barbell was pressed a few times and balanced on one foot. The bent press was practiced every day. 

They practiced squats (or deep knee bends) with the barbell held at the chest, when they came up from the squat without stopping the weight was jerked over the head. The brothers also included belt wrestling. This type of wrestling was done with a harness, which is buckled on around the waist and hips, there are grips on each side, and the main action is to heave your opponent off his feet. Eventually the wrestling was given up and medicine ball throwing took its place. They would line two men up against one and feed him 2 medicine balls as fast as he could manage. The Saxons liked walking and when they had spare time they would go for long walks. Their training program indicated they were physical supermen. 


When training for a new feat of strength they gave up all drinking and smoking. I their everyday life Arthur smoked a pipe or cigars, Kurt smoked cigarettes and Hermann was a versatile smoker. Their favourite beverage was beer or sweet wine, they only drank occasionally and mainly used drinking alcohol as way of gaining bodyweight lost during their performances. It is the opinion of the author that the Saxons would have developed much better physiques if they had possessed the know how to apply their extra ordinary strength and unusual vigor and energy, to the weight training, bodybuilding methods advocated by Bob Whelan and this web site Natural Strength.com

THE SAXON FAMILY

There is no background of physical weakness in the Saxon family. The father the mother, two sisters and three brothers were all strong and healthy. The father of the Saxon brothers was a joiner by trade and a very strong and powerful man. Kurt Saxon witnessed his father’s anger one day; a man owed Saxon senior money for work performed and refused to pay. The argument took place on the second floor of the building and the elder Saxon grabbed the man and holding him by the neck and the seat of his trousers gave him the alternative of paying or being dropped two floors. He paid.

Kurt and Hermann copied their father’s method and when they got into a brawl with other boys, they employed their fathers favourite fighting tactic. Their father was built along the same lines as son Hermann, except he had bigger hands. Their mother was from a farm, and she was brought up on hard work and good food. and she was a strong and sturdy woman. Their mother was married when she was 25 and it was hard work bringing up 5 children. While the Saxon brothers travelled in England, they had their mother with them for a few years to have an enjoyable time. After a while she returned to Germany. 

Mrs. Saxon was 5 feet 6 inches in height, had red, rosy cheeks and died in 1932 at the age of 86. Arthur married an English girl and Kurt and Hermann married German girls. The younger sister trained with her brothers and at the age of twelve,  could swing a fifty-pound swing weight with her right hand twelve times. Arthur was ill at the age of sixteen, he had rupture of the appendix and peritonitis. Arthur ended up with rheumatic fever, he was in bed for 28 weeks. The Doctor ordered him to get plenty of rest and drink tea. Instead of drinking tea he smoked it in a long pipe. It was not long before Arthur rehabilitated himself and was back in full training. After 6 months of full training, he was in such good form that the Athletic Club offered one thousand marks to anyone who could defeat him.

During a performance on stage one of the members accidently discharged a gun to close to Arthur’s face. This in turn blinded Arthur and he lost the sight of his eyes. After an operation he gained the sight of one eye only. Arthur died in 1921. Hermann had an open challenge to any man in the world at his weight (168 pounds) for weightlifting and Greco roman wrestling he was never defeated. Not being a big man in his street clothes he was often bullied and picked upon by toughs. The result was as the author was informed “he only crippled these fellows and smashed them to the floor, and they forgot to get up “. A short time later Kurt and Hermann formed an act and were a great success.

Hermann did not have his heart in it like to old days and he retired to private life. Kurt kept on performing on his own, until he had a serious car accident and near lost his life, this finished his career as a performer. Upon recovery Kurt was appointed Trainer for Body Building at the University of Leipsic (Germany from 1926 to 1929). After this he opened his own Gym in Leipsic with great success until 1943. Kurt kept training up until 1943 when he lost all through being bombed. At 60 years of age Kurt showed his pupils his strength by lifting 300 pounds overhead with two hands and pressed 200 pounds overhead with his right hand.

Kurt Saxon’s last letter to the author Leo Gaudreau was dated July 1952. Two months later he had not survived an emergency operation. So dropped the final curtain, September 5th, 1952, for another of the great Arthur Saxon trio. The author was not familiar with Hermann’s last years, but somehow or other he was fortunate enough to be in Leipsic, where the Saxon boys had grown up to manhood. As far as longevity is concerned, he was more fortunate because when he died on February 12th, 1961, he was 79 years old. In 1961, the final curtain fell for the last time for the last of the trio of world-famous brothers. The demise of an era of old-time strongmen super stars of professional strong men.


Lifts by Kurt, Hermann, and Arthur Saxon they were given to the author as official records

LIFT

KURT

HERMANN

ARTHUR

RIGHT HAND SNATCH

213 POUNDS

206 POUNDS

206 POUNDS

LEFT HAND SNATCH

189 POUNDS

202 POUNDS


RIGHT HAND BENT PRESS TWO HANDS TO SHOULDER

332 POUNDS

332 POUNDS

336 POUNDS

RIGHT HAND BENT PRESS, ONE HAND CLEAN

275 POUNDS

272 POUNDS

318 POUNDS

RIGHT HAND SWING WITH KETTLEBELL

187 POUNDS

196 POUNDS


TWO HAND CLEAN AND JERK

341POUNDS

330 POUNDS

386 POUNDS

TWO HANDS ANYHOW

387 POUNDS



TWO HANDS CONTINENTAL JERK


367 POUNDS

345 POUNDS

RIGH HAND MILITARY PRESS WITH DUMBBELL



126 POUNDS


RIGHT HAND BENT PRESS ONE HAND ONLY



370 POUNDS

RIGHT HAND ANYHOW AND BENT PRESS A BARBELL



318 POUNDS




 


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