‘Sandow the Strong Man’ left us his name
Mike Brown
A couple of weeks ago Velocita CEO Doug Hutchison out lined his v ision for a “Community at Sandow” on the site of Rockdale Operations before a large crowd of Rockdale Rotarians and other community leaders.

And he took it for granted that most of us knew who Sandow was.

That turned out not to be the case. It’s a name we’ve lived with for almost 90 years. There was a Sandow long before there was an Alcoa.

The story of where the name for the old McAlester Fuel Company’s lignite mining area came from has been told many times over the years in The Reporter.

One more time certainly wouldn’t hurt.

Freidrich Wilhelm Muller was born in 1867 in Prussia but didn’t stay there long.

At age 18 he moved to England, adopted the name Eugen (without an “E”) Sandow and within four years turned up on the London stage.

Sandow the Strong Man Sandow the Strong Man Before Sandow there were certainly “strong men” but they were more or less born that way.

Sandow worked at building his physique, from the obvious things like lifting weights and working out, to the “new” concepts of diet and a healthy lifestyle.

It was a time of looking back to the classical civilizations of Greece and Rome and Sandow patterned his bulging muscles after the physiques on Greek and Roman sculpture, even re-creating some of them in his act.

He soon was signed by the world’s master showman, Florenz Ziegfeld of Ziegfeld Follies fame.

Ziegfeld found audiences didn’t care as much that Sandow could lift a lot of weights as they did when he inhaled and burst chains wrapped around his chest.

Sandow became a big star in the 1890’s. He was even one of the first movie stars, appearing in a short film made by Thomas Edison’s company.

In 1894 a film featuring Sandow was part of the first commercial motion picture exhibit in history.

By 1897 he had created the Institute for Physical Culture, one of the first gyms devoted exclusively to body-building.

He moved in some pretty lofty circles. Sandow counted King George V of England, Edison and Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes, among his friends.

Sandow died at age 58 in 1925 and there’s a legend about his death. It’s said he fell victim to his own macho mystique.

The story goes that Sandow’s car ran off the road and he felt compelled to single-handedly pull it back onto the road, causing injuries which led to his death.

His wife, Blanche, had him buried in London’s Putney Vale Cemetery.

Since 1977, a bronze statue of Sandow has been presented each year to the winner of the Mr. Olympia bodybuilding contest.

McAlester Fuel Co. began mining lignite southwest of Rockdale in 1924, calling the mine site “Sandow.”

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