Professor Attila’s Scrapbook
In viewing the scrapbook, you can enlarge any page by double-clicking on it. You can also turn to the next page either by clicking on the directional arrow at the bottom of the page or by putting your cursor at the edge of the page and holding down the left click button as you drag over the page. The digitization of the pages in Attila’s scrapbook was made possible by a grant from the Utopia Project, an outreach of the General Library System at The University of Texas at Austin. The images were done on a special scanner that allows the book to rest upward in an open position rather than having to be placed face-down and pressed flat to get a good image. We hope you enjoy the scrapbook. To discuss access to the Scrapbook housed in the the Stark Center archives, send research requests to email@example.com
A brief biography of Professor Attila:
The professional strongman and gym owner known as “Professor Attila” was born in Karlshue, Germany on July 2, 1844. His birth name was Louis Durlacher. While still quite young, Durlacher witnessed a performance by the traveling strongman Felice Napoli and asked to become his apprentice. It was Napoli who taught the young German how to be a strongman and how to stage a strength act for maximum impact with the audience. By the time he was 19 (1863), Durlacher had changed his name to Attila and was appearing as a strongman on his own merits. For more than 20 years he played at the best theatrical houses in Europe and became friends with important and influential individuals throughout the Continent. In approximately 1886, Attila opened a gymnasium in Brussels, Belgium, and it was there that he met his most famous protégé—Eugen Sandow. The two men began appearing together shortly after their first meeting in Brussels and toured nearly continuously until 1889 when they separated for a time and Sandow went to Italy. Attila moved to London that same year and opened a second gym. Sandow and Attila then renewed their partnership for a time, using London as their primary base of operations. By 1893, however, they were no longer partners and Sandow travelled to America where he was quickly hired by Florenz Ziegfeld and booked to appear at the Chicago World’s Fair. Attila also traveled to America that same year, but he went to appear as a witness in a lawsuit against Sandow. Unlike Sandow, who would return to England after his tour with Ziegfeld was completed, Attila decided to stay in America and opened a gym in New York City where he trained businessmen, strongmen, professional boxers, and many women. He ran the gym until his death on March 15, 1924. In an article about Attila entitled “Requiem for a Strongman: Reassessing the Career of Louis Attila,” (pdf) published in Iron Game History, Kim Beckwith and Jan Todd write: “Most people who remember Attila at all know him primarily as a moderately successful professional strongman who became Sandow’s mentor and trainer. But Attila’s historic legacy stretches far beyond the years he spent as Sandow’s eminence grise. The “Professor,” as he liked to be called in later years, was a major contributor to the European and American physical culture movements of the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century and, during the course of his career, he: 1) was a pioneer in the use of weight training to help athletic performance; 2) was one of the first ‘personal trainers’ for the rich and famous; 3) was an influential supporter of equal opportunity for women in the gym; and 4) argued nearly a hundred years before the medical community came around to the same position that weight training would retard the process of aging. When considered in light of the times in which he lived, Attila’s achievements and open-mindedness – especially on the question of women’s training – are truly remarkable, and make this peripatetic figure worthy of canonization as a major innovator in the field of strength training.” (p. 42).
Professor Attila’s scrapbook was purchased by Terry and Jan Todd from his son-in-law Sig Klein in 1987 along with a large oil painting of Attila, Attila’s medals, his engraved cane, and several other personal items. The five-inch-thick scrapbook is filled with dozens of articles about Attila’s performances as a strongman, his partnership with Sandow, his work at the gym in New York City, and advertisements for his acts. The book is bound in brown leather, is about 8 x 10 inches in size, and on the cover–in gold letters–it reads, “Attila’s Recensionen Album.” (“Recensionen” is a now archaic word meaning survey or review.) Although the interior flyleaf reads, “Press Opinions of Professor Attila from 1870-1890,” the book contains clippings from throughout Attila’s career and in several different languages.
The scrapbook is beautifully bound and expensively made, but the paper used for the pages is, unfortunately, highly brittle and acidic. The edges of most pages in the scrapbook have begun to crumble and because of this the profiles of no two pages in the scrapbook are exactly the same. Although most of the articles are still intact, portions of some articles have been lost due to the crumbling along the edges of the pages. However, every image presented in this digital version of the scrapbook contains all the text available on that page. It should also be noted that some pages are much larger than the size of a normal scrapbook page as Attila pasted in sheets of thin canvas holding entire pages of newspaper in several places that were then folded down to fit inside the book’s bindings.
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