Tag: Edward Aston

The Bodybuilding History of Bovril

Bovril is a blended meat extract created by Scotsman John Lawrence during the Franco-Prussian War (1870-1871). Made primarily from Beef, Bovril quickly associated itself with ideas of British nationalism and the caricatured embodiment of Britain, ‘John Bull’. This was certainly the case during the Second South African War when Bovril advertisements explicitly told of its nutritional value for troops at the front (Steinitz, 2017). Readers of British newspapers in 1901 were met with the claim that Bovril was ‘the most acceptable and useful present that Tommy Atkins can receive’ as only Bovril could sustain men’s strength through gruelling marches and equally exhausting battles (‘Send a Case of Bovril’, 1901).

At the forefront of such advertising was Bovril’s association with muscular and strong physiques. Advertisements at the beginning of the twentieth century claimed that ‘Bovril means vigour and strength’ or that ‘Bovril is a strength giver and muscle former’ (Steinitz, 2017). Somewhat surprisingly given its explicit association with male bodies and endurance, Bovril’s use of physical culturists was less impressive than Plasmon. The latter counted Sandow, Miles, Neil and a host of other physical culturists in their advertising material, Bovril’s British agents satisfied themselves with less popular physical culturists, those whom only the most devout would recognise.

Forgotten Devices: Edward Aston’s ‘Anti-Barbell’

Much to my surprise, and great shame, Edward Aston is not someone mentioned a lot on this website. This, I hasten to add, has everything to do with my own deficiencies. Born in England in the late nineteenth-century, Aston was known to contemporaries as one of the strongest men around. In 1910, he won the title of ‘World’s Middleweight Weightlifting Champion‘ after defeating Maxick in a series of lifts.

Renowned for his grip strength in particular, a topic he published extensively on, Aston also tried his hand at barbell designs. Well barbell designs of sorts. In late 2018, I had the opportunity to spend several weeks at the Stark Center at the University of Texas where, aside from other things, I stumbled across Aston’s ‘Anti-Barbell’, an unevenly loaded barbell Aston claimed would revolutionise the weightlifting community. Shown below, Aston’s ‘anti-barbell’ was marketed during the mid to late 1910s, primarily in British physical culture magazines such as Health and Strength.

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