Poster advertising the strongest man on earth, at the Royal Aquarium



This vividly coloured illustration shows French-American strongman Charles Samson snapping iron chains with a mere flex of his biceps, and breaking ropes by extending his chest. His 16-night residency at the Royal Aquarium was notable for him losing the title of World’s Strongest Man to the relatively diminutive German Eugen Sandow. On 2 November 1889, Samson called out to the audience for a challenger and Sandow accepted. They were neck-and-neck in feats of strength until Sandow lifted a 150-pound barbell straight above his head; a feat Samson was unable to replicate.

Lurid circus-style entertainments such as this were immensely popular with the population of Victorian Britain. Indeed, the original collector of this advertisement, Henry Evans (1832 estimamated - 1905) was himself a conjuror and ventriloquist under the stage name ‘Evanion’. Evans collected thousands of similar posters and ephemera; many, like this one, bold examples of chromolithography – a newly developed printing technique used in the mass production of colourful, eye-catching advertising material.

Full title
Royal Aquarium. Samson. The strongest man on earth. Daily
estimated 1889
Playbill / Advertisement / Ephemera / Illustration / Image
Held by
British Library
Usage terms
Public Domain
Evan. 255

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