The Saxon Trio
by Dennis Mitchell
Back in he late 1890s Eugene Sandow was the king of strength in England. A gentleman by the name of Arno Saxon (His real name was Arno Patschke) saw the interest that the public had for strong men acts and also the possibility of making a good living by forming his own strongman act. Arno was a German wrestler and strongman. Traveling back to Germany in 1897, he formed the first Saxon Trio. Arno Saxon teamed up with Oscar Hilgenfeld and the 19 year old Arthur Hennig, who later changed his name to Arthur Saxon. The three traveled to England and put on a genuine strong man act. There were no false weights, tricks, or illusions. Just honest lifting, supporting and juggling heavy weights.
The first to leave the trio was Oscar Hilgenfeldt. He joined with Albert Attilla to form their own act called The Attilla Brothers. His place was taken by a man named Somerton. Somerton stayed with the trio only a short time and was replaced by another German named Adolf Berg. More changes were to come when the originator of the group, Arno Saxon left. Arthur Saxon had his 17 year old brother, Hermann, take his place. Once again the ever changing trio changed again when Adolf Berg left and was replaced by Arthur’s youngest brother, Kurt. We now had the true Arthur Saxon Trio. But not for long as Hemann decided to do a solo act and once again Adolf Berg returned. After a time Hermann returned and once again the three brothers were billed as the Arthur Saxon Trio.
Arthur was born April 28, 1878. Hermann was born March 17,1882 and Kurt, March 11,1884. All were born in Leipsic, Saxony. They started training at an early age using stone weights, and putting on shows in their back yard when Arthur was 15 years old, Hermann,11, and Kurt 8 years old. They offered ten Pfenning (2.5 cents) to any one up to the age of 15 who could defeat them. When Hermann was still 16 years old he could bent press 100 kilos by holding together two 50 kilo kettle-bells. Kurt at the age of 11 could swing 50 kilos. Even as the members of the trio kept changing they were quite successful and traveled with the Wirth Brothers Circus through Europe and India. Not only did they lift weights but were quite skilled in wrestling.
Other than their outstanding lifting the Saxon Brothers were “Strong Eaters.” At a typical breakfast they would eat 24 eggs, 3 pounds of smoked bacon, porridge with cream, honey, marmalade and tea with lots of sugar. Lunch served at about 3PM consisted of 10 pounds of meat, with vegetables, sweet fruits, sweet cakes, salads, pudding, and tea with lots of sugar. Supper was usually smoked fish and cold meat. There was never any whiskey or brandy, but they did drink some beer. The stories of their beer drinking were greatly exaggerated. After their 3 o’clock meal they would rest for a couple of hours. During this time Kurt would do the shopping for their next days food. He was the cook.
It was now time for their workout. They never did a light workout and did a large variety of lifts with ring weights and barbells. They would warm up with leg presses. (No leg press machines) The bent press was done at every work out, doing as many as thirty lifts at each training session. The only non lifting exercises the did was jumping and swimming, and sometimes wrestling. They trained six days a week for four hours.
When Arthur died, August 6, 1921, Hermann and Kurt continued the act for a wile with great success. However Hermann did not have the heart to continue, as it was not like the old days. Kurt continued on his own until he was injured August 24, 1924, when a bridge and car that he was supporting collapsed and put an end to his career as a strong man. He then worked at the University of Leipzig as a trainer, and for a wile ran his own gym until it was destroyed during the second world war. Kurt died September 5, 1952, and Hermann, February 12, 1961. Arthur was best known for his bent pressing, an official lift of 371 pounds, and the two hands any how lift of 448 pounds. Listed here are some of Herman’s and Kurt’s lifts.
Right hand snatch 213 pounds 206 pounds
Left hand snatch 189 pounds 202 pounds
Right hand bent press 332 pounds 332 pounds
One hand clean & bent press, right hand 275 pounds 272 pounds
Kettle bell swing right hand 187 pounds 196 pounds
Two hands clean and jerk 341 pounds 330 pound
Below is a comparison of their measurements taken by Dr. Sargent of Harvard University.
Kurt Hermann Arthur
Height 68.1″ 67.6″ 69.5″
Neck 15.5″ 16.0″ 16.5″
Chest 43.0″ 45.0″ 45.7″
Hips 36.0″ 36.5″ 36.5″
Biceps 15.5″ 16.0″ 16.5″
Forearm 14.2″ 14.5″ 14.2″
Wrist 8.2″ 8.1″ 8.1″
Thigh 23.0″ 22.0″ 23.2″
Calf 16.0″ 15.0″ 15.7′
Weight 164 pounds 163 pounds 204 pounds
Age 26 years 28 years 32 years