Eugene Sandow in his day was as famous in his day as Charles Atlas later became.
His businesses included publishing, competitive weight lifting and showmanship, marketing equipment, training, clinics and the manufacture of cocoa. Most of these were initially successful but rapidly tailed off. The line of business that endured even after his death was the marketing of body-building equipment, and it is here that the family played a part. Even now this is not entirely clear. Least clear of all is how the Sandow business started with the involvement of members of the Tubbs and Lewis families but became part of the incorporated business of Tubbs Lewis & Co Ltd.
Sandow has a biographer in David L Chapman, a teacher from Seattle. Chapman’s main interest is in body-building and photography thereof, rather than the business aspect; no mention of Tubbs or the 1906 law suit.
Chapman reports that Sandow’s UK business ventures began after he returned to the UK after a strenuous time in USA where he worked with the legendary Florence Ziegfeld, of the Follies, an illustration of the fact that Sandow was as much a showman with a career in variety and music halls as in the more austere world of gymnastics and weight lifting.
In March 1897 Sandow entered into an agreement with the Whitely Exerciser Company. He was to be their European agent, demonstrate and sell their products. After a year he left Whitely and established a business in France, marketing “Sandow’s Own Combined Developer”, which was attached to a door, much to the amusement of cartoonists. This sold very well.
The discovery that men volunteering to join the colours to fight the Boers could not meet the fitness requirements was a boost to the physical exercise industry, but Sandow’s reputation as a showman rather than an educator meant that his system was not adopted.
According to Chapman this device continued to sell for a long time, even after Sandow’s death in 1925. This is confirmed by an entrance in a trade catalogue for British Industries Fair of 1922 where Tubbs Lewis list Sandow Developers in their product range. A similar listing for 1929 does not mention them, but this proves nothing. He says that the “the Sandow trademark and endorsements were purchased by rival firms and sold and resold several times”. This probably explains how Benjamin Crook and Sons of Huddersfield (cables Football) were able to list Sandow Developers in the product list at a trade fair in 1947. In France, he says, the word for any rubber cable is un sandow. Fame indeed. A quick google confirms this, “Pin fix kit avec sandow. Accessoires bâche hiver – C-Piscine” is offering a bit of bungee for fixing a winter tarpaulin to your swimming pool. Get your postillions to show you how.
Sandow also developed the Spring Grip Dumbell, that is a regular feature at car boot sales.
One product that appears to have received the Sandow endorsement is the Sandow pin. I wonder who made those.
He launched Sandow’s magazine in 1898. Though Sandow briefly had a high reputation in America the US version of the magazine did not sell. Chapman reports a severe downturn in Sandow’s business around 1905. Cycling was now the thing according to him. Many of his studios closed, but the main one remained, near Piccadilly Circus. The magazine resorted to titillating nude poses. Even the English magazine closed in June 1907. However Sandow bounced back fig leaf and all.
It was in this difficult period that the Tubbs family and Sandow went to law. It is significant that the Tubbs plaintiffs were individually named rather than any company, and certainly not Tubbs Lewis, though Joseph Lewis’s son was one of those involved, another little mystery. Furthermore a review of industrial Gloucestershire in 1904 stated that the Sandow products were being made by Tubbs Lewis. Bunny’s version is that Stanley developed (ho ho) the Sandow business completely independent of Tubbs Lewis. By 1906 Joe Lewis had been dead for 18 years, but HTT still had 11 years to run.
He developed a new type of corset for the ladies, promoted the statuesque Katie Sandwina (nee Brumbach!), and an improved version of the developer he called the Symmetrion.
His next venture cost him dear. It was Sandow’s Health and Strength Cocoa, with a works on New Kent Road. This was so successful, processing 10 tons per weeks, that an enlarged factory with a capacity of 50 tons was opened in Hayes, Middlesex, though Chapman has the one in Bromley. The enlarged company led his competitors to edge him out of the market in a price war. The company was bankrupt by 1915 with liabilities of £20,438. Sandow’s German origins did not help him in time of war either. Sandow’s chief partner was his English brother-in-law.
His main money spinner by then was Sandow’s curative institute in St James’ Street. He had received a large thank you for curing an Indian client of elephantiasis by exercise, among many other genuine clinical improvements. Sandow demonstrated, in the face of investigative journalists, that in only 4% of his clients was there no improvement and resounding success in 44%. He had the wit and skill to screen out clients whose illnesses could not respond to exercise. His illustrious clients included Paderewski, the pianist and President of Poland, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the delusional spiritualist and historical novelist who can count only Sherlock Holmes as an enduring success. Not bad as one-hit wonders go. Sandow even gets a one-line mention in the work of a greater novelist, James Joyce’s Ulysses. If you must know, it was Leopold Bloom, old Poldy himself, who promised himself an improvement in his sagging physique. Sandow also influenced Jack London, the macho novelist.
By the outbreak of war in 1914 Sandow could demonstrate his solid patriotic Britishness and sought once again to revive interest in the physical fitness of those joining up.
The 1906 law suit
Sandow won hands down which may have saved various members of the family from being smashed up.
London Daily News - Thursday 05 July 1906 - ACTION AGAINST SANDOW Mr. Justice Warrington, the Chancery Division yesterday, had before him the action of L. G. Lewis, W. B. and S. W. Tubbs against Eugene Sandow Limited for an injunction to restrain the defendants from giving instruction in Sandow' s system of physical culture, which plaintiffs said was vested in them. Sandow Limited counterclaimed for royalties in respect of patented exerciser or developer, and Mr. Sandow. by way of counterclaim asked for injunction to restrain plaintiffs from carrying on their business in such way as to represent it being carried on by him. The plaintiffs were represented Mr. Upjohn. K.C., who stated that Mr. Sandow invented written instructions with diagrams. This postal branch was a success, Sandow taking 20% and Sandow Limited, 5%, of the plaintiffs’ profits. Sandow proposed an amalgamation. but terms were not arranged, and in breach of the agreement, he said he would run in opposition the plaintiffs and smash them. In January of this year he started a business whereby he or someone instructed by him would see a pupil once ... and would hand him a prescription for home exercises which would last two or three months. This the plaintiffs contended was breach of the agreement.
Globe - Friday 06 July 1906 - PHYSICAL CULTURE BY POST. SANDOW AS LITIGANT. In the Chancery Division, today, Mr. Justice Warrington continued the hearing of the action in which Messrs. L. G. Lewis, W. B. Tubbs, and S. W. Tubbs seek an injunction against Sandow (Limited) and Mr. Eugen Sandow, to restrain the defendants in alleged breach of agreement from giving physical culture instruction by post on the Sandow system. Mr. Lewis, one of the plaintiffs, was examined by Mr. Upjohn, K.C., and said that Mr. Sandow knew all about the advertisements and literature of the company, but never objected to the use of the personal pronoun "I" over the signature of Eugen Sandow until the negotiations for amalgamation of the two businesses fell through. He knew that Mr. Sandow's school was not profitable. It was Mr. Sandow himself who made the proposal to amalgamate, and after long negotiations it fell through. Mr. Sandow then became spiteful and said something about smashing them up.
Sheffield Daily Telegraph - Saturday 14 July 1906 - ACTION AGAINST SANDOW. In the Chancery Division yesterday, in the case Lewis v. Sandow, Limited, and Eugene Sandow, the plaintiff sought to restrain the defendants from giving instruction by post in Sandow’s system of physical culture. The defendants denied that they gave postal instruction, and counter claimed respect of royalties on “developers,” etc. Mr. Justice Warrington found that plaintiff’s claim failed, and judgment was entered for the defendants on all the issues, and the injunction asked for by Sandow granted, with the proviso that it was not to prevent Mr. Lewis from using the name “ Eugene Sandow ” on the rubber stamp provided by the agreement, or carrying on the business with the name of Sandow’s Postal Instruction Department.”
Without access to the contracts or a better understanding of any of the advertising involved that still leaves a rather mysterious position where both Sandow and Tubbs continued to have some involvement in postal instruction.