Cover image for Muscletown USA : Bob Hoffman and the manly culture of York Barbell
Muscletown USA : Bob Hoffman and the manly culture of York Barbell
Fair, John D.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
University Park, Pa. : Pennsylvania State University Press, [1999]

Physical Description:
xii, 420 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm
Personal Subject:

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
GV545.52.H64 F35 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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From the 1930s to the 1980s, the capital of weightlifting in America was York, Pennsylvania, the home of the York Barbell Company. Bob Hoffman, the founder of York Barbell, propagated an ideology of success for Americans seeking physical improvement. Often called the "Father of World Weightlifting," Hoffman was a pioneer in marketing barbells and health foods. He popularized weight training and inaugurated a golden age of American weightlifting. Muscletown USA-part biography, part business history, and part sports history-chronicles how Hoffman made York the mecca of manly culture for millions of followers worldwide.

Hoffman created his so-called muscle empire out of an oil-burner business that he started in the early 1920s. Within a decade, his passion for sport exceeded his need to produce oil burners and by the outset of the Depression he began manufacturing barbells at the factory. He soon discovered a willing public of aspiring weightlifters like himself who would buy not only barbells but also health and fitness products. Hoffman soon recruited a remarkable group of athletes, whom he tagged his "York Gang." He gave these men jobs in the factory, where they trained for national and international meets. Gradually, Hoffman emerged as one of the most prominent muscle peddlers in America, using his fame and fortune to promote competitive weightlifting, bodybuilding, and powerlifting. Muscletown USA reveals other innovations in which Hoffman played a major role, including weight training for athletes, health foods, bottled spring water, isometrics, and women's weightlifting. Even anabolic steroids, first used by weightlifters in the early 1960s, were a direct outgrowth of the fitness culture spawned by Hoffman.

Meticulously researched and engagingly written, Fair's book will appeal to a wide range of readers, including anyone fascinated by American sports history and the iron game.

Author Notes

John D. Fair is Professor of History and Chair of the Department of History and Geography at Georgia College and State University in Milledgeville, Georgia. He is the author of two books on modern British history. He has competed in more than fifty Olympic and powerlifting meets, coached several teams, taught weight-training classes, staged meets, been a national referee, served on the national weightlifting committee, and even judged a Mr. America contest.

Table of Contents

List of Illustrationsp. ix
Prefacep. xi
Introductionp. 1
Ascent to Glory
1 Bob Hoffman's Formative Yearsp. 11
2 The Origins of American Weightliftingp. 23
3 The Old York Gangp. 39
4 Fitness and Survival in Wartimep. 71
The "Golden Age" of American Weightlifting
5 Years of Challenge and Achievementp. 105
6 All Roads Lead to Muscletown USAp. 155
7 The "New" York Gangp. 191
Descent from Glory
8 Cultural Countercurrentsp. 243
9 Father of World Weightliftingp. 293
10 Bob Hoffman's Departurep. 341
Epilogue and Conclusionp. 375
Notesp. 389
Indexp. 409