Muscles of Iron

Strength, Health, and Might

Sebastian Miller – The Bavarian Hercules

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“HE IS AS STRONG AS SANDOW” read a headline in the Los Angeles Herald, dated February 8, 1894. The reference was to Sebastian Miller, a wrestling champion and heavy–weight lifter.

Miller was born in Bavaria in January, 1862, and he demonstrated exceptional strength even as a young lad. In fact, it was reported that at 12 years of age he could “. . . lift and carry as much as any grown man.”

While a teenager, Miller took a job in a brewery, and his new associates could only watch in awe while the big boy tossed 500–pound barrels of beer as if they were toys. The attention Miller received in the brewery encouraged him to perform public strength exhibitions in small towns across Switzerland. Miller would later demonstrate his strength in Paris, and during 1887 he made his way to America where he accepted employment as a member of William Muldoon’s strongmen exhibition team. Muldoon was then the top dog of wrestling and weightlifting in the States.

Photo 1

Portrait of Sebastian Miller during his prime.

During his prime, Sebastian Miller was a wrestling champion and the “heavy-weight lifter of the world.” He often crushed his wrestling opponents like tin cans, and he could “man handle” a full barrel of beer with ease.

In 1889, roughly three years after gaining employment with Muldoon, the young strongman defeated his boss in a well-publicized Greco-Roman wrestling match. Previously, Miller had defeated August Schmidt, a self–declared “champion wrestler of North Germany”, in New York to earn his first victory in America.

Miller would go on to defeat other big names in wrestling, including Ernest Rober, a top champion. His victory over Rober occurred at Tarepa Hall in New York, and the match was “won in a short time.” For his victory, Miller collected $500, a huge sum at the time.

As the “Bavarian Hercules” gained fame in the United States for his exceptional strength and wrestling skill, a group of professors at the Pennsylvania Hospital were so impressed by his abilities they issued him a gold medal and badge and declared him to be “the strongest living man.”

According to Miller, Eugen Sandow had refused to meet him twice after being challenged to engage in a strongman contest. Sandow declined to face Sebastian Miller (allegedly) despite the big man’s offer to pay anybody who could out lift him a whopping $10,000! Who could blame Sandow?

Yours in strength and health,
Robert Drucker