The Pennsylvania State University
Cover for the book Muscletown USA

Muscletown USA

Bob Hoffman and the Manly Culture of York Barbell John D. Fair
  • Copyright: 1999
  • Dimensions: 6 x 9
  • Page Count: 432 pages
  • Illustrations: 70 illustrations
  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-0-271-01854-6
  • Paperback ISBN: 978-0-271-01855-3

Paperback Edition: $37.95Add to Cart

“Fair’s tale is peppered with stories about ethnic assimilation through weightlifting success, Olympic glory, and the protracted struggle between the empires of York and Weider. At the center of it all is the indomitable personality and visionary spirit of Hoffman, whose dedication to weight training and singular pursuit of strength has indelibly stamped our culture. Meticulously documented and generously illustrated, this important contribution to the history of American culture is essential for the sports and American studies sections of all public and academic libraries.”
“For anyone interested in the inside story of the iron game in this century, the publication of Muscletown USA is the event of the year, perhaps the decade.”

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.

John D. Fair is professor of history and chair of the Department of History and Geography at Georgia College & State University in Milledgville, 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.

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