Normally, the scrawny staffers at mental_floss have little interest in reading about the history of body building, but when Tim Farrell pitched a fascinating profile on showman Eugen Sandow, we couldn't resist. Here's a taste of what's in the new issue of mental_floss magazine:

Sandow headlined a strongman show that brought in the masses. But they weren't showing up to see how much he could lift; they were intrigued by his body. Taking a cue from the ancient statues he loved, Eugen augmented his performance with a series of classical poses that highlighted his perfectly proportioned form. Today, these are the basis of modern bodybuilding competitions. Men cheered and women swooned. But public displays were only half the secret to Sandow's success"¦. Sandow supplemented his income with private exhibitions, where patrons paid an extra fee after the show to touch his muscles as he described them in detail. Smelling salts were kept on hand to rouse the women who fainted.

The story gets even crazier when he ropes Arthur Conan Doyle and Ziegfeld (of Ziegfeld's Follies) into his scheme. And it gets better when he challenges a popular strongman named Cyclops to a public duel.

Want the full story? Be sure to order the mag, or get a digital subscription today.