American Strongman

From “Mighty Men of Old” Vol. I (n.d.) (Author unknown)
Strongman Warren Lincoln Travis

ROLAND MORGAN’S ancestors had been Americans for five generations back. He was born in Brooklyn February 21st in 1876. During infancy his parents died. Roland was placed in an orphanage. Not a very auspicious start for the man who was to become America’s greatest back and harness lifter.

There was a childless couple in Brooklyn name Travis. Mr. Travis, a Civil War veteran, suggested they adopt a boy. Of excellent recommendations they had little trouble in making the arrangements and from the orphanage took home little four-year-old Roland Morgan. It was a joyous occasion; the Travises loved children and Roland was pleased with his new mother and father.

Mr. Travis had fought under General Kemble Warren, a man who he much admired, and to his new son he gave that name. That he chose Lincoln as the boy’s middle name reflected his staunch Americanism.

Warren Lincoln Travis first became interested in physical culture at the age of 12. At the age of 16 he was able to lift 2000 pounds on a weight testing machine. When 18 years of age, at a bodyweight of 140, he lifted 21 men in the back lift, a total of slightly over 3,000 pounds! At this early stage he was lean and muscular, yet he lifted 800 pounds in the Jefferson lift.

At the Brooklyn Athletic Club on April 10th in 1897 he started on his professional career. He weighed only 142 and lifted 3,450 pounds in the back lift, 3260 pounds in the harness lift, a one finger lift of 545 pounds, and hand-and-thigh lift of 1,400 pounds and a teeth lift of 350 pounds! He performed the entire routine in less than ten minutes!

Weight training gave Travis a power that other athletes didn’t have. He tried his hand at boxing and was a sparring partner for Dan Credon, “Kid” Lavigne and “Kid” McCoy. Fight promoters tried hard to get Travis to enter the ring professionally, but he preferred to become a strong man. It was a wise choice for the three above mentioned have passed and gone, finished at the age of 30, while Travis is still in hale and hearty as ever.

In 1918 the sponsored a weightlifting contest open to all comers. Travis, at the age of 42, easily won, doing a back lift of 3,657 pounds, a harness lift of 3,583 pounds a hand-and-thigh lift of 1,498 pounds! It will now be opportune to consider what Travis was capable of lifting in his prime. That was in the period from 1906 to 1909 when he was from 30 to 33 years of age, and at which time he weighed from 180 to 190 pounds.

An old copy of the POLICE GAZETTE shows that Travis, on November 1, 1907 at the Brooklyn Athletic Club, in front of numerous athletes and strength-authorities of the time, made the following lifts, his bodyweight being 185 pounds; back lift 4,140 pounds, harness lift 3,985 pounds, hand and thigh lift 1,778 pounds; two-finger lift 1,105 pounds. In all these lifts iron was used. The back lift is the highest authentic record known, of actual weighed iron. The two-finger lift is likewise a heavyweight world record. Four days later on November 5 at the same place, he did a one finger of 667 pounds. In this style of lifting he used a tight finger-ring padded and rested on the lifting hand about halfway up on the thigh.

Although the foregoing back lift may be taken as Travis’ official best, informally, on several occasions, he improved even on it. For instance, he once lifted 25 men in overcoats on his large back-lifting platform, which weighed 365 pounds. Even if one assumes that the men, thus dressed, averaged only 155 pounds each, the total lift would have come to 4,240 pounds. And on at least two other occasions he lifted a number of men whose weights, with the platform he is convinced reached close to 4,200 pounds. This confirms his back-lifting ability and shows that his 4,140 pound lift of iron was no fluke. On perhaps a half a dozen occasions he back-lifted 4,000 pounds or more; the first time being on February 4, 1904, when he lifted on a machine (scales) exactly two tons. This was at the old physical culture studio operated by Anthony Barker.

Now, at the age of 65 Warren Lincoln Travis, dean of American Strongmen, still performs daily at his show at Coney Island and he always enjoys talking ‘weights’ with young strength fans.”

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