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Though he measured only 5' 3", Abe Boshes possessed one of the most muscular physiques of his age. His diminutive stature was forgotten once the public got a look at him on
the vaudeville stage. One person who witnessed his theatrical persona con-firmed this conclusively: "On the stage he looked like a gigantic superman because his physical
proportions were so exceedingly well molded."
Abe was originally motivated to build his body after he saw early muscleman Eugen Sandow perform. The youth was entranced by Sandow's strength, finesse and shapely physique. He determined to work on his own body until it resembled that of the German strongman. He must have been successful, for in just a few years Boshes became something of a celebrity in the strength world.
Abe leaped into the bodybuilding spotlight in 1903, when he won a contest that was organized by Bernarr Macfad-den, the energetic publisher of Physical Culture magazine. Two years later Boshes again won the title of "the perfect specimen of American manhood." Thanks to all the publicity that was generated by these contests, he was persuaded to embark on a career in vaudeville.
He performed under the stage name of "Boshes, the Perfect Specimen," usually causing a sensation wherever he displayed his rippling muscles. The centerpiece of his act was his posing. A bright spotlight revealed the motionless strongman positioned on a white pedestal like an ancient statue. The mini-Hercules would slowly and gracefully assume the attitudes of several other classical sculptures. Then the orchestra would play a stately, rhythmic piece, and Boshes would demonstrate his muscle control by making his sinews jump and dance to the music.
In addition to this artistic posing, the Perfect Specimen could also lift an impressive amount of weight when he wanted to. At one point Boshes performed a very imposing bent press of 220 pounds. Later he demonstrated his endurance by pushing up a 100-pound weight 18 times in rapid succession. These feats were all the more magnificent considering that the little man weighed around 148 pounds at the time.
After Boshes grew weary of his life on the variety stage, he settled in New York and opened a mail-order exercise business on Third Avenue. There he invented an apparatus that he called the "Simplex Exerciser." The contraption must have had some merit, since he managed to get several well-known musclemen to demonstrate and endorse it. By using the Boshes device, Charles Atlas, among others, was able to perfect his physical development.
While marketing his Simplex Exerciser, Boshes began a consulting firm as a physical trainer. The apex of his career in this line came in 1917, when he was appointed personal physical trainer to President Woodrow Wilson. Boshes continued to give the chief executive health and exercise advice until Wilson's death in 1924.
No matter how often he promoted his own invention, Boshes never advocated abandoning the use of heavy weights. In the early years of the 20th century there were many so-called experts who attempted to prove that a thick, muscular physique could be obtained by working out with light dumbbells or simple calisthenics. They fostered in the public a terrific fear of becoming muscle-bound. To his credit Boshes rejected this nonsense and continued to recommend progressive training with heavy weights.
So as a performer, a trainer and, most importantly, as an inspiration, Abe Boshes deserves to be remembered. John Grimek recalled the Perfect Specimen many years after he had first seen pictures of him. It would be hard to devise a more fitting tribute to Boshes than Grimek's words: "While his whole body was perfectly molded, his huge massive deltoids, the thick square-looking arms and his mighty forearms etched their indelible impressions on my mind, which to this day I cannot forget." Boshes was nicknamed Inspirer of Men, and judging by the photographs and the testimonies of his fans, he was worthy of this title.