Muscletown USA: Bob Hoffman and the Manly Culture of York Barbell

29 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0271018553
ISBN-10: 0271018550
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Paperback, August 14, 2008
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Editorial Reviews


“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.”
—Clarence Bass, Ripped Enterprises website

“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.”
—Barry X. Miller, Library Journal

About the Author

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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Product Details

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Penn State University Press (August 14, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0271018550
  • ISBN-13: 978-0271018553
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #431,944 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

21 of 22 people found the following review helpful By George Norton on July 3, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I grew up in a household in which I was not welcome. Two individuals made my life bearable: Mickey Mantle and Bob Hoffman! From the late fifties through the late sixties I was a welterweight lifter out of Oakland, California. I enjoyed a small measure of success. I can recall being at the newsstand each month on the appropriate day to search the racks for the latest Strength and Health. I would read those magazines from cover to cover, every word, and would do so several times before the next issue was released. And throughout those years I certainly bought more than my share of York equipment.
Someone once said something to the effect that if you have an idol look a little closer and you will see that you are selling yourself short. The author, Mr. Fair, looks a little closer, but not unfairly, in my opinion. Growing up with Strength and Health I was not aware of many of Mr. Hoffman's shortcomings. And now that I know them, nothing has changed. For Hoffman is still number one in my book. In my view the character flaws only serve to humanize him. Something wrong with that? How many of you who've submitted critical reviews regarding Hoffman have lived steller lives? How many of you have built sucessful businesses from the ground up? And most importantly, How many of you have MADE A DIFFERENCE in the lives of so many? The silence is deafening. Regarding the book, I find it well written. Also of great interest to me are the photos of the luminaries of that era. I am thankful that this book was written, and I am pleased to have read it. Mr. Fair, how about bios on some of the high profile people of the "weight game", Grimek, Reeves, etc?
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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Bobby K. on February 3, 2000
Format: Paperback
Once, when I was working out in the weight room at UCLA in the early 70's, someone called out, "The weight room is Mother!" And so it was, for those of us for whom working out had become a way of life. And if the weight room was "Mother", then Father was Bob Hoffman, who more than anyone else in my generation, popularized weight training for both athletes and the general public. Having been a disciple of Hoffman through his magazine, I had been thinking that a bio of him needed to be written (about 14 years after his death) when coincidentally Fair produced just such a book. The extent of Dr. Fair's research is impressive, especially about the era from the sixties onward, and his story of the degeneration of the US Olympic weightlifting team due to steroids and recreational drugs is particluarly compelling. Additionally, his debunking of the myth of Hoffman as a person was an eye-opener for me. The story of the Hoffman-Weieder wars is also interesting.
With regard to Hoffman however, the balance of the book may be a little off. While the details of Hoffman's sexual activity and his promotional quackery are interesting, I was disapponted not to see more about how Hoffman was as a coach. I have been told by a member of the York team that Hoffman was very good as a coach, but this did not come through for me in the book. Fair attributes the greatness of the post-war team to the socialization at York and the fact that the weightlifters were from immigrant families. He should have gotten more material from the lifters of that era and stuck more to history and biography; his psychologically-based simplifications detract from the book because he puts too much credence in them. All in all, it's a good book; it's not the last word on Hoffman, however.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By lionintheorchard on October 17, 2009
Format: Paperback
This book has much information in it about York Barbell and Hoffman, its founder. The author has done much reading in the source materials. He was given access by Alda Ketterman(Hoffman's widow) and John Terpak, his associate, to additional Hoffman writings and Terpak's records. I reckon at the Stark centre in Austin, which contains the Ottley Coulter collection(as well as much more), collected by Jan and Terry Todd(both former world champion powerlifters in their respective heavyweight classes) as well as the work of many others he got help too. The book may be augmented by the author, John Fair's writings for Iron Game History, put out by the above mentioned centre. He also interviewed many of the individuals that he writes about. Some of them may demur from his interpretations of what they meant, but he did interview the available principals at York and those who formerly were at York in the course of his research into the "Iron Game".

Fair reports on Hoffman's time and performance as a soldier in France in WWI, in which he was highly decorated by France, as well as telling us about Hoffman's youth.

This is a notable contribution to our understanding of the 20th century Iron Game, weight lifting, powerlifting and bodybuilding, as particularly regards York Barbell and its founder, Bob Hoffman, and the principals with him, giving us a few views of Mark Berry, John Grimek, Terlazzo, Terpak, Harry Paschall, Tommy Kono, and many others. George Jowett is mentioned a few times, Alan Calvert, Mark Berry and Jowett should be covered more. Did Hoffman, in learning from Jowett, also absorb Jowett's fondness for claiming fine accomplishments for himself?
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