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Katie Sandwina: The Secrets Of Europe’s Most Incredible Circus Strongman

In 1884, Katharina Brumbach was born in a family of circus performers who wowed the audience with their acts as strongman/strongwoman. The skills of her parents eventually rubbed off on her, which led her to become one of the finest acts at the turn of the century. At the peak of her prime. Brumbach was known in Europe and the rest of the world as Katie Sandwina, the “Strongest Woman in the World.”

Everyone who saw her and her acts can vouch for her incredible strength and talents. But not everyone knows her story. Check out how “Europe’s Queen of Strength and Beauty” became of the most popular acts in the circus’ long and rich history.

The Origin Of Katie Sandwina

On May 6, 1884, Katie was born to Johanna Brumbach and her husband, Philippe. At a young age, she and her family performed at the circus. Philippe would ask all the men in the audience to step up and try to defeat his daughter in wrestling and get one hundred Deutsche marks as a reward. However, nobody ever won against her.

One of the men who bravely stepped forward to try their luck against the teenage strongman was a 19-year-old acrobat named Max Heymann. Katie badly defeated him, but later on, she became victorious when he won her heart. At the age of 16, Katie married Max and eventually teamed up to perform in the circus. The couple traveled to the US at the beginning of the 20th century to launch their career outside Europe. She changed her surname to Sandwina to associate herself with the man named Eugen Sandow, the popular bodybuilding pioneer called the “Perfect Man.”

Legends claimed that Katie challenged and defeated Sandow in a weightlifting competition when she arrived in New York. She effortlessly lifted a 300-pound weight up to the top of her head, while Sandow only managed to bring it up to the chest level. Some people suggested that she used the female version of his name to mock him.

Katie’s trademark appearance includes a pair of high heels that increased her 5-feet 10-inches height to over 6-feet. Max became one of her signature props in all her shows. She regularly lifts him above her head using one arm. She performed with the famous Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus for decades.

The strongman was also legendary due to her other acts, including bending solid steel bars and repelling the pull of four live horses.

An early photograph of Katie Sandwina carrying three men, stored at the Library of Congress.

Katie Sandwina’s Final Years

Despite giving birth to two sons named Theodore and Alfred, Katie continued her circus performance until the age of 60. After her retirement, she and her Max decided to open a bar and restaurant in the neighborhood of Ridgewood in Queens, New York. She occasionally gives in to their patrons’ requests to perform minor circus acts like twisting iron bars and using her husband again as her human barbell.

On January 21, 1952, the strongwoman succumbed to cancer at the age of 67.