To ardent fans of arm wrestling, there is no greater hero than the famous Mac Batchelor, a Los Angeles bartender who never lost a single match over his twenty-five year professional career. Even more impressively, he won a fair share of those matches while blasted out of his skull on whiskey and beer—his tolerance for hooch was almost as legendary as his upper-body strength. Eat your heart out, Lincoln Hawk. (Much more on Batchelor’s incredible career here.)
But despite his status as the Zeus of vintage arm wrestling, Batchelor maintained the utmost reverence for a mysterious Swede whom he considered his superior. He shared his admiration in a 1952 interview:
Question: A fellow Scandinavian seaman on our ship claims there was a Swedish sailor called the “Swedish Bear” who was the most powerful man of all time.
Answer: Oscar Nygren, born 1899, Norrtelje, Sweden, adopted that name as a strength performer. His general build was a facsimile of Hepburn’s, the world’s current pressing champion. The last heard of Oscar was in 1924. He was exceptionally broad and heavy-boned, massive from head to foot and of smooth musculature. While still a young boy he was a seaman on board a full rigged ship and did a man’s work. Years of following the sea imparted great strength to this son of Vulcan. He could bend horseshoes with his hands and also while holding them clenched in his teeth. The ship’s hawser he broke using a harness was colossal. He bent one inch iron bars with ease and out-pulled a team of horses with his feet braced against a log. In back lifting he hoisted 16 men on a platform, besides claiming to support 10 men on a platform in the wrestler’s bridge position. This last feat was probably a shoulder bridge.
The Tubes, alas, reveal nothing about Nygren’s fate. I can only assume he never attained enough fame to merit his inclusion in cutesy photo shoots.