Born in the early nineteenth-century, the Frenchman Hippolyte Triat represented one of the first modern gym owners and promoters of the modern age.
Plucked from obscurity following a daring rescue of an aristocratic woman from a runaway horse, Triat benefitted from an upper-class education in France. Though exposed to the classics and arts, it seems that strength and performance was the plucky young man’s calling.
Following his education, Triat began work as a strongman in Liége, where he opened his first gymnasium in 1833. Following success in Liége, he opened two more gymnasiums, one in Paris and the other in Brussels.
Rather remarkably, Triat became implicated with the Paris Commune, a radical socialist and insurrectionary government which attempted to rule France during the turmoltous period of 1871, the year France went to war with Prussia. Following the war and the suppression of the Commune by France’s more conservative elements, Triat effectively lost everything. An outcast in French society and under suspicion from the authorities for allowing the Commune to hold meetings in his gymnasium, Triat died penniless in Paris in 1881 at the age of 68.
Contribution to the Iron Game
Aside from arguably being the first gym entrepreneur, Triat has been credited with creating precursors to the modern barbell. You see within Triat’s gymnasiums were small, light weight spherical ended barbell which he called Barres A Spheres De 6 Kilos
This, it seems, was the first iteration of the current steel barbells used the world over nowadays.
Finally, Triat alongside others such as Monsieur Beaujeu in Dublin earlier in the century, were among the few voices to promote true resistance training for women. As detailed by Jan Todd in Building the Body Beautiful many exercise systems for women during the nineteenth century were predicated on woman’s supposed weakness. Triat and a small minority knew the benefits of progressive training for women and weren’t afraid of disobeying societally enforced prejudices. He was a strong man in business, physique and morals.