Slim "The Hammerman" Farman - The last of the legends
By Vic Boff - Reprinted with permission of The Iron Master
When Joe "The Mighty Atom" Greenstein passed away
in 1977, Slim Farman took his place as the last of the legendary
strongmen. In the tradition of his mentor, Farman is a living
testament to awesome power and total determination.
Two years after Greenstein's death, Slim presented an
outdoor strongman show in conjunction with the release of Ed Speilman's book, "The Mighty Atom, Biography of a Superhuman."
It was part of the "New York is Book County" promotion where, to
this day, numerous publishers are given a chance to exhibit
their latest editions.
Slim gave the crowd a strength show they'd never
forget. He broke heavy steel chains with his hands and on his
chest; he laid waist to crowbars; and he drove spikes through
two-inch thick pine lumber with a swipe of his hand. He then
proceeded to bend a four-foot long, half-inch thick steel bar
over the bridge of his nose. During the course of the day, he
also bent some 200 nails, which were six inches long and 1/4
inch thick. He topped it all off by breaking his own world
record in the leverage (or hammer) lift. This feat is the
specialty that has earned him the nickname "The Hammer Man." It
was almost as if the reincarnated spirit of the Mighty Atom was
up there on that stage - and in a sense, it was.
Despite his admittedly slim build, Farman - whose real
first name is Lawrence - is a regal figure who stands tall
wherever he goes. At 6'6" and 212 pounds, Farman is a straight
as a rod, and twice as vibrant as an arrow in flight. A man does
not have to be a physical giant, with muscles bulging out like
footballs, in order to perform great feats of strength. After
all, sheer muscle quantity is not always an indication of
manpower. In the final analysis, it is quality that counts, and
this Slim has in abundance.
Farman has a pair of hands the size of Easter Sunday
hams, with arms that resemble twisted columns of steel. His
powerful, steely gaze is enough to make grown men quiver. His
stunning will power and immense knowledge of leveraged strength
techniques make it possible for him to deal with virtually any
physical task. And, due to his close association with the Mighty
Atom, Slim has been able to unlock his mind to find the
self-hypnotic pathway to supernormal abilities.
His incredible concentrative powers have led Farman to
many a strength record, but it his skill at leverage lifting
that has made "The Hammer Man" as much a legend as anything
else. Anyone who has ever tried to pick up a broomstick by
gripping it at the very end can imagine how extraordinary that
same feat would be with a sledgehammer. The sheer effort of such
a daunting task is enough to stress--fracture the wrist bones on
the average man. But Farman, the world record holder in the
leverage lift, makes it look relatively easy.
Just to show that it's not so easy, Slim invites any
volunteer from the audience to horizontally raise a 12-Lb.
hammer - by it's end - from the floor. Needless to say, this is
an all-but-impossible feat. But then Farman proceeds to lift a
24-Lb. hammer in the same manner with one hand! He lifts it up
until it is at straight arm's length. Without moving his arm or
bending an elbow, he lowers and touches it to his head, then
brings it back to the vertical position. No other strength
athlete is on record as having accomplished this feat. "The
Hammer Man" has performed this lift for audiences as large as
18,000 people, as was the case in New York City's Madison Square
Garden. His career has seen him go from local strongman to
world-class strength performer, but he continues to relentlessly
cling to his working class roots.
"The Hammer Man" never believes in taking he easy way
out. When it comes to bending steel nails, spikes, of the like,
Slim performs in the "Down" position: That is, holding the spike
at the neck level, arms up, elbow sideways, and palms down. Then
the arms are bent downward as the nail begins to "give." Try
this yourself sometime, if only to get an idea of how
next-to-impossible it actually is to do.
Such feats, however impressive, come almost naturally
to Slim. From his teen years, he earned his keep by breaking
tons of quarry rock - and doing it 14 hours a day, seven days a
week. While toiling in the often sweltering heat of the quarry,
located near his home outside of Pottstown, PA, Farman became
virtually a contemporary version steel-driving, hammer-wielding
men like the legendary John Henry.
This imposing master of the leverage lift and
all-around strength great has no doubt "hammered" his way into
the strongman's hall of fame. Now over 60 years of age, he has
found his own dynamic niche, despite his well-known ties to the
Mighty Atom. For sheer intensity and guts, you simply can't
touch "The Hammer Man." When all is said and done, one stark
fact remains clear: A legend walks among us! He's walking into
the annals of history, hammer in hand.
Reminiscing About The Mighty Atom & Slim Farman...
A Day I
Shall Never Forget
By Vic Boff - Reprinted with permission of The Iron Master
Sunday, September 15th, 1979. That's a day that I shall always
The nation's attention was being focused on New York City. "New
York is Book Country" was the great motto and title for that
beautiful sunny fall day. The World famed Fifth Avenue from 57th
to 47th Streets was closed to traffic as thousands of
enthusiastic book seekers came to browse and search for their
prepublications and potential best sellers along that elegant
swatch of thoroughfare featuring 172 outdoor kiosks or booths.
The big book of the day was proudly presented by the Viking
press prior to it's national release. "The Mighty Atom" made its
New York debut at this major cultural event.
The author, Ed Spielman, famed screenwriter and the creator of
the Emmy Award winning Kung Fu Television Series, assisted by
Slim "The Hammer Man" Farman, the Atom's heir as the last of the
great strongmen, treated the thousands of folks present to a
super strongman show they would witness only once in a lifetime.
On a stage on East 52nd Street between Fifth and Madison, which
had been cordoned off to traffic, Ed Spielman narrated with
eloquence and drama the day's Historical Strongman Show. For
forty-five minutes, Slim "The Hammer Man" Farman gave one of the
most amazing demonstrations of feats of Strength seldom seen in
He exploded heavy steel chains with his hands and chest
expansion, crushed shiny crowbar sized steel bars, drove spikes
through two inch thick pine lumber with a swipe of his hand,
broke his own world record in the leverage or hammer lift, bent
a four foot long half inch thick steel bar over the bridge of
his nose and all through the show, he bent over two hundred 6
inch 1/4 inch thick nails the difficult way, starting at
shoulder level, and then bending downwards.
The silence was golden. Such a physical demonstration of power
this audience appreciated and applauded as they sensed the
realization of this man "Slim's" physical and mental powers. A
genuine strongman, thrilling and truly magnificent, as he
performed one great feat after another.
The last of the Great Strongmen (The Mighty Atom) returned in
the person of Slim "The Hammer Man" Farman.
Since the passing of the "Mighty Atom" in 1977, his protégé
Lawrence Slim "The Hammer Man" Farman and biographer Ed Spielman
have teamed up to keep his memory and his teachings alive. "So,"
as one newspaper writer put it, "the legend of the 'Mighty Atom'
lives on in the form of Slim "The Hammer Man."
The older readers need no introduction to this amazing man. For
those enthusiasts not so informed, I quote from the "Super
Athletes" by David P. Willoughby, an international authority,
writer and investigator in the field of physical strength and
development, "Joe Greenstein (64 inches, 140 lbs.), of the
Bronx, New York, was a sideshow and carnival strongman known as
"The Mighty Atom." He also appeared in vaudeville, both in
Europe and the United States, over a period of about 20 years.
He was still able to perform many of his feats when past 80
years of age. He could 'break' by chest expansion as many as
three chains placed together, of a size designated as No. 8 or
No. 10 jack chain. This consisted of S-shaped links of the type
that could be parted rather than broken. Greenstein could also
bend an iron bar or a horseshoe with his teeth while one end of
the bar was fixed (as in a vise.) The bar that he used for this
purpose was usually one of 1/2 inch mild cold-rolled steel, 8 or
9 inches long. This size of bar he could also bend into a U
shape with his hands. But Greenstein's most extraordinary and
spectacular feat far transcended these chain breaking and
bar-bending exhibitions. He could bite a nail in half! That he
actually possessed the ability to do this he demonstrated on
many different occasions. On one of these, about 1934, when he
was 53 years of age, Greenstein walked into the well frequented
New York gymnasium operated by Siegmund Klein and before the
incredulous stares of Klein and about a dozen of his pupils who
were working-out in the gym at the time, proceeded to bite in
two a 20 penny nail that Klein, after satisfying himself that it
was a strong and sound one-supplied. Klein's description of the
act was as follows: 'Greenstein placed the nail in his mouth,
clamping it between his molars and holding onto the head of the
nail with his fingers. Then with tremendous pressure he bit into
the nail, and one could hear the teeth crunching as though they
were being ground. He then turned the nail a little and bit
again. On the last bite he just bent the nail slightly-and
presto, it was in half! . . . all of us checked his teeth to see
that there were no special mouth pieces or caps over his teeth.'
Greenstein was capable also of performing with a 25-cent coin
the same feat of biting and breaking."
During World War II, Mr. Greenstein unselfishly gave his time to
Uncle Sam's Bond Drive. This modern day Samson did not only
lecture but demonstrated the strength of his hair by pulling a
truck loaded with passengers, and in this way he sold hundreds
of thousands of dollars worth of bonds for Uncle Sam.
It is a fact that this modern Samson's hair was so strong it
could not be pulled out. One of the most astounding feats of
strength ever seen was headlined by the Buffalo (New York)
Evening Times on September 29th, 1928: "Mighty Atom -- Super
Strong Man Pits Brawn Against Plane, Wins." At the Buffalo
Airport before a large crowd of stunned witnesses, this human
dynamo held his ground when the pilot increased the plane speed
from 800 rpm for an approximate speed of 30 miles per hour to a
speed of 1,600 rpm for a speed of 60 miles per hour. Without a
doubt, the Atom was the strongest haired man in the world.
"Believe It or Not" by Ripley had featured this superman many
times over the years.
To get back to his patriotism during World War II, The "Mighty
Atom" helped -- without any compensation -- to recruit men for
New York City's diminishing Police Force. He toured the city for
two years giving demonstrations of jujitsu, judo, etc., to
interest men in joining the civilian Police Force. He was highly
commended by the Mayor and other officials of New York City.
The Atom's years of experience as a wrestler and strongman in
his early days made a superior man of him, mentally as well as
physically. I shall never forget way back in 1936, when six
giant longshoremen became disorderly and tried to interfere with
one of his associates who was lecturing. "The Atom," after a
dramatic fight, put all six men in the hospital. Many of the New
York papers carried a front page story entitled "Little Giant
Knocks Out Six" The story read, "He weighs but 148 pounds, and
is only 5'4 1/2" tall. No wonder writers have termed The Mighty
Atom as "The World's Biggest Little Man."
The "Mighty Atom" performed all of his feats until the end of
his life. A man who broke the time barrier with strength into
the age of impossibility. In 1977, then well into his eighties,
he performed a Martial Arts Show in Madison Square Gardens
giving one of the most awesome exhibitions of strength
performance that stunned thousands of sport fans present. He
received a standing ovation.
The "Atom" was featured several times in the "Believe It or Not"
cartoons and the 1976 Guinness Book of World Records. Over the
years top Government officials awarded him the Keys to 20
American Cities. He lectured and inspired thousands to better
health and strength.
Writers have often titled him as "The World's Biggest Little
Man," "The World's Strongest Haired Man." A man whose hair could
hold back roaring airplanes. He once was shot between the eyes
with a .38 - 40 caliber revolver -- he walked out of the
hospital the same day.
All this was more amazing because he only measured five foot,
four inches tall and weighed in at 145 pounds.
Though these strange as it seems incidents sound like the
creation of a fiction writer, they are but a few of the
incredible but true documented facts in Ed Spielman's book "The
Mighty Atom, Biography of A Superhuman, The Life and Times of
Joseph L. Greenstein."
On October 8th, 1977 another great chapter in the history of the
Iron Game concluded with the passing of Joe Greenstein "The
Mighty Atom." His shining star will be forever in the history of
the Iron Game.