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Contributed by: Trevor STUBBERFIELD (52A)


Page 2.

Alexander Zass, (1883 – 1962).


(Samson The Amazing Strongman).


The following information appears in the Circus History Message & Discussion Board (message 1529)’ and the Source and Copyright © is acknowledged as the ‘Circus Historical Society, Inc’.

Minor textural alterations have been made to fit in with the traditional format of our web site.


"Twentieth Century Circus People, 1901-1950" (Lingdales Press, Formby, 2003).

SAMSON, Amazing. Strongman. Alexander Zass, born 1883, in Vilna, Poland, one of a family of five, three brothers and two sisters. Lived most of his early years in Russia and served as an officer in the Russian Cossack Cavalry, during the First World War. Taken prisoner in one campaign but escaped and joined Schmidt's circus, in Budapest, under an assumed name. Billed as 'Samson the Strongman'. Travelled all over Europe. Seen by Sir Edward Stoll, who brought him to England. Appeared on the halls, making his British debut at the London Coliseum, lifting a steel girder with his teeth, etc. Claimed to be the world's strongest man, catching steel cannon balls (200lbs) fired 25 feet across the stage, from a cannon. Carried a live cart horse round his neck. Noted at the Grand Theatre, Brighton, in 1930, and with the Royal Italian Circus, in 1932. From 1934 used the name "Zass, the Man of Muscle", rather than Samson, to avoid confusion with imitators. In 1935 was partnered by Miss Lillian LaBram. Noted at the Christmas Circus, King's Hall, Belfast, for the 1935-36 season, billed as the 'Human Bullet'. In 1936 was described as a squat, smiling Russian, 5'42 in height, weighing 11 stone. Could lift a 640 lb girder, with his teeth. Toured Ireland with John Duffy and Sons' Circus, in 1936, with Zass a young lady shot from a cannon. In 1939 was a partner in the Samson-Ritchie Road Show, touring for over a year, performing his strongman act. By 1941 had taken-up animal training, presenting two performing elephants, with the assistance of Marguerite, a troupe of jockey dogs and one of Charlie Judge's chimpanzees, resident at Chessington Zoo. In charge of Goddard's zoo circuses at Frimley, Paignton, advertised as livestock manager and trainer in 1949, 1950 and 1951. In December 1951 was in Newton Abbott Hospital. Retired from the management of Paignton Zoo in 1952, after eleven years there, to his farm at Hockley, Essex. His successor at Paignton was Kenneth Smith. Spent the 1953 season at Gt. Yarmouth Hipodrome circus, with Russell's chimps. In February 1954 he advertised his famous dogs and pony acts, from his farm at Hockley. General Manager of Norman Cartlidge's 'California Circus', Wokingham, in 1954, also performing his strongman act, said to be aged 71 years. Appeared at Dr Hunter's last Christmas circus, Belfast, 1959-60, assisted by Jacqueline, with his trained dogs act. Later with Chipperfield's circus, Bingley Hall, Birmingham, 1960-61, "Usually known as the Jolly Family". Died on 26th September1962, aged 75 years, in hospital at Rochford, Essex. Taken ill, suddenly, on the previous day, at his home at Hockley, Essex. Left all his efects, £2,211, to his pre-war assistant Mrs Betty Tilbury nee Jackson. Mr and Mrs Tilbury had looked after his bungalow, in Hockley, when he was away. By no means a giant, less heavy than Sandow, but endowed with great strength.


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Photos of Alexander Zass are available on an external site from this link……



A video clip of Alexander Zass performing at the Cali is available on an external site from this link….  




Published: 1st October 2012.










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