Strength, like brains or beauty, often runs in families, and the Deriaz (Der-i-‘h) family must have had some of the finest genes in the pool, since they produced more than their share of powerful athletes. The Deriaz brothers left an indelible mark on the sporting world of turn-of-the-century Europe. ‘mile, Maurice, Adrien and Octave Deriaz were all born in the little village of Baulmes in the Swiss canton of Vaud, which is nestled between Lake Geneva and the French border.
The eldest, tallest, heaviest and strongest of the brawny quartet was ‘mile Deriaz. He was born in 1879 and was the first to demonstrate his naturally strong physique to the world. ‘mile was 5’8’ and weighed 220 pounds; in his younger days he let his blond hair grow to shoulder length, and he sported a luxuriant mustache and beard. When he appeared as a strongman in music halls, he certainly looked the part of his stage persona, ‘The Modern Samson.’ Eventually, ‘mile took over a famous Paris gymnasium that had been run by an old wrestler and strongman named No’l le Gaulois. There he was able to help other young men become strong and healthy. He became a very popular figure in the French sporting world. At his funeral in April 1939 there was a long line of mourners.
Few probably mourned the man’s passing more than his brother Maurice. ‘mile had taught his younger sibling the finer points of lifting and wrestling, and Maurice eclipsed even his brother’s fame. Maurice was born on April 14, 1885, and he quickly took to strength feats. He began working out under his brother’s supervision shortly after arriving in Paris, and he very quickly became proficient in three athletic areas: weightlifting, Greco-Roman wrestling and freestyle wrestling.
Maurice may have had an excellent physique, but Adrien had the finest and most symmetrical body. Thanks to his handsome features and trim muscularity, Adrien became a very successful physique star and artist’s model. Octave also trained in weightlifting for a while, but he didn’t reach the heights of his three siblings.
The Deriaz brothers were unusual individuals, but taken as a group, they were truly extraordinary. They lived in a time when the techniques of muscle building and physical culture were just being formulated, and they helped popularize them. IM