Mighty Atom



Da Articles

“the legend of the ‘Mighty
Atom’ lives on in the form of Slim “The Hammer Man.”

Life and Times of
Joesph L. Greenstein


By Vic

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

The big book of the day was proudly
presented by the Viking press prior to it’s national
release. “
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 “
Hammer Man
” Farman, the
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

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 modern

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”

Since the passing of the “Mighty
Atom” in 1977, his protege 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

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

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

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

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.

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

Life and Times of
Joesph L. Greenstein