The Montague Brothers: From Music Hall to Maxalding

The Montague Brothers were a strong man act of the British music hall in the early 20th century.

Their real last name was Woollaston; their father owned a shoe factory, was a Methodist preacher in his spare time, and dabbled in spiritualism. The motive force of the act was the middle brother Alfred Montague Woollaston (1879-1949), later known as Monte Saldo, who’d begun body building at a local gym as a teenager. In 1897 he apprenticed with Sandow the Great. While there he formed his first act, Ronco and Monte, with a fellow of acolyte of Sandow’s. The pair toured the UK and the Continent for a season, then Ronco was replaced in the act by Frank Woollaston a.k.a. Frank Saldo (1882-1939), who’d worked extensively as an art model and had studied physiology. In 1903 they were joined by the oldest brother Edwin John Woollaston (1876-1918), who opted not to be a “Saldo”. As a trio, their best known number was “The Sculptor’s Dream”, where the brothers posed as marble statues, preening, wrestling, and moving all manner of heavy objects. In another stunt, Monte would lie under a ramp, and support an entire automobile full of people as it drove over him.

The act dissolved around 1909. Frank went on to write lyrics for music hall and vaudeville songs in both the UK and the US, and later became a lecture on physical eduction at the University of LOndon. Meanwhile, Monte had co-founded the Apollo-Saldo Academy with Apollo the Scottish Hercules. With Max Sick, he devised the Maxaldo method of isometric training, later changed to Maxalding, which was still a going concern into the 1970s.

To learn more about vaudeville, please see No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous