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Weber, Clarence Alfred (1882–1930)

by W. F. Mandle

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 12, (MUP), 1990

Clarence Alfred Weber (1882-1930), athlete and physical culturist, was born on 27 March 1882 at Brighton, Melbourne, seventh surviving child of Robert Gustaf Frederick Weber, a German-born market-gardener and Methodist lay preacher, and his Victorian-born wife Eliza, née Head. Clarence was successful as a young athlete, winning three sprint and hurdles titles at the Victorian championships in 1900; turning to cycling, he won two Victorian amateur titles in 1902.

Attracted to the nascent physical culture movement, exemplified by Eugene Sandow (who visited Australia in 1902) and George Hackenschmidt (who came regularly between 1904 and 1907), Weber opened a health and strength college in Flinders Street. As 'Professor' Weber, he taught—in addition to wrestling—body-building, correct breathing and poses plastiques to both men and women. Run in partnership with John Rice, who was his wrestling second, the college became a well-known feature of the Melbourne sporting scene.

Hackenschmidt, the world's champion wrestler, encouraged Weber to take up the sport in 1904. His first major bout in November resulted in his opponent, 'the turbanned alien' Buttan Singh, being chased down St Kilda Road by a crowd enraged at the Indian's foul tactics. Weber lost again to him in July 1905, but defeated Buttan for the Australian heavyweight championship in November 1906.

On 19 December 1906 Weber married Louisa Peck (d.1918) at the Methodist Church, Waverley. A bout of sunstroke contracted on his honeymoon caused him virtually to withdraw from wrestling to concentrate on business, but he made a successful comeback in 1908, winning the Australian title with a victory over the New Zealand-based Scot, Alexander Bain, in September 1911. In 1913 Weber retired undefeated, but was persuaded to return in 1923 when he again won the heavyweight title from Billy Meeske, a former pupil who was fourteen years his junior. No longer the dominant force of yore, Weber lost bouts to visiting Americans and a 'giant Finn', only retained his title on a foul against Meeske in July 1926 and finally lost to him in September in his last appearance in the ring. Thereafter he devoted himself to his college and to charitable work, under the influence of his wife Ivy Lavinia, late Mitchell, née Filshie, whom he had married at Brighton with Methodist forms on 7 March 1919.

Six feet (183 cm) tall, weighing up to fourteen stone (89 kg), beautifully proportioned, handsome as well as strong (he registered a number of weight-lifting records in the early 1900s), he was termed 'Adonis' as well as 'Hercules': 'girls, all enthusiastic Weberites', leavened the normally masculine gallery itself given to voicing 'a hum of admiration' at his appearance.

After a day spent lecturing during a Victorian health week, while washing his hands before dinner Weber collapsed and died of a coronary occlusion on 20 November 1930 at his Mont Albert home. Survived by his wife, seven children of his first marriage and three of his second, he was buried in Brighton cemetery; his estate was sworn for probate at £10,292.

Select Bibliography

  • Argus (Melbourne), 31 Oct 1904, 27 Nov 1905, 6 Sept, 21 Nov 1911, 10 May, 28 Aug, 3 Sept 1923, 26 May, 25 June, 1, 23 July, 11 Aug 1924, 12 July, 20 Sept 1928, 22 Nov 1930
  • Referee (Sydney), 9, 16 Nov, 7 Dec 1904, 25 Jan, 21 June, 5 July 1905, 21 Nov 1906, 15 May 1907, 10, 24 May, 27 Sept 1911, 27 Mar 1912
  • Age (Melbourne), 22 Nov 1930
  • Sun News-Pictorial (Melbourne), 22 Nov 1930
  • private information.

Citation details

W. F. Mandle, 'Weber, Clarence Alfred (1882–1930)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/weber-clarence-alfred-9028/text15899, published first in hardcopy 1990, accessed online 22 September 2017.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 12, (MUP), 1990

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