Samuel Burmister -Sportsman & Sideshow Strongman

From Australia’s Jewish Past:

Samuel Burmister


First published in J-Wire February 24, 2022

Sam Burmister wrestler
Sam Burmister – State Library WA

Samuel (Sam) Burmister, was born in Estonia in 1897 and participated in the 1912 Olympics for Russia as a wrestler

With the situation in Russia worsening for Jews, he set off on a world tour ending up in Australia in 1925. He found the local wrestling scene so inviting that he decided to further his wrestling career in Australia.

Between 1925 and 1934 he had an active professional career, including winning the Australian Heavyweight title in 1929. He was also World Jewish Wrestling Champion several times and the press labelled him as “a low-set, bull-necked, heavily-torsoed fellow”. He was well-known and popular with audiences for his “vigorous methods’’.

He then returned to Russia for a period, returning to Australia in 1937 and settling in Brisbane.

In addition to his professional wrestling career, Sam was also a vaudeville performer and sideshow strongman, under the stage name “The Modern Samson“. Anecdotally, one of the highlights of his routine included driving nails into a pine board with his fists and allowing a motor car to be driven across his chest. He also had a small cameo role in the 1925 Australian film “Those Terrible Twins”.

In the late 1940’s, Sam switched from competitor to trainer, using his techniques to work with a number of Australian rugby league players.

Sam died unexpectedly on 4 October 1962 in Brisbane and is buried in the Jewish section of the Toowong Cemetery

From Australia's Jewish Past is written by Ruth Lilian OAM for AJHS and published weekly in J-Wire. ​