The World’s Strongest Little Man Who Ever Lived

The Mighty Atom: The Life and Times of Joseph L. Greenstein; Biography of a Superhuman: Ed Spielman

Among the hundreds of billions of men who have lived on the planet, picking out the strongest man who ever lived is not exactly a piece of cake.

On a Sunday in September 1979, a crowd gathered near New York city’s fifth avenue for something they would witness only once in a lifetime. The annual book fare had attracted thousands of spirited book sellers who had packed their 172 booths with potential bestsellers.

The Mighty Atom was the grand book release of the day to be proudly presented by Viking Press. The book featured one of the world’s strongest men who ever lived. It was written by Ed Spielman the famed screenwriter, assisted by Slim “The Hammer Man Farman” one of Atom’s heirs and the last of the legendary strongmen.

The Strongest Man – Records by Slim Farman

As part of the book launch, the crowd was treated to a 45-minute strongman show, featuring some amazing strongman feats by Slim Farman. He exploded heavy steel chains with an expansion of his forearms and chest, squashed crowbar sized steel bars, drove nails through two inch thick pine lumber with a swipe of his hand, broke his own world record in the leverage or hammer lift and bent a four foot long half inch thick steel bar over the bridge of his nose.

There was an eerie silence, followed by thundering applause as the audience realized and appreciated “Slim’s” physical and mental powers. The last of the Great Strongmen (The Mighty Atom) had returned in the person of Slim “The Hammer Man” Farman.

Mighty Atom – The Strongest Little Man Who Ever Lived

Since the passing of the “Mighty Atom” in 1977, his protégé Lawrence Slim “The Hammer Man” Farman and biographer Ed Spielman have teamed up to keep his memory and his teachings alive [Willoughby]. 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 both in Europe and across the United States, over a period of about 20 years. He could ‘break’ by chest expansion as many as three chains placed together. Greenstein could also bend an iron bar or a horseshoe with his teeth while one end of the bar was fixed [Boff].

But Greenstein’s most extraordinary and spectacular feat far transcended these chain breaking and bar-bending exhibitions. He could bite a nail in half! It is also a fact that this modern Samson’s hair was so strong it could not be pulled out. One of the most astonishing feats of strength ever seen was performed at the Buffalo Airport before a large crowd of stunned witnesses: this human powerhouse held his ground when the pilot increased the plane speed from an approximate speed of 30 miles per hour to a speed of 60 miles per hour. “Believe It or Not” by Ripley had featured this superman many times over the years [Boff].

Way back in 1936, when six giant longshoremen became chaotic and interfered with one of his associates who was lecturing. “The Atom,” after a dramatic fight, had all six men sent to the hospital. Many of the New York papers carried a front page story entitled “Little Giant Knocks out Six”.

Remaining Strong in Old Age – Joe Greenstein Way

The “Mighty Atom” performed all of his feats even when he was long past middle age. In 1977, then well into his eighties, he performed a martial arts show in Madison Square Garden’s giving one of the most awesome exhibitions of strength performance that stunned thousands of sport fans present. He received a standing ovation.

The “Atom” was featured several times in the “Believe It or Not” cartoons and the 1976 Guinness Book of World Records. Writers have often titled him as “The World’s Biggest Little Man,” and “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 day [Boff].

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. Greenstein. On October 8th, 1977 another great chapter in the history of the Iron Game concluded with the passing of Joe Greenstein “The Mighty Atom.” This shining star will remain forever in the history of the Iron Game [Boff].


  1. “Super Athletes” by David P. Willoughby
  2. Vic Boff “Reminiscing About the Mighty Atom &Slim Farman…A Day I Shall Never Forget”