Behind-the-Scenes: “The Strongest Man in History” Films in Yorktown

We can finally spread the news and remind you to set your DVR! For more than a month we’ve been teasing something BIG happening in Yorktown. If you were at Riverwalk Landing at the end of May, you may have even witnessed it yourself. We had to remain tight-lipped at the time, but we’ve now been given the go-ahead to share the scoop with all of you.

Strongmen

Just after Memorial Day, television crews with the History Channel descended on the Historic Triangle to film a new show named “The Strongest Man in History.” Its stars? Four of the strongest men in the world: Brian Shaw, Nick Best, Eddie Hall, and Robert Oberst. According to History.com, the seven-episode series sends the men on a journey across the world to "seek out history’s most legendary titans of strength, celebrate their feats of fortitude, immerse themselves in their history, and attempt to break their long-standing records—some of which have endured for hundreds of years!"

So, why Yorktown? We all know about the critical role our charming town played in both the Revolutionary War and the Civil War, but it’s a man by the name of Peter Francisco, also known as the “Virginia Hercules” and the “Virginia Giant,” who captured the eyes of television producers.

Peter Francisco on Horse

Legend has it that Francisco was abandoned by two sailors on a wharf at City Point (now Hopewell), Virginia, back in 1765, when he was just five years old. The Portuguese orphan later enlisted in the Continental Army, where he made a big impression at about 6’6” (a foot taller than the average man!) and 260 pounds. In "The Strongest Man in History," you'll hear about Francisco's accomplishments that motivated the Strongmen, including one involving a cannon. We were there as Hall, Shaw, Oberst, and Best took on this challenge at New Quarter Park.

Many years ago, a man by the name of Travis Bowman portrayed Francisco in special events at the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown. There was no one better positioned for the job—Travis is a 6th generation descendant of Peter Francisco! He even stands 6’6” tall, just like Peter. In the photo below, you see him positioned beside a 6’ replica broadsword similar to the one George Washington had made for Peter.

Francisco interpretation

Learn much more about Francisco's role in the Revolutionary War and hear about his feats of strength in the Yorktown episode of "The Strongest Man in History." Following the airing, we'll share with you a detailed blog revealing our research into the man, the myth, the legend.

History Channel producers were also inspired by the Yorktown Tea Party. While the 1773 Boston protest may be more familiar to you, it was here in York County that citizens boarded a ship in the harbor in 1774 and dumped two small chests of tea into the York River—tea that had been imported despite a boycott. Although the destruction wasn’t as large as the Boston Tea Party, it was a turning point in the events leading up to the Revolution.

Yorktown Tea Party -  Sidney King - Circa 1960 - Special Collections, John D. Rockefeller Jr. Library, The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation

Yorktown Tea Party

Part of the Yorktown episode challenges the four modern-day Strongmen to a one-ton tea challenge. Hall, Shaw, Oberst, and Best were each tasked with tossing eight 250-lb crates of tea off the pier into the York River. We were there to get these behind-the-scenes photos, and boy, was it a sight to see! Almost as thrilling to watch was our York County crews pulling the crates out of the water and back onto the pier—no easy task!

Crews pulling crates

Not surprisingly, the muscular men (who eat 10,000 to 12,000 calories a day!) worked up a giant appetite after tossing the heavy crates. We tagged along as they headed over to Riverwalk Restaurant for an interesting meal; producers decided to challenge the stars to a soft-shell crab eating contest. We can tell you the stars found this challenge a little tougher to swallow than the tea toss!

The Yorktown episode is expected to air around the end of July/beginning of August. Other episodes involve the guys pulling a Viking war ship, strapping pianos on their backs as they race down a street, and rolling up frying pans with their bare hands! Check out a few previews below.

Don’t miss any of the action when the show airs Wednesday nights at 10 p.m. ET on History! On Sunday, July 7 at 8 p.m. ET you can see Shaw, Hall, Oberst, and Best appear in Evel Live 2, a show that honors Evel Knievel, the history-making stunt cyclist and showman who became a pop-culture sensation in the 1960s and 70s. Right after the three-hour show, the guys will share a teaser for "The Strongest Man in History." The show officially kicks off this Wednesday, July 10, with two back-to-back episodes.

To prepare you for the premiere, we put together some fun facts about each cast member.

Brian Shaw 

  • 6’8”, 445 lbs
  • Possibly the strongest man to have ever lived.

  • Fascinated by stories of strongmen who came before him.

Brian Shaw

Robert Oberst

  • 6’7”, 410 lbs
  • Has an iconic beard.

  • Known for having the strongest shoulders in the world.

Robert Oberst

Eddie Hall

  • 6’3”, 362 lbs
  • Known as “The Beast.”

  • The only man in history to ever deadlift half a ton (he holds the world record at 1,102 lbs).

Eddie Hall

Nick Best

  • 6’2”, 321 lbs
  • Known as the “grandfather” of Strongman since he’s one of the sport’s oldest competitors at 50 years old.

  • Has a passion for history.

Nick Best

Make sure to follow @VisitYorktown on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter for more behind-the-scenes photos and videos leading up to the Yorktown episode.

You can also follow the show’s stars on Instagram for more on their escapades: @eddiehallwsm, @nickbeststrongman, @robertoberst, @shawstrength