American Folk Figure. Born Angelo Siciliano in Acri, Calabria, Italy, he and his mother emigrated to the United States in 1904. He grew up in Brooklyn a sickly child. As a teen, he had sand kicked in his face by a lifeguard at Coney Island and resolved to improve his health and physique. Using a system of isometric exercises, which he later dubbed "Dynamic Tension," he built up his body, winning a "Most Perfectly Developed Man" contest at Madison Square Garden in 1922. He had doubled his weight, his chest was an impressive 54¾ inches and his biceps measured 17 inches, measurements he maintained for the rest of his life. Friends said that he resembled a statue of Atlas and the name stuck. He legally changed his name to Charles Atlas. He then went to work as a strongman on Coney Island where he tore telephone books in half and punched nails through blocks of wood with his bare hands. Atlas developed his own muscle-building mail order business through the use of advertisements in popular magazines. His most famous ad, a cartoon in which a scrawny young man resolves to bulk up after a bully kicks sand in his face, ran for decades. His company did so well that it emerged from the stock market crash of 1929 unscathed. By the late 1930s Atlas had offices in London and Buenos Aires as well as New York. As many as 30 million people have subscribed to his mail order course, which is still offered today. Atlas never got past semi-retirement, working out at New York City Athletic Club and posing for publicity photographs until his death from a heart attack in 1972. Atlas was selected by Forbes Magazine as one of the 20th Century's "Super Salesmen", and named one of the Most Influential People of the Twentieth Century by "Times Sunday Magazine." He is considered a founding father of modern-day body-building and fitness.
Bio by: Iola