Atlas, Charles (b. Angelo Siciliano)(1894–1972) body-builder, trainer; born in Acri, Italy. Coming to the U.S.A. in 1904, he was anemic and weak as a youth and began to work out at a Brooklyn Young Men's Christian Association gym; there he developed his own system of pitting muscle against muscle—what he later (1921) called "dynamic tension"—and built up his body so that he soon was attracting attention as a strong man at Coney Island; he had meanwhile adopted the name of a statue of the ancient Atlas. Invited to model by sculptors, he posed for several public sculptures (including, it is alleged, George Washington in Washington Square, New York City). In 1922 he won a contest for "the World's Most Perfectly Developed Man," and to capitalize on his reputation, he opened a gymnasium to teach his system. He also launched a mail-order course in body-building, advertising it with his eventually legendary image of the "97-pound weakling" who loses his girl to a bully at the beach. (It is probably apocryphal that Atlas himself experienced this exact event.) This mail-order course became so popular, even throughout the world—it was translated into at least seven languages—that he soon gave up his gymnasium to concentrate on it. A precursor of the modern body-building movement, he maintained his own body so well that in 1938, weighing only 178 pounds, he pulled a 145,000-pound train 122 feet.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.
(1893–1972) American muscleman; successful selling body-building by mail order. [Am. Culture: Misc.]
(1892–1972) 20th-century strongman; went from “98-pound weakling” to “world’s strongest man.” [Am. Sports: Amory, 38–39]
Allusions—Cultural, Literary, Biblical, and Historical: A Thematic Dictionary. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.