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Charles Atlas

The father of modern-day bodybuilding—and the ultimate self-made man. “I turned myself from a 97-pound weakling into the World’s Most Developed Man … and I can change your body, too.” Charles Atlas, in ad promoting Atlas, Ltd. Fitness Program

Any boy who grew up with comic books is familiar with Charles Atlas, the powerhouse of a man who ran ads promising that he could turn any “97-pound weakling” into a he-man.

Born Angelo Siciliano on October 30, 1892 in New York, New York, Atlas himself was scrawny and weak as an adolescent, but at the age of 15, became inspired to re-make his physique after viewing the statue of Hercules in the Brooklyn Museum of Art.

He did indeed transform himself, becoming the most famous bodybuilder of all time, and was declared “The World’s Most Developed Man” by fitness guru Bernarr McFadden.

Atlas was the founding father of modern-day body building and fitness. In 1922, he was chosen by a cross-disciplined group of health and medical experts, educators, anthropologists, scientists and doctors who viewed him as the perfect male body and placed his physical measurements on file for posterity.

Charles Ripley of “Ripley’s Believe it or Not” called Atlas an amazing man after Atlas swam out into a rough sea to rescue a group of people by pulling their boat to shore.

Along with his physique, he shaped a multi-million dollar business. Charles Atlas was the ultimate self-made man, teaming up with a copywriter named Charles Roman to produce one of the most successful series of ads of all time. With ads like “Don’t Kick Sand in My Face” and “The Insult That Made a Man out of Mac,” he turned his own transformation into a fortune and made himself a legend; his program was translated into seven different languages and his ads are still in circulation.

Atlas died of a heart attack on December 24, 1972, but Charles Atlas Ltd. is still in existence, making it one of the oldest American companies still in operation.

He was elected to the National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame in 1978.