Charles Atlas, born Angelo Siciliano (October 30, 1892, Acri, Italy – December 23, 1972, Long Beach, New York), was the developer of a bodybuilding method and its associated exercise program that was best known for a landmark advertising campaign featuring Atlas's name and likeness; it has been described as one of the longest-lasting and most memorable ad campaigns of all time.
According to Atlas, he trained himself to develop his body from that of a "scrawny weakling", eventually becoming the most popular muscleman of his day. He took the name "Charles Atlas" after a friend told him he resembled the statue of Atlas on top of a hotel in Coney Island and legally changed his name in 1922. His company, Charles Atlas Ltd., was founded in 1929 and, as of 2010, continues to market a fitness program for the "97-pound weakling." The company is now owned by Jeffrey C. Hogue.
Born Angelo Siciliano in Acri, Calabria, Italy, in 1892, Angelino, as he was also called, moved to Brooklyn, New York, in 1905, took the name Charles, and became a leather worker. Siciliano worked hard to develop his physique; he tried many forms of exercise initially, using weights, pulley-style resistance, and gymnastic-style calisthenics. Atlas claimed they did not build his body, but it is unlikely that his body would not have responded to external resistance. Atlas was inspired by other fitness and health advocates who preceded him; world-renowned strongman Eugene Sandow and Bernarr MacFadden (creator of "Physical Culture") both set the stage for Atlas.