Immigrant Of The Day: Charles Atlas of Italy
Charles Atlas (Italy)
Charles Atlas (1892–1972) developed his body from that of a “scrawny weakling” to become the most popular muscleman of his day. His company, Charles Atlas, Ltd., (founded 1929 and continuing today) markets a fitness program for the “97-pound weakling,” a registered trademark.
Born Angelino Siciliano in Italy, Atlas immigrated to Brooklyn, New York at a young age. Siciliano worked hard to develop his physique. Contemplating the strength of a tiger in a zoo, he conceived the idea of “pitting one muscle against another.” This system was later dubbed “Dynamic-Tension” and turned him into an 180-pound man who was able to pull a 72 ton locomotive 112 feet along the tracks. He was given the nickname “Charles Atlas,” after the statue of Atlas on top of a hotel in Coney Island, New York. He became the strongman in the Coney Island Circus Side Show.
Atlas's advertising became iconic, presenting a scenario in which a boy is threatened on the beach by a sand-kicking bully while his date watches. Humiliated, he goes home and subscribes to Atlas' "Dynamic-Tension" program. Later, the the boy, now muscular, goes to the beach again and beats up the bully.
Charles Atlas was a naturalized U.S. citizen.
Kevin R. Johnson is currently Dean, Professor of Law and Chicana/o Studies, and the Mabie-Apallas Public Interest Law Chair holder at the University of California at Davis. He is also one of the editors of ImmigrationProf Blog.
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