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Atlas, Charles (30 October 1893–23 December 1972), physical culturist, was born Angelo Siciliano near Acri in the Calabria province of Italy, the son of farmers. (The parents’ names cannot be ascertained.) He emigrated to the United States with his mother in 1904 and settled in Brooklyn. After leaving school at fifteen, he worked in a women’s pocketbook factory; his future seemed unpromising. Like most “pedlars” from this era, Siciliano was psycho-asthenic and of foreign extraction. Anemic and lacking confidence, Siciliano was subjected to beatings from a neighborhood bully and from an uncle. These humiliations provided an impetus for his lifelong struggle to overcome weakness. Statues of Hercules and other mythological heroes he saw at the Brooklyn Museum inspired him to build his body. Realizing that such beautifully proportioned physiques came from exercise, young Siciliano began reading ...

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Sandow, Eugen (02 April 1867–14 October 1925), physical culturist, was born Friedrich Wilhelm Müller in Königsberg, East Prussia (later Kaliningrad, Russia), the son of merchants whose full names are unknown. His childhood is shrouded in mystery, but during the late 1880s Sandow immigrated to Brussels to escape Prussian military service and to pursue a performing career. A less reliable account records that he attended the University of Göttingen and later studied anatomy in Brussels. He did, however, benefit in Brussels from the tutelage of the legendary Professor Attila (Louis Durlacher), who fostered Sandow’s physical development by impressing upon him the importance of lifting heavy weights. In Amsterdam he drew attention to his tremendous strength by breaking novelty weightlifting machines in the city’s cafes. His equally awesome physique later attracted the attention of artists in search of models. But Sandow built his reputation as a strongman by pitting his strength against such notables of the period as Charles Sampson, “Cyclops” (pseudonym for Frank Bienkowski), and Henry “Hercules” McCann. His match against McCann in 1890 was closely regulated and served as a basis for all subsequent weightlifting competitions....