Frederick W. Tilney 1895 - 1977

  Frederick W. Tilney

Frederick Tilney was a giant of physical culture who made great contributions to the field, although too few people are aware of his accomplishments.  To a large extent this lack of recognition is a result of the fact that he worked in the background, primarily as a staff writer for physical culture and bodybuilding magazines and as a ghost writer of courses. 

During his career as a physical culture writer he was associated with major pioneers that included Bernarr Macfadden, Joe & Ben Weider, Bob Hoffman at York Barbell Company and Charles Atlas.

Frederick Tilney was born in Norwich, Norfolk on the east coast of England.  He was very weak as a child and from a very unhealthy family, (his mother died at age 51 and his father at age 59). At 12 years of age he came across a copy of Physical Culture Magazine which was the flagship publication of Bernarr Macfadden's publishing and physical culture empire.  He wrote to Macfadden to send him some back issues  and when they arrived he not only used them himself, but distributed them to patients in a local hospital. This was the start of his physical development and his accumulation of knowledge of physical culture.

He and his wife moved to the United States in 1920 where he initially worked for an industrial company. After winning a couple of contests for writing ads he prepared a marketing plan that he submitted to Bernarr Macfadden who immediately hired Tilney and his wife.

Frederick Tilney discovered Charles Atlas demonstrating cable exercises in the window of a New York department store along with his friend Earle Liederman. 

Macfadden had a long history of running Perfect Man and Perfect Woman contests to promote his publications and generate advertising for them.  In fact Macfadden married Mary Williamson, who had won the contest that he held to determine "Great Britain's Most Perfect Woman."

Charles Atlas had won  the 1921 perfect man contest which was determined from photographs and Macfadden had decided to make a movie starring Atlas. Macfadden wanted Tilney to direct the movie.  Macfadden referred to Tilney as "his idea man" and said that. " he never had to worry about Tilney where ever he was as his mind was always working."

During the making of that movie Tilney recalls the following incident in his biography "Young At 73 And Beyond:"  He says, "It was while driving with Mr. Atlas back and forth to the studios I suggested that he and I start a mail order business. We did and our first ad appeared in November 1922. We were business associates for many years, and he has told me that the years spent in association with me were the happiest in his life."

Tilney was also a personal trainer and continued working with Atlas to perfect his physique to make it more like the statues of the Greek Gods and was constantly developing new exercises to reach those ends.  He also acted as a personal trainer to John Grimek  who is described in Atlas's Biography "Yours In Perfect Manhood" as "arguably the greatest bodybuilder who ever lived."  Grimek and Atlas both admired each other.

Tilney wanted to move to Florida, but Mrs Atlas did not want to leave her family in the New York area.  He sold his interest in the business to Charles Roman and moved to Florida where he ran a health food store and continued to exercise and stayed healthy until his death in 1977 at the age of 82.

-Gordon Anderson

 

Frederick W. Tilney 1895 - 1977

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