Frederick W. Tilney (1895-1977)
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Frederick W. Tilney by Gordon Anderson
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.
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Frederick W. Tilney (1895 - 1977)