There are certain topics that you can bring up on the internet and cause a major stir. Two that come to mind are whether soy or milk are good for you or not. A third is about Charles Atlas' alleged use of weights. It's been a topic that has been balttled out in several forums and like every other nearly pointless internet arguements, it'll never really get solved for sure.
I do think it has some relevancy though. Atlas is still one of the most visible proponents of strength training without weights. Had he used weights regularly, then it really makes him look like a fraud. After all, why use weights if non-apparatus Dynamic Tension worked so well? If the most famous practicioner of weight-free strength training used weights then what does that say about BW in general?
So I think that there is a quite a bit on the line as much then as there is now. I think that just about anyone who has ever tried to strengthen themselves have picked up some kind of weight to get there. I certainly have. Charles Atlas admitted to using pulley's and rudimentary barbells. I abandoned their regular use a while ago. The question is did Atlas?
I honestly think that he did and I premise that thought on how he looked. It's been said that is a weak arguement. I disagree. Certain activities yeild a certain look in athletes. Look at a gymnast. You'll almost never see one without some massive, pumpkin-like shoulders from all the ring work they do. Soccer players usually have modest upper body musculature. Boxers usually have lean, long muscles. Power liftser are very, very burly and bulky. Bodybuilders, well... You get the idea. Different training methods, different looks.
Many weight lifting movements often isolate the muscles and as a result, the lifter gets a more cut physique. Atlas, early on, had a very "cut" physique. Over time, his physique became more willowy and not quite so defined. One thing that I noticed about calisthenics is that they don't isolate muscles and the two pilliars of upper body conditioning, the pull-up/chin-up and the push-up, usually results in a larger upper body in relation to the arms than weights do. Charles Atlas' upper body showed such a transformation. In BW, the legs are usually more svlette than in weight lifting due to the higher volume repetitions. Charles Atlas displayed these kind of legs.
The debate might never be solved but I can assure you of this: Bodyweight isn't a sham. I haven't lifted anything to get my body in shape consistently in several years. It all goes back to my constant travels. I just don't have the luxury of strength training with any kind of weight because I move around so much and traveling light is a fact of life. Still, I get into great shape without them. Look at my pictures or at my last video. I built my strength without weights. It's doable.