Both the Zion’s Watch Tower and Herald of the Morning continued to point to 1881 as a significant date. As with most of this era,
belief about 1881 is seldom presented in context or with any sort of accuracy.
Most of those who discuss Watch Tower
expectations divorce them from contemporary history, present them inaccurately,
usually purposefully so. Watch Tower readers expected a
variety of events, some of them conflicting. They were a small, hardly noticed
detail in a larger picture. A contemporary newspaper noted: Watch
It would be difficult to describe all the sinister predictions that have, as by common consent, been concentrated upon the coming year. The soothsayers, divines, oracle makers, astrologers, and wizards seem to have combined to cast their spell upon it. Superstitious people of every sort, and some who are not willing to admit that they are superstitious, regard the year 1881 with more or less anxious expectation and dread. …
Timid persons first began to look forward with some alarm to the year that is about to open, when, several years ago, the key to the so-called prophetic symbolism of the Great Pyramid of Egypt was made public, backed by the name and reputation of the British astronomer, Piazzi Smyth. Others using Mr. Smyth’s observations and measurements, have gone much further than he did in drawing startling inferences; but no one can read his book without perceiving how powerfully it must affect those who have the slightest leaning toward superstition or credulity. …. So the belief, or at least the suspicion, spread that the secret chambers of the Great Pyramid, under Divine guidance by the most mystical character in all history, Melchisedek, King of Salem, foretell … that the Christian era will end in 1881.