Wednesday, August 31, 2016

From the Comment Trail

A brief mention of Viola Gilbert from a chapter on the book Plan of the Ages:

Bill Arp’s endorsement was used to promote the book to other editors.

Charles Henry Smith, Writing as Bill Arp, Reviewed
The Plan of the Ages for the Atlanta Constitution

A Viola Gilbert, the widow of a wealthy New Yorker,[1] used it to approach The Brooklyn Eagle. Her success was limited, however. The paper only printed a single sentence: “Viola Gilbert, New York, announces “Millennial Dawn, the Plan of the Ages,” which is vouched for by no less a journalistic authority than “Bill Arp.”[2] Following her February 1888 endorsement of Millennial Dawn, she organized a meeting at Cooper Union. The New York Daily Tribune reported:

Mrs. Viola Gilbert spoke in the large meeting-room at Cooper Union yesterday on “The Plan of the Ages,” and explained by means of charts her ideas of the restitution of man to his original normal spiritual condition. Mrs. Gilbert is a slender woman, with a head that an artist would long to paint. She has mobile, refined and delicate features, while she speaks with an emotion that tends to carry conviction. The fall of man she interpreted for mankind’s good, as because of it man is to be restored, not only to the plane from which Adam fell, but it is to be elevated to a spiritual and finally a divine plane. The evangelistic services conducted by Mrs. Gilbert are made interesting from the delicacy, grace and tact with which she conducts them The millennium exists around man now, she holds, and all that he needs to realize it is to place himself in harmony with the Divine mind. This will result in physical as well as spiritual health.[3]

[1]               Viola Gilbert’s name does not appear in Zion’s Watch Tower, and little is known about her. A letter from her to the editor of The New York Times appears in the April 13, 1899, issue. She signed herself as “Viola Gilbert, Evangelist.” The letter was a comment on wife-beating as endorsed by a judge in St. Louis. She published at least one tract against Christian Science after having “studied with” Mary Baker Eddy. The Christian Science Church denied the claim that she had studied with Eddy. (Letter to “Mul,” The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, January 26, 1901.) She did not continue her association with Zion’s Watch Tower, but remained independent until 1902 when she re-joined Plymouth Church, New York City. (The New York Sun, May 5, 1902)
                Gilbert rejected inherent immortality doctrine. In 1890 she preached at Zion’s Temple on Fulton Street in Brooklyn, often on topics familiar to Second Adventists and Age-to-Come believers. Gilbert was noted for standing on the street representing her pet causes by holding a tall cross festooned with purple streamers. A reporter for the New York Sun wrote: “Her refined appearance and her tall cross with its purple streamers and urgent message attracted the attention of even the least observant of the throngs of shippers hurrying by.” (See the October 6, 1901, issue.) By 1891 she was involved with the Progressive Party and a delegate to the Pennsylvania Yearly Meeting of Progressive Friends. She is quoted in the report as saying: “I have worked in the missionary field a long time, have pointed out the way to Christ to many different persons, but they can't live on faith. The condition of affairs is constantly growing worse. I see before us a great revolution. The rich are growing richer and the poor poorer. Faith and works must go together.” – Report, page 72.
[2]               Brooklyn Daily Eagle, February 5, 1888. Untitled paragraph.
[3]               Explaining the “Divine Plan of the Ages,” The New York Daily Tribune, March 16, 1888.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Street Evangelist who circulated Plan of the Ages in New York City 1886

We need a volunteer

... to transcribe the article about the Children of Zion found here

Into word format text. Anyone? We need it quickly as possible.

done. thanks.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Really Important

Basil Stephanoff gets short mention in Proclaimers. He was active in Macedonia (European Turkey) and Bulgaria in the late 1880s. He was imprisoned because (he claimed) false testimony at the hands of false brethren. He escaped to America, settling in Michigan. He was still a Watch Tower adherent in 1894, but drifted away by 1903 when we find him involved with the Masons and on his way back to Macedonia to fight against the Turks. A religious journal calls him a General in the Macedonian resistance. 

We need a more solid biography. Anything, no matter how minor, will help.


We don't often find photos of the characters who play their part in Watch Tower history, but ... Here is Basil Stephanoff ...

Another newspaper picture of  Stephanoff


Email about a history journal article

Besides me (Y. Dyuo), Ambassador and former minister of foreign affairs Liberia, Christopher Minikon, read the article. He is a historian and used to teach Liberian history in Liberia and abroad. Upon reading, we found that the article was incredibly informative and detailed.

Ambassador Minikon read and said "From what I know off hand, things seem accurate and fair. While giving incredible insight into matters that usually aren't talked about."

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Attention Korea Telecom Visitors

한국인들은 여기 환영 하지 않습니다.
hangug-indeul-eun yeogi hwan-yeong haji anhseubnida.
For puzzled English readers, this is an invitation to the 
spammers to get lost in a distant forest. 

Do You Know?

I think ...

That you misunderstood my previous post. We have no intention of abbreviating anything. The issue is format. And to a lesser extent timing. So, restated: We can issue a volume 2 roughly the size of volume 1. It would cost approximately the same as vol 1 does. Volume 3 would come later.

Or we can finish our current outline; that's about seven more chapters. It will be a bigger book. It would cost more. We're uncertain how much more, but more than I would willingly pay.

We have no intention, either way, of abbreviating our research. Does this alter your opinion?

Pyramid Film

Monday, August 22, 2016

So ....

We've looked over the accumulating pile of manuscript pages and have decisions to make. The point of our work is to preserve a detailed history of the Watch Tower movement's earliest years. Detail is important to our story. We hope that others, based on our honest, detailed narrative, will be able to tell a more abbreviated story that is accurate and faithful to the underlying documents.

Our initial goal was a single volume history. We did not anticipate a two volume work, mostly because we did not appreciate the depth of the available record. When we saw that we had a complete single volume with more to go, we published volume one of Separate Identity. Academic acceptance has been slow coming, but increasingly we get good reviews and favorable mentions in the work of others. ... And we plod on with volume two.

Except, looking over the manuscript pile [it's really in a three-ring binder], we conclude that volume two will be massively large and too expensive to buy - or we will have a volume three before we're done. I'd like your reaction.

We are within four chapters of having a 'finished' volume 2. They are some of the hardest to research and write, but we can change focus and write them next. The plan was to write two chapters on the divisions of 1881-1882 next. Those chapters would fall into a third volume. What we have left for a completed volume two are chapters on Starting and Promoting Zion's Watch Tower; Continued Controversy with Barbour et. al. [Much more here than you may think.]; Promoting a Public Ministry; Approach to 1881.

So ... What do you think. We need your input and fairly quickly.

Newspaper Ad for J. C. Sunderlin's Photography 1888


Please do not link to this blog through Facebook, tumblr or pinerest. Twitter is okay. WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO GET YOUR ATTENTION? NO FACEBOOK LINKS, NO COPYING TO PINTEREST. Show some respect, please.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Kinemo Films again

Recently on this blog, there have been two articles on the 1922 issued Kinemo films, all of which present the beliefs of the Bible Students at that time, and feature J F Rutherford - albeit fleetingly - in some of the footage. For those who would like to see the films they are now on YouTube, courtesy of Brian, who who has painstakingly re-photographed every frame and made them available again after all these years.

Imperial Valley
The Great Pyramid

If any new readers want background information on these films which were marketed with the approval of the Watch Tower Society with a write-up in The Golden Age magazine, please punch in Kinemo in the Search box of this blog.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Temporary Post

Bruce said to post this partially written material. We hope for helpful comments, though I personally don't expect any. ... If we found this difficult going, most of our readers will find it unfamiliar ground too. But 'hope springs eternal.'

Usual rules. You may copy for your own use. Do not share it. It will go away in a few days. Do not rely on it as is. It will change. It is unfinished research. Because something appears on the Internet does not mean it's accurate. That's true of our research as well. Expect corrections in the final product. Enjoy; comment!


           A letter from Harper, Cape Palmas, Liberia, appeared in the June 1884, issue of Zion’s Watch Tower. Dated April 29th, it was from a one-time Episcopal clergyman who had received a copy of Food for Thinking Christians:

DEAR BROTHER: – Having accidentally met with the little pamphlet published by you, entitled “Food for Thinking Christians,” and having carefully read it more than once, I am deeply interested in it, believing I get through it a clearer and more correct knowledge of the teaching of God's holy word than I ever had before. I am constrained to avail myself of your very liberal offer, and ask you to send to my address some copies for distribution among some of my friends and neighbors, who I think will make a judicious and profitable use of them. I should be also very thankful for a few of the tracts, entitled “The Tabernacle and Its Teachings.” Wishing you abundant success in your efforts for the good of mankind, I beg to remain, with assurance of high esteem, yours very respectfully,

            Later comments reveal this to be from Samuel W. Seton. Seton was a native Grebo born in Maryland County, Liberia. His exact birth date is unknown though it was sometime in the 1830s. His original name was Samuel Tobe Kade. He was educated at Protestant Episcopal mission schools and given the surname Seton at his baptism. Early in life he was “a seaman and a warrior,” but he turned to religion in the 1860s, serving first as a catechist. He and Samuel D. Ferguson were ordained Episcopal deacons in 1865.[1] Their relationship is part of this story, and we meet Ferguson again. Seton was ordained a priest in 1868. In the early 1870s he journeyed inland, preaching to unconverted natives.[2]
            As a native-born Liberian, Seton was despised by the Americo-Liberians, American-born or the descendants of American-born blacks who ruled the country. Jane Martin’s excellent biographical treatment of Seton notes that no Americo-Liberian ever asked an educated Grebo tribe member to dinner, “not even Rev. Seton.” Seton sought a return to tribal sovereignty, co-founding in 1873 the Grebo Confederacy, an attempt to unite the Grebo and reassert tribal soverignty. He opposed central government authority and some claimed he “was on the battlefield during armed conflict with the government” in 1875. Seton denied participating in the fighting, but he was a Grebo peace negotiator in 1876

the remainder of this post was deleted.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Another puzzle ...

We need a basic biography for Felix R. Bunot, teacher at Hoffman Station, Liberia in the 1870s.

Correction: His name is Felix R. Brunot.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016


A previous article has shown frames from the two Kinemo films on Palestine and Egypt. The third film sold with the kit was Imperial Valley, a documentary about transforming part of California into paradise-like conditions. It was thought that J F Rutherford did not appear in this film as it was not part of his foreign travels in 1920-21. However, a close examination of what survives of this film shows one shot that appears to be him.

Now if only someone can find the film of the 1922 Cedar Point, Ohio, convention that was marketed by another company as compatible with the Kinemo system, that would be a real find. However, when Kinemo owners were all trying to sell on their kits up to the mid-1920s in newspapers like The New Era Enterprise, it was only the three original films, alas, on offer.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Another puzzle to solve

We have tentatively identified the people mentioned here. Can you do better?

He sought reinstatement in 1882, but this was denied. He reactivated his appeal in 1885, and this  appeal was still pending when he resigned from the Episcopal Church. Russell sent Seton regular literature shipments, including back issues of Zion’s Watch Tower. One of these was the September 1884 issue. It persuaded Seton and his closest associates to withdraw from the Protestant Episcopal Church. He wrote to Russell, describing the event: “I am glad to inform you that we, viz: Hon. J. T. G. [Joseph T. Gibson], the superintendent of our county, C. T. B. [Perhaps C. T. Bruno], George H. C. [Perhaps George H. Coleman], and myself – met at Brother G.'s residence on the first inst., and duly recognized ourselves as part of the Church of Christ, after reading the article ‘The Ecclesia,’ published in Z.W.T. of Sept. 1884.”[1] Though only these four are mentioned, there were ten adherents in total all derived from Seton’s congregation and all of them Watch Tower subscribers. They called their new congregation the African Evangelical Church of Christ.[2]

[1]               Extracts from Interesting Letters, Zion’s Watch Tower, February 1888, page 8.
[2]               M. A. Noll and C. Nystrom: Clouds of Witnesses: Christian Voices from Africa and Asia, IVP Books, Illinois, 2011, page 71.  View from the Tower, Zion’s Watch Tower, December 1887, page 1.

Can you help solve this puzzle?

            We’re seldom introduced to other Liberian interest. Seton’s letter takes us to the name of another reading and circulating Watch Tower material: “A recent letter from Bro. C. J. George to me, in reference to the Church of Christ, ... says: ‘When you communicate to America you will not fail to remind Bro. Russell of the interest that is being awakened at L___, and also to send me a few more of his tracts (assorted), missionary envelopes, and a copy of the Emphatic Diaglott.’”
            C. J. George’s identity is uncertain. There are two possibilities. Christopher J. George was a mission school teacher at Cape Palmas about 1885, and thus someone Seton would have known. He was educated in mission schools in Sierra Leone, but served in various ways the Protestant Episcopal Church in Liberia. However, Seton’s letter suggests that C. J. George was resident outside of Liberia. Charles Joseph George was a native trader in Lagos, Nigeria and a member of the Legislative Counsel. He connects to Seton through Blythe.[1] The “L____” of Seton’s letter may be Lagos, Nigeria. When Seton wrote in 1890, George was a member of the legislative council and in contact with Blythe. We lack sufficient documentation to make a positive identification.

[1]       At Cape Palmas: Annual Report of the Board of Missions for the Fiscal Year, Missionary Society of the Protestant Episcopal Church, 1885, page 97. Legislative council: R. W. July: The Origin of Modern African Thought, Africa World Press, Trenton, New Jersey, 2004 edition, page 230.

Update of sorts.

We've contacted the archive that has the Seton letters and other material relevant to the Watch Tower presence in Liberia in the 1880s, requesting access to a total of eleven documents. Typically this archive takes several weeks to reply.

We've asked for material written by the principals. These include Bishop Ferguson who appears unfavorably in a Watch Tower article; Seton whose name is sometimes misspelled by Russell as Seaton; Gibson who is mentioned in the Yearbook history of Liberia; and several others.

Additionally, several relevant items are in the Library of Congress. We haven't contacted them yet. I'll keep you posted. When Mr. Schulz worked on a history project prior to 1993, the Library of Congress provided enthusiastic help. This cooperative attitude has faded.

We have a partially written subheading considering this history, but its contents are taken from secondary sources. We question the accuracy of some of these. We want the original documents, believing that they will enlarge the story. We hope that they will replace fable with an accurate story in the same manner that the Randle letters did for the story we tell about the China missions.

We need a good photo of Seton. He used the Anglicized name Samuel W. Seton. His Gebo [tribal] name was Tobe Kade, and he was sometimes called by nicknames. 

Saturday, August 6, 2016

We need to raise some funds

We need to raise some funds (don't know how much yet) to buy scans of S. W. Seton's letters from the Library of Congress. We want his resignation letter from the Protestant Episcopal Church of Liberia and all of his letters circulating Watch Tower publications.

Just so you know

As his health allows, Bruce maintains a low level email exchange with some. His .edu email is down for upgrades. Don't expect to hear from him for about a week.

A bit more on James Augustus Weimar

In Bernard’s recent article on James Augustus Weimar it is noted that Wiemar (a Society director for a short time) ceased association with the Bible Students and joined the Koreshian movement.

One Cyrus Teed renamed himself Koresh and as a Messiah-like figure formed a New Jerusalem community in Estero, Florida. The historical remains of this are now a national park. He had some unusual ideas including that the earth is hollow and humans live inside it with the sun like a giant battery in the middle. (One wonders if Edgar Rice Burroughs, author of the Tarzan books, got his idea for his Pellucidar series from reading Koresh.)

Teed/Koresh died in 1908, as a result of injuries sustained in a fight between his commune and outsiders. Having claimed he would be raised to heaven, his followers kept vigil over his body until the public health people stepped in. His tomb was destroyed in a hurricane in 1910 and his coffin washed out to sea and lost. Words like bizarre come to mind.

Weimer’s connection was not just as an observer. The Koreshians published a magazine, The Flaming Sword, which ran until 1949. As the next three pictures show, in this volume from 1914 Weimar was part of their editorial committee and also translator of their works into German.

 If I have deciphered his theology correctly, one of their beliefs was that hell was sort of something inside a person. This allowed for a gentle swipe at Pastor Russell. From the same 1914 volume:

There is no author given for the article in question. However, an article carrying Weimar’s name in this same volume shows that as one of the inner circle he practiced celibacy. As Bernard’s article noted, his wife divorced him in 1898.

At some point Weimar published a book entitled “The Divine and Biblical Credentials of Dr. Cyrus R. Teed (Koresh)”. Modern reprints have the title “Koreshanity, the New Age Religion”.

All in all, one gets the impression that CTR was probably quite relieved when Weimar parted company with the Watch Tower Society.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Horace Randle again

In 1897, Randle wrote, had printed and circulated a handbill among missionaries in China. We have the text, but would like to have a clear can of the original. Anyone?

If you want to help and have ...

If you have any original documentation you think we lack, please contact us. The story best comes from the participants. Here is an example ...

Horace Randle's resignation from the Southern Baptist Mission.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016


by Jerome

The September 13, 1922 issue of Golden Age carried the following advertisement for the Kinemo Kit Corporation. They had produced three films (and a projector to match) which could be bought by Bible Students to show films in homes and small gatherings.

The managing director of Kinemo was George Chester Driscoll (1858-1941). He had previously managed the Pastor Russell Lecture Bureau and was one of the Bible Students involved in the Mena Film Company’s film Restitution (1918) that featured on this blog a few weeks ago.

In the August 15, 1920 Watchtower, it was announced that after a month long tour of Britain, J F Rutherford would visit Europe, and then “he will also go to Palestine and Egypt, and will be accompanied to Athens, Palestine and Egypt by Brother Driscoll and other brethren with a moving picture apparatus for the purpose of making moving pictures of actual scenes of...things of Biblical interest.” The results would be used for witnessing, and readers would be able to purchase both films and special projector in due course.

The October 1, 1921 Watchtower announced that the films had been duly made and exhibited in standard format at a number of locations, and now the Kinemo Kit Corporation (with Driscoll as manager) would handle orders for films and projectors. The Watchtower commented: “While the Society cannot engage in the manufacture and sale...yet it is the desire of the Society that every possible means for teaching the truth be employed.”

There was then quite a delay - nearly a year - before the above advertisement for films and projectors appeared in the September 13, 1922 Golden Age. Public showings in 35mm had obviously continued in the meantime because according to a report in the New Era Enterprise for May 30, 1922, a 5-reel version of the Palestine film and a 3-reel version of the Imperial Valley film were shown to a full house of 1500 at a convention session at Moose Hall, Philadelphia, on April 14, 1922. At the famous September Cedar Point Ohio convention the films were shown out of doors in the grove on a large screen, along with a tantalizing supporting feature. According to the New Era Enterprise for October 31, 1922: “The pictures included views of the Bible House and other organization buildings and offices in Brooklyn, the Bethel Home, etc., the printing and binding of booklets and pamphlets etc.” Now that would be footage worth discovering.

When the Golden Age advertised the Kinemo films and projectors, George Driscoll wrote a two page article in the same issue about the project entitled “Visualizing Fulfilled Prophecies”. Most of the article is about technical issues. The films were on safety stock rather than nitrate, which meant you did not need a fireproof booth for the projectionist, and there was little danger of an audience being burnt to a cinder in the privacy of their own homes.

It was planned to add further films to the initial three, but nothing more appeared in the Watchtower or Golden Age, and only one more advertisement appeared in the pages of the Enterprise. In the October 3, 1922 issue the Instructo Cinema Services of Chicago offered a 400 foot reel of highlights of the Cedar Point convention, to be used with the Kinemo equipment. The advertisement was reprinted in the November 28, 1922 issue. Again, that would be footage worth discovering if it still exists.

Below are some frames from two of the original Kinemo films. First is the film on Palestine, which concentrated on the Jews returning to the land, and, as they saw it, fulfilling prophesy.

J F Rutherford is seen boarding the latest in airplane technology.

Then surveying the horizon

...and visiting an estate manager's office.

And next some frames from the film on the Great Pyramid, showing J F Rutherford exiting from the pyramid. It was obviously rather hot in there.

So what happened to Kinemo? There is evidence that Driscoll ceased fellowship with the IBSA at some point. But probably the biggest problem was the size of film used. Kinemo used a special system of 17.5mm film stock - basically standard 35mm split down the middle. (Much like the amateur gauge of standard 8mm was 16mm stock split down the middle with extra sprocket holes added.) Kinemo films needed their own special projector to show them. And in 1923 the 16mm gauge was introduced for small audience projection, which soon took over and blew 17.5mm out of the water. (Between 1923-1925 the Enterprise ran a number of small ads from Kinemo owners who were now trying to sell on the equipment and films.) When Pathe in France tried to reintroduce 17.5mm film in the late 1920s, it was not compatible with earlier versions, and soon died the death again. And by the 1930s the Watch Tower Society was no longer teaching that literal Israel or the Great Pyramid fulfilled prophesy, so the subject matter would only appeal to Bible Students outside of the IBSA.

Moving pictures bring the past to life. It is hoped that modern audiences may one day be able to see some of these early attempts in the wake of the Photodrama to use the medium of film to spread their message.


Just to show that these films really have survived (with grateful thanks to Brian)

Monday, August 1, 2016

From the comment trail ...

A really nice comment:

Andrew Martin has left a new comment on your post "Really Good Review of Separate Identity vol 1":

Here's another point of interest - in a later post, the same person who gave the review posted the following about the authors:

Beide sind keine wohl keine ZJ.

Which translates to:

Probably neither are Jehovah's Witnesses.

To me, that's a tribute to the research team: Two academics, one an adherent to the faith under discussion, the other one an objective observer.

The one is not using this forum to prove his belief system, the other is not using it to attack it. Seems like an ideal combination of researchers. I wish teams of Bible translators could show the same objectivity (I'm sure some do).

In a way, the reviewer's conclusion is testimony to the strict objectivity that both of them demonstrate - resulting in work that is obviously not written by detractors, but without any evidence of proselytizing either.

Neither polemicism nor apologism. Strictly well-documented history.