Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Walter Leon Tucker

We need a good scan [or photocopies] of his What is Russellism? Commonly Called Millennial Dawn. It was published in 1910. Anyone?

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Saturday, February 25, 2017

A bit of our research collection

Zion's Watch Tower original volumes: 1896, 1899, 1903, 1910, 1911, 1912.

The social graces in the Internet Age

            This blog has seen a pleasing readership increase. I appreciate those who share their finds, and I appreciate those who comment. Recently a constant reader sent newspaper extracts focusing on the early work in the UK. Many were past the era we’re researching ... but they named congregations. Important to current work? Yes.
            Congregations in the USA and UK called themselves by diverse names. We consider the search for a usable name in one of the ‘nearly done’ chapters that will appear in volume 2. So the ephemeral facts in a few very short articles add to our understanding. This is good. Thanks. Never think what you have is unimportant or that we already know what you know.
            As a reminder, this blog focuses on the Russell era, and our current research focus is on the decades up to 1890 or so. That doesn’t mean we are uninterested in later material. We are not posting about the Rutherford era at this time. But if you have something, send it along. Assuming we don’t drop dead before, eventually we’ll move on to Rutherford and associates. [We have books outlined to the transition to Governing Body governance. Most will never be written simply because it will take more years than we have to do that. Bruce is old, and I won’t continue the project without him. His balance and guidance are essential.]
            We are suspending work on a chapter about events and predictions for 1881. This is temporary. It is a key chapter. But we have more research to do. While we wait on some documentation, we’re shifting to the development of individual evangelism. This is a constant theme in Watchtower Society treatments of this era, though as they tell it, the story is disconnected from contemporary practice and events. This chapter only exists as notes. We start writing it next week.
            What can you do? Read the appropriate issues of Zion’s Watch Tower, Herald of the Morning, Spirit of the Word, etc. If you see a comment that makes you think about Watch Tower evangelism in new ways, tell us about it. Use the comment trail for this post or email me.
            We only have four years of Spirit of the Word. What do you have? We have a few pages of The Millennarian. What do you have? Many years of Paton’s World’s Hope have gone missing. What do you have?
            Many who visit this blog for the first time are casual readers. Because our readership has grown, our place in google search results has risen. That brings many new readers, most of whom stay briefly and move on. Some return. Some use material found here for their own projects. That’s okay. This blog is meant as a resource for others. But ... no competent researcher will use a blog post as a source unless it contains original, contemporary material. Dig further. Get to the source of a comment. It is your responsibility to do so.
            If you use this blog, visit on a regular basis, are entertained or informed by it, you have some social responsibilities. If I invited you to dinner, poured my best rum or coffee or wine, fed you my best food, you’d say thank-you, or everyone would think you a boor. The internet age gives many the feeling of anonymity. They forego civility. But the obligation to be civil hasn’t gone away. “Well done” or “You informed me” or similar comments are your way of saying thanks for the feast. If you can add to our research, even better.
            Currently, most of our readers are first-timers brought here by Google search. I don’t expect anything from them, though I wish they would stay and read more. Some do. I like that. We have some that have visited for years, maybe a thousand or more times, who I know have never left a comment. You could remedy that if you are one of them.

Polish adherents

In statistics from 2013, around 9,500,000 Americans declared they were of Polish descent. That is around 3% of the American population. Various factors, including Poland being a political football for so much of its history, resulted in large numbers leaving for other lands, particularly America. It was not surprising that many of Polish ancestry would accept the ZWT message in America, and would then send the news back to relatives in the Old Country.

The 1994 Yearbook covers the history of Poland and makes the point that around the year 1914 “of all the foreign-language groups of Bible Students in the United States at that time, those of Polish origin were among the largest and most active.”

They were to set up their own legal corporation in America, which later merged with the Watch Tower Society.

Franco has kindly sent some photographs of the Golden Age magazine in Polish (Zloty Wyek). He sent around a year’s worth of covers, which space doesn’t allow us to reproduce, but I have chosen four that are typical of the period. The Polish edition of Golden Age started in 1925, and these examples are from c. 1926.

Friday, February 24, 2017

J F Rutherford in Wales (1910)

From the South Wales Daily Post for June 30, 1910

With grateful thanks to correspondent "Dienw" who pointed me in the right direction. (Approximate translation of "Dienw" is "Anon")

Thursday, February 23, 2017

More Swedish literature

The 1890 American census recorded nearly 800,000 Swedish immigrants. Between 1885 and 1915 around 1.2 million from Sweden made the trip. It was not surprising that Swedish literature would soon be called for when the work of Zion’s Watch Tower began.

For the story of how Swedish immigrants took to the message, we will have to wait for the new Separate Identity volume, although relevant parts in embryonic form have fleetingly appeared on this blog. For the story of how this message was then taken back to the home country, there is the account in the Watchtower Yearbook for 1991.

So here are two examples, courtesy of Franco, for quite early Swedish Watch Tower literature.

First, Tabernacle Shadows of the Better Sacrifices, published in Swedish in 1908, and then What Say the Scriptures About Hell? Published in Swedish in 1909.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Recent visits. Nice. Few comments. Not at all nice.


We know that the Watch Tower message made it to Sweden via personal letters from America by 1882. But we have very sparse documentation, and we have no documentation from the Swedish side. Can you help?

I should add that our current research interest is in the period up to about 1890. Research shows person to person contacts between immigrants to America and family in Europe. But we have little detail. We need detail. Some scrap must be out there somewhere. Anyone?

Bible Students in Wales during the time of Charles Taze Russell

The caption reads Photo Drama of Creation - Drill Hall Merthyr - October 10th - 17th, 1915

The United Kingdom is made up of four countries, England, Scotland, Ireland (just the northern part since 1921) and Wales. When the Bible Student message came to the United Kingdom and groups of supporters formed, it appears that Wales was the last to be reached in any meaningful way.

The first mention of Wales in the pages of ZWT was in 1891. CTR visited the UK and spoke in London and Liverpool, to an audience of about 150 at both places. The report in the November 1891 ZWT mentioned the Liverpool audience included some from Wales. Geographically that would probably be individuals from North Wales. (Before communications increased, North and South Wales were almost like different countries, with a different dialect, and even today, to travel from one to the other, it is usually quicker to go through England.)

In 1900 the British Branch was established, and as reported in ZWT for May 15, 1900 this was the benefit of the friends from England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

The December 15, 1904 report from the UK, written by Jesse Hemery, gave some specific information about progress in the UK including Wales. Hemery wrote that congregations in England, Scotland and Ireland had increased over the last seven years from four to forty. By his estimate that would mean only four established congregations in 1897, but now forty in 1904. None of these were in Wales, but Hemery wrote:  “You will be glad to know that Wales is now getting its share of the harvest blessing: several colporteurs have been working in South Wales”.

There was a great religious revival in Wales in 1904-1905, the results of which were felt for many years thereafter. How much this contributed towards, or even hindered, the progress of the Bible Student message is an interesting question.

In 1906 American Benjamin Barton made a Pilgrim visit to Britain. He visited all the congregations and groups he could in Britain, and for the first time, a group in Wales was mentioned. Cardiff received a visit in the August. This then was the first documented congregation in Wales.

The 1906 report, written as usual by Hemery (in ZWT January 1, 1907), states that “considerable work has been done in Wales and Ireland, in both of which there is now a considerable and growing interest.”

In 1907 A E Williamson made a similar Pilgrim visit and his itinery (found in ZWT for June 15, 1907) included Cardiff, and also Bangor in the north of Wales.

In 1909 (WT November 15, 1909) a letter in support of the Vow was published from “we the undersigned members of the ‘Ecclesia’ in Cardiff”. It is signed by fifteen.

Things really took off in Wales after a visit by CTR in 1911. He visited Wales twice, speaking at South Wales venues in Newport, Cardiff, Swansea and Llanelli. There would normally be existing groups of Bible Students or at least committed individuals already in places to pave the way and organize events and publicity. So we can assume that along the South Wales industrial areas there were now several regular gatherings in place. Fifteen hundred attended a meeting in Cardiff at the Park Hall theater. Russell would later comment in the December 15, 1911 Watch Tower “the truth is making good progress in Wales.”

In conjunction with his visits in 1911, a South Wales newspaper, The Weekly Mail started printing Russell’s sermons each week, and this would extend the outreach of the message up the Welsh valleys, supported by the colporteurs.

So by World War 1 there is anecdotal evidence - but strong anecdotal evidence - that there were established congregations in places such as Newport, Cardiff, Pontypridd, Abersychan (Pontypool), Merthyr Tydfil, Beaufort (Ebbw Vale), and Clydach (Swansea).

What about literature in the Welsh language?

The first documented evidence of Welsh language literature is in WT November 15, 1911, which mentions free literature being available in 23 languages, including Welsh. This would be copies of Bible Students Monthly or People’s Pulpit.

This was probably produced more for an American audience. According to the Wales-Pennsylvania project, at one point one-third of the population of Pennsylvania was Welsh - people who left Wales to take their skills in coal mining, slate quarrying and iron working to industrial centers like Pittsburgh in the 19th century. Even today there are 200,000 people of Welsh ancestry in the State. So there were Welsh Bible Students in America from very early on, and no doubt some of these sowed seeds with relatives back in the old country. For one particularly example see an old article on this blog about William Hickey, who originally came from Tredegar, South Wales. He was attending meetings with CTR way back in the 1870s.

Paradoxically, the large numbers who became adherents in South Wales probably didn’t speak or read much Welsh, because genetically they were not Welsh. Vast numbers of English from Somerset, Gloucestershire and the Midlands flocked into South Wales during the Industrial Revolution, and as the iron ran low in places like Merthyr, Spanish iron and Spanish workers were imported along with it. In WT May 15, 1911, CTR even commented, “Cardiff has largely an English population. The proportion of Welsh faces, both at the public address and the address to the friends, was comparatively small.”

In 1915 the Photodrama of Creation came to South Wales. It was shown in Merthyr Tydfil in October 1915 and a surviving photograph is at the head of this article.

It is interesting that Merthyr saw the Photodrama before Cardiff did. However, for a long stretch of its history Merthyr was the largest town in Wales, with its huge iron works. Cardiff was the port at the end of the canal, and later the railway, to export the riches of the valleys.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Swedish literature

from Franco

Below are some pages from the booklet What Say the Scriptures About Hell? published in the Swedish language in 1903. (Click on the pictures to enlarge if you need more detail).

The booklet credits August Lundborg as publisher, and Fritiof Lindkvist as translator. For Lundborg's history see the history of Sweden in the 1991 Yearbook. He is also mentioned in the Proclaimers book. For Lindkvist's history see the history of Norway in the 1997 and 2012 Yearbooks.


This is a personal historical request. Has anyone ever come across a Welsh translation of Tabernacle Shadows? The received story is that the Millions booklet was the first Watch Tower publication produced in Welsh. (I donated my copy last year to a Welsh translation office). But very many years ago I visited an elderly lady in Wales in a tumbledown cottage who had been associated with the Bible Students since before the First World War. I have a memory of seeing a Welsh Tabernacle Shadows and asking her about it. But it had belonged to her late husband and she couldn’t give any more information. Unfortunately for posterity, I wasn’t interested in Welsh at the time but in obtaining some Photodrama of Creation postcards from her, which I duly did. Later I learned that, on her death, the cottage was raised to the ground - it was in danger of falling down anyway - and everything thrown away. A sad story, too often repeated as other collectors can no doubt confirm.

I know the activities of the Bible Students only really reached Wales about 1903 and the first known congregation in Wales dates from 1906. BUT, American States like Pennsylvania were full of Welsh immigrants who had gone over to work the coal, the iron and the steel. If such a volume ever existed it would likely have been produced - officially or unofficially - in America. 

Friday, February 17, 2017

In Germany

In an interview with the New York Sun in August 1881, A. Bergner suggested that there were 'probably' Watch Tower adherents in Germany. Can we verify that the Watch Tower message had reached Germany by that year?

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Can you add detail to this?

From chapter on early work in the UK


            Bender contracted with Clarkson & Company: Advertising Contractors to circulate Food for Thinking Christians. In turn, they advertised in the October 14, 1881, Sheffield newspapers for fifty boys to circulate Zion’s Watch Tower tracts. Sheffield was an industrial city with a population of 284,508. If the tract generated interest we do not know it. As was true of the rest of the United Kingdom, the congregation in Sheffield grew slowly. We know of an evangelist active in Sheffield in 1890. In 1903, they reported seventeen at the Lord’s Supper. We do not have more details.

Hudson's Bible Students in Britain associates a John Green with Sheffield. Who was he?

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

von Zech's Translation of Tabernacle Teachings

Mr. Schulz asked me to repost this ...

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Rules

Calling me at home to "discuss" my book is a no-no. This blog exists as a forum for you to ask your questions and make your comments. I will not engage with you over the phone; I will not debate the merits of your theology or mine via the phone either. You most certainly may not call me or Miss de Vienne. There is nothing you have to say that can't be said in an email or blog post.

If you have comments or questions, you may post them here or use the email given on this blog. We will not respond to questions about our personal life. Our religious beliefs are not the subject of this forum. Watchtower history is. That this blog is named "truth history" should give you enough of a clue as to where I stand on most issues.

You will not find your chances of engaging me in dialogue improved by using as a reference the name of a person whom I neither trust nor respect. It is very unwise to name drop. You may not like my reaction if you do.

I don't know how I can make my position clearer. I am only interested in an accurate presentation of Watch Tower history. Our research and writing forwards no agenda except a clear and accurate presentation of history as it can be known.

As heartless as it may sound, I'm not interested in your beliefs, complaints, or theological speculations. Both Rachael and I have our own. We share them in other contexts. This blog is about history -- accurately presented, well researched history. We are not interested in polemics and we're not interested in your theological views. All are welcome here as long as they behave. Consider it our “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.

Unfortunately, I am not able to provide copies of the references we used, except on a very limited basis. I am - to put it bluntly - old. I'm in declining health, and I have limited funds. I do not have enough money to return long distance calls, and I find calls to my home to be rude and intrusive. As a young man, my long term goal was to grow up to be a cranky old man. I finally made it. I’m not going to spoil it by taking your uninvited telephone calls.

To recapitulate (because some people just don't get it the first dozen times): 1. Do not call my house. 2. Do not call Rachael's house. 3. If you have comments or questions, post them on this blog. 4. Do not presume that I agree with you. I probably don't. 5. If it isn't about 'truth history,' I don't want to hear it. 6. We're not a resource for your unfounded, poorly researched, ill considered polemics. Don’t ask. That’s not why we're here.

My resources and stamina are limited. I usually cannot make photocopies, even if you offer to pay. I tell my students that they must do their own research. If I make my students do that, guess what I’m going to tell you. ...

We need a good translation of this ...

First Watch Tower in Italian and French

by Franco

Below is the first Watch Tower issued in the French and Italian languages. The date is October 1903 and the content is the same.

The second issue for both languages is dated January 1904. The French is reproduced first and then the Italian.

The French magazine was to become a monthly publication and the Italian a quarterly.

We need to see the ...

We need to see the German language material noted in the final footnote. I thought we had that, but, if so, I cannot find it in our research folders. Anyone have a good, readable scan?

Note: We have received this. Thanks.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Von Zech

O. von Zech published a short-lived English language periodical starting in 1903. It's title was Witness to Prophecy. I can't locate any copies. Can you?

If you have this, we'd like a scan


Very, VERY temporary post

I'm posting this for helpful comments. We like the 'well done' comments, and do make them. But we want to further this research with additional information. Can you contribute to our understanding?

Usual rules. Copy for own use. DO NOT SHARE IT. Remember, this is developing research and may change.

Foreign Language Fields Within the United States
In late 1882, a reader requested a German language tract “setting forth the glad tidings.” Notice of it appeared in the December Watch Tower. Russell called for “a German brother with the necessary ability” to translate the October 1882 issue, a missionary issue, into that language. He also remarked that “a Swedish translation is also much called for. ... Here is a place in the harvest field for someone.”[1] Financial problems delayed the work in both languages. Russell explained:

The Fund is in debt over $2,500, and of course no further work can be undertaken by the Fund until this debt is paid. We regret this exceedingly, and partly because in our last issue we held out a hope to some, who have long desired it, that we would soon issue the October Tower in German and in Swedish.
The remainder of this post was deleted.

Sunday, February 12, 2017


The earliest reference to Watch Tower adherents in Germany appears in a New York City newspaper in 1881, four years before von Zech started writing to family and friends in Germany. We have no further information. I'm at a loss. I do not know how to follow this trail. Do any of our European readers know something more? Are you ambitious enough to look?

Our thanks ...

Stellar contributions either in the comments sections or through posts. Specific thanks to:

Stéphane. One of her comments went to spam. I dug it out and posted it today. Sorry for the delay. Your work is appreciated.

Franco. Franco sends us interesting things. You see them in blog posts. More to come. Thanks, Franco.

Paul. Thanks for the links to German language material.

A New Year postcard

from Franco

Postcard dated November 10, 1911 sent by the brothers of San Germano Chisone (Italy) on the occasion of the new year.

Recipient: Adolphe Weber, Les Convers (La Chaux-de-Fonds) Suisse

The postcard reads:
San Germano 1 ° -1 ° -1912
Love from all of us Clara Cerulli, A.Cerulli.
Joyful year your sister Fanny [widow of Lugli Balmas]
Loving greetings from your brother Remigio [Cuminetti]
Good year Amelie Soulier, Cesarine Bounous
Receive a warm greeting from your brother F.S. (François Soulier)
Blanc Lorenzo
Malanot Marie
Bounous Henriette
(written vertically) B. Magdelaine
Albertine Lantaret

Colossians III

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Asking for the moon:

We know that Otto von Zech wrote to his relatives in Germany, sending them tracts and writing persuasive letters. These probably do not exist, and if they do, I have no clue how to locate Zech family letters.

Any of our German readers want to pursue this?

Postcard from F H Robison to A Weber

Supplied by Franco

(the correct spelling is Robison)

This postcard dated 11 April 1912 was written in German by Brother Robison to Brother Weber during a return trip to America after a tour in Europe.

"Lieber Bruder Weber: grüsse aus Irland. Die Reise des Comitees ist jetzt heimwärts gerichtet. Bald sind wir da. Deiner in Christo J.H.Robinson"


Dear Brother Weber, greetings from Ireland, the journey of the Committee is now directed homeward, and soon we will be there, Yours in Christ, F H Robison.

(Editorial note: this was the return journey from the tour made by C T Russell and others investigating foreign missions. See Watch Tower for April 15, 1912)

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Work in the UK - VERY temporary post

We've returned to this while we wait on documents to arrive. Minor changes and updates. Usual rules. Do not share it. Copy for your own use. Realize it may change. Do not post elsewhere. It will not be up long. Some comments would be good. You can do that, right?

This post deleted.

1912 with Dust Jacket. Unusual

Not a WT publication: See comment trail ....

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

We would like to have ....

We would like to have these, but, alas, can't afford them ...




If you have them, a scan would be nice.

We need

There are several German language anti-Russell and anti-Bible Student booklets, mostly from the 1920s. We need any from before 1910. Do you know of any?

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Posting this for Dr. Schulz

We read a large amount of commentary on Witness and Bible Student history. Many of those who write about these groups lack understanding of evidentiary value.
            The best evidence is contemporary to the events. But not all contemporary documents have the same value. For instance, there are many contemporary comments on the election of J. F. Rutherford and the expulsion of dissenting directors. That many writers say the same thing does not mean that each is of the same quality. Some simply repeat what they heard or read. None of this is evidence at all. It is gossip. Gossip might be noted by a historian, but it is not evidence. An ethical historian will prune the evidence down to first hand observations. Of these, those that have a point of view become suspect. Why did they say what they said? is an important question. In a controversy, you will find differing points of view. A historian must balance what is said against motive.
            Contemporary newspapers are first hand material, but they’re subject to point of view and motive. Nineteenth century papers are notoriously full of lies and fakery. Never take a newspaper article at face value. Ask if it rationally represents events as other testimony represents it.
            Original letters and diaries are excellent evidence. But does the content defend someone? Why? Is the defense rational? Does it support other evidence?
            Best evidence, aside from being contemporary, has verifiable detail. Suspect documents that lack detail.
            Secondary evidence is only important because it gives an overview of current views of the subject. It is not an important contribution to the historic narrative. If one relies on it, he is probably gravely misled.
            In this subject area books by Gruss and others become irrelevant. They are secondary, even tertiary sources. Citing them usually does not further quality research.
            Assess each evidentiary document using these criteria: 1. Is it contemporary? 2. Is it by a participant? What is their point of view? Why do they approach the matter as they do?
            I hope this helps some of our email correspondents.  

An Italian postcard

from Franco

From the 1982 Yearbook pages 129-130

“Now let us go back to the end of World War 1. Shortly after 1918, Brother Marcello Martinelli, who had come to a knowledge of the truth in the United States, returned to Italy. He was a native of Valtellina, one of the beautiful valleys in the Rhaetian Alps leading down to Lake Como, and he covered this territory a number of times with the Kingdom message. In 1923 he became a "colporteur," and joined Brother Remigio Cuminetti in the Pinerolo area.”

In 1923 the two men sent a postcard to Fanny Balmas.

Fanny Balmas was the widow of Lugli Balmas, who lived at San Germano, Chisone, Gondini fraction (see 1982 Yearbook page 119). The postcard (reproduced below) is dated August 21, 1923.


Susa, Tuesday, August 21 (1923)
Our beloved sister in the Lord
That His kindness will always be increased. We came here last night after a very good trip 70 Km.We are discreetly housed. Today we will try ground.  May the Lord assist us with his grace and blessing for the great merits of the Redeemer, and bless both those who  are dear to us and who fight with us in spirit.
The address is: Trattoria degli Alpini Susa Turin.
Greetings and kisses from your dear Marcello (Martinelli) and humble brother Remigio (Cuminetti).
Psalm 121

French tracts

from Franco

L'ETUDIANT DE LA BIBLE for November 1915 (The Bible Students Monthly in French)

LE JOURNAL POUR TOUS for October 29, 1916 (Everybody's Paper in French)

Editorial note: it is interesting to see that while the title Everybody's Paper was generally phased out in America in 1913, the title was still being used in France in this 1916 issue advertising The Photodrama of Creation.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Can we attach this to Zion's Watch Tower.

It is unlikely because of the date, but it is not impossible. Anyone want to pursue this research?

Chater was a Brethren writer. There is no ZWT connection.

This one is slightly more possible. Can we say definitely one way or the other if this was connected to Zion's Watch Tower: 

Hucklesby was also a Brethren Preacher. No Watch Tower connection.

Chart Talks

We need to know the date of the earliest Chart Talks in the UK. Anyone?

We need someone who subscribes to this: https://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/account/subscribe to search "Zion's Watch Tower" for advertisements appearing in Sheffield newspapers in 1881 for boys to circulate tracts. Anyone?

Friday, February 3, 2017

Recent Visitor Map - Pleasing. But where are the comments?

On Rachael's Personal Blog

You may be interested in a photo on Rachael's personal blog:


French Millennial Dawn

This is the first edition of Divine Plan of the Ages in French. Released in 1897, both hard cover and soft cover.

With grateful thanks to Franco.