Search This Blog

Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Oscar strikes again...

From the Oakland Tribune (Oakland, California) for February 17, 1935

Monday, August 8, 2022

San Francisco Call, October 7, 1908

 Can we elaborate on this event?

San Luis Obispo, California, Tribune -1896

 I need basic biography of O. A. Florey. Can we find his full name. Does he appear in the Watch Tower? Any information will be helpful.


Oscar Allen Florey was born in Illinois July 31, 1869, and died in Butte, California on July 25, 1946. He married January 20, 1900, Alma O Porter. She was a Canadian. The 1910 Census lists him as a minister and her as a missionary. By the 1920 Census Alma is gone and Oscar is living with his aged father, still listed as a religious worker. The 1930 Census lists him as Gospel Worker - Colporteur. In 1930 his is boarding in an apartment house.

In 1908 he was a delegate to the Prohibition Party state convention.

I could use more information. Does he show up on Watchtower magazines post 1916?

Saturday, August 6, 2022

From The Phrenological Era

The following short article appeared in a 1914 issue of The Phrenological Era. It's editor often opposed Russell. Note that he focuses on Russell's 'exposure' of contemporary clergy. I am, as you know, without a research assistant. If you wish to help, please find examples of Russell's comments on clergy.

The article:

THE LAST SQUEAL! - By a copy of "the Bible Students Monthly," dateless, sent us, we note that “Pastor Russell” charged the clergy of the various denominations of Christendom with conspiracy against him. We do not so understand it. They simply denounce his rotten doctrines. He has many critics and opponents out of the churches--men of brains who see he is leading a lot of simple-minded people into ruinous notions by his wily play on words. It is the old resort of mountebanks, when caught in their tricks, to cry "liars and lies." If his teachings had a semblance of reason in them, and his known conduct aside from his pretensions to piety comported with common decency, the ministers of our land would welcome him as a brother. Russell has slung med at the ministry, vaunted himself like a peacock above them, taken water, etc., etc., and now in the last ditch yells "conspiracy." No wonder good people, regardless of church affiliation, are down on such a hypocritical Bible twister. “How to Go into the Silence.”

J. B. Palmer on Reading Millennial Dawn


QUESTION. Have you read Pastor Russell's “Millenium Dawn Books''?

ANSWER. Yes. I have them in my library. The author is not afraid of new ideas. He wants to look into them. Pastor Russell spoke to class ensembles here at our institution during his life time, which is further evidence, if needs be, that every man has a right to be heard and the listener has a right to properly place a valuation upon what he hears. 

1953 Convention

 I was there. Were you?

Wednesday, August 3, 2022

I need help downloading this

 To download the booklet I've linked to below requires access to a participating library or university. I no longer have access to any of that. If you have institutional access, please download this for me. Attach it to file transfer and send it to me, please.

I no longer need this. Thanks to all who helped.

Monday, August 1, 2022

New Review Separate Identity vol. 1

Straight unbiased verifiable facts and context are the keys to a great history book. And this book delivers. As others have said, the scholarship and amount of research that went into this project is astounding. One thing it taught me was to not look at history from a modern day lens, but to put yourself in someone’s shoes who lived at that time. Things make much more sense when that is done.

Anyway, 5 stars and can’t wait to read volume 2.

Otto Roesch

End Chapter

 I'm writing this out of order, as I often do. I write based on the documents I have. They do not all come to me in a nice order. The last chapter is more analytical than usual. It's a summary of the main points of the S. I. series. So, here's a portion. I'm writing about those spiritualist influenced by Russell and the degree of secondary influence that accrued from their writing. Do you have anything to add?

The Intellectuals


            None of those we consider here were intellectuals, of course. They or someone else saw them that way, and I’ve obligingly listed them as such.


The Spiritualists 

            When Food for Thinking Christians was published, one of the first to publish a critique was William White, the editor of The Psychological Review.[1] [continue] 

William Augustus Redding 

            Redding [November 12, 1850 – October 31, 1931], was a Pennsylvania-born lawyer practicing in Philadelphia, New York City and elsewhere. He graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1876 and served in the state House of Representatives from 1884-1886, not running for reelection at the expiration of the term. He was a respected patent attorney, though he wasn’t averse to making unsustainable claims. In 1916 he was appointed to the Board of Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania. Though married as a Quaker he became a spiritualist and a close associate of Ernest Loomis, a Spiritualist writer and publisher. Redding was a prolific author, writing on prophetic themes. Though scarcely admitting it, Redding was heavily influence by Russell’s writing.

            Much of Redding’s writing mirrors that of other 19th Century Premillennialists, and occasionally one can find – at least in my opinion – an insightful comment on a Bible verse or narrative. If the Spiritualist elements were omitted Redding’s work would join the large list of 19th Century students of prophecy who believed they had solved the problem of end-times numbers. As did Russell, Redding believed he had an important message and that he was if not the prime divinely appointed messenger, at least one of the most important. Redding pointed to 1896 as the end of Gentile times but extended affairs to 1914 on the same basis as did Russell.[2] Without other evidence we could not say that he was influenced by Watch Tower theology in this. Others pointed to 1913-1918, and more specifically 1914 as the end of Gentile Times using the familiar count of 2520 years from an ancient even to modern times.[3]

            But Redding takes us to Russell’s influence in his Mysteries Unveiled: The Hoary Past Comes Forward with Astonishing Messages for the Prophetic Future.

[1]               William White was a member of The New Church (Swedenborgian). We have no biography beyond that. The Psychological Review was published by Edward W. Allen. As with W. White, there is little reliable biography for Allen. He was a member of New Church (Swedenborgian) and published one of its journals. He also edited or published at various times The Spiritualist Newspaper, Spiritual Notes and The Spiritual Record, and The Psychological Review.

[2]               Our Near Future: A Message to All the Governments and People of Earth, page 25.

[3]               Among those who pointed to 1914 or years near it were Elliott [Horae, vol. 4, pages 104, 237-238]; Henry Grattan Guinness [Approaching End of the Age]; Blanton Duncan [Near Approach] pointed to 606-607 B.C. as the start of the 2520 years which were to end in 1913-1914. See page 15. W. H. Coffin [The Millennium of the Church, 1843] Dated Gentile times from 606 B.C. to 1914, see page 42.  Richard Gascoyne suggested 1914 as a possible date. [Calendar of Prophecy] The list is long and we need not continue it.

                Various writers used a supposed Great Pyramid measurement to derive the 1914 date. While Russell used Pyramid measures as an adjunct, he did not base his belief on them. Pyramid enthusiasts still point to 1914.

Marr Murray


I need a basic biography of Marr Murray, an novelist and prophetic student c. 1910-1920. Can you help?

Thursday, July 28, 2022

William A. Redding

I need a basic biography for William A. Redding, a 19th Century spiritualist author. Anyone?


Saturday, July 23, 2022

Amazon Abuses

 Amazon continues to be abusive. The Separate Identity series is coming off of Amazon and will shortly be available only from

Tuesday, July 19, 2022

Update on United Cemeteries

Most readers interested in Watch Tower history will already know about the changes made in the United Cemeteries in the last twelve months. Earlier posts on this blog detailed the damage done to the pyramid monument in the center of the site, and how after just over one hundred years the decision was taken to dismantle it.

I now have photographs from a source I can freely copy with permission. So thanks to Jim H, and here is what has recently happened on site.

The first picture shows the pyramid as it was in 2014, when I personally visited the site and took the photograph. On the right you can see the site after the monument had been taken down, with just the concrete base left. CTR’s grave marker is at the top of the picture.

Where the pyramid once stood nine flat grave markers have been installed. Here you can see the scarred land after the original concrete base for the pyramid was removed. Again, you can see CTR’s grave marker at the top of the picture. No doubt the grass will soon grow over the barren areas.

Below is a close up of the nine markers. These modest stones are similar to those found at the Society’s current burial site at the Watchtower Farms Cemetery in Walkill, Ulster Co. They give the names exactly as they appeared on the original pyramid sides, along with the ages of the Bible Students concerned.

The figures, A-1, etc. refer to the actual grave numbers in the original plots.

Wednesday, July 6, 2022

George Darby Clowes

     A few years ago I did a filler article on this blog about George Darby Clowes, adding to information published in Volume 1 of Separate Identity. I was able to use Ancestry to trace modern descendants of George and find a photograph of him which I was given permission to publsh. As happens all the time on the internet, that picture is now everywhere. Recently I returned to the subject of George and did research on the 1862 Allegheny Arsenal disaster which greatly affected him. I decided that George needed a whole article to pull various threads together. This is it.



George Darby Clowes (1818-1889).

Photograph reproduced by kind permission of his great-great-grandson, William J. 3rd.

     In the March 1889 issue of Zion’s Watch Tower, in response to a letter from his father, Joseph Lytle, Charles Taze Russell wrote a brief obituary for George Darby Clowes (1818-1889). It shows that George had a part to play in the very early history and pre-history of the Watch Tower movement. CTR’s comment is below:

     George had previously appeared in the pages of Zion’s Watch Tower in May 1886 (page 1) when the annual Memorial celebration held in Pittsburgh was “adjourned with praper by Brother Clowes.”

     This then is his story.

     George Clowes was born in the British Isles on April 26, 1818. He was baptised into the established church (Birmingham, St Martin) on December 29, 1818. At the age of 19 he was married at the same church to Sarah Fearney on December 6, 1837. His occupation is given as “brass founder.” He would cast items in brass, which could be anything from shell cases to intricate parts for clocks and watches.

     George and Sarah were to have nine known children over the next 24 years. The first two were born in Britain, Emma (b.1841) and James (1843-1916). After James’ birth the family moved to the United States, specifically Pennsylvania, because the remaining seven children were born there. These were Hepzebah (1845-1864), Israel William (1848-1915), Fredrick (b.1851), George Darby Jr. (1854-1932), Stephen (1858-1920), Sarah (b.1861) and Sumpter (b.c.1865).

     The name George Clowes was to be carried on through at least three generations. As well as George Darby Jr. (1854-1932) who was the original George’s sixth child, the original George’s fourth child Israel also named a son George Darby Clowes (1877-1946). While it makes for complications in research it does allow one to track down through the ages, and in this case to make contact with a modern descendant a few years ago, who provided the photograph of our subject at the head of this article.

     George did not apply for American naturalization until 1861, but the document with his signature has survived

     George’s wife Sarah died in 1881. From the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 14 March 1881 page 4:

     George became a minister in the M(ethodist) E(piscopal) church. According to a letter he wrote to George Storrs, which we will come to later, this was “about 25 years before” the year 1871. That would take us to before the American Civil War.  But he was to change direction and become part of the small congregation that first attracted CTR when he dropped into a dusty dingy hall (Quincy Hall on Leacock Street) to hear Adventist Jonas Wendell preach.

     The Adventists (specifically the Advent Christian Church) were keen to claim George as a prize. In their paper, The World’s Crisis for December 27, 1871, Wendell had a letter published about his recent travels. The letter dated December 6, 1871, showed that there had been problems of some sort in the Pittsburgh group. He had worked there, along with George Stetson, for a few weeks, but now there was a need for a local person to take over pastoral care.

     Clowes’ expulsion from the Methodists, and his new role in the Pittsburgh Advent Christian Church, is remembered elsewhere. In The Advent Christian Story by Clarence Kearney (1968) he is mentioned in dispatches:

     Although the Pittsburgh group was branded as Adventist in the Advent Christian press, in reality it had an eclectic mix. Advent Christians and Church of God (Age to Come) believers would often meet together at this time. They were united on a keen interest in the return of Christ and conditional immortality, while generally divided over such subjects as the destiny of natural Israel, how many would benefit from future probation through the resurrection, which key events yet to happen were timed for the start or the end of the millennium, and the advisability (or otherwise) of date setting.

     As long as everyone remained tolerant and unofficial and generally disorganised the situation could continue. But while Age to Come believers were generally averse to organization, Second Adventists into the 1870s were increasingly anxious for recognition as an established religion. This required an official statement of belief covering not just vague generalities but specifics.

     So people began to make choices, and Clowes embraced the Age to Come belief system. Up to 1873 we find references to Advent Christian meetings at Quincy Hall, Pittsburgh, but by 1874 Elder G. D. Clowes was billed at the same venue but now in the main paper of the Age to Come movement, The Restitution. From the November 5, 1874, issue:

     This shift meant that independent mavericks like George Storrs, who edited Bible Examiner (and who increasingly detested the Advent Christian Church) would be more than happy to visit them. He did so in May 1874 and Clowes was subsequently mentioned several times in his paper.

     In the June 1874 issue of Bible Examiner Storrs reviewed his recent visit. In the editorial, under the heading “Visit to Pittsburgh, PA” Storrs wrote: “The editor of this magazine spent the first and second Sundays in May in the above named city. He found there a small but noble band of friends who upheld with the full hearts the truths advocated by himself. Among them is a preacher who was formally of the Methodists.”

     We must assume that the former Methodist preacher was George Clowes. In the same issue, Storrs lists the parcels he had just sent out to fill literature requests. These included several to Pittsburgh, the recipients including G. D. Clowes Sr., Wm. H. Conley, and J. L. Russell and son. (The latter was obviously a business address, but the “son” Charles Taze Russell would have his own letter acknowledged the next month, July, and would subsequently write articles for Storrs’ paper).

     There are further requests for literature from Clowes and the Russells, and then in the November 1875 Bible Examiner there is a full letter from Elder G. D. Clowes of Pittsburgh dated September 8, 1875. In it, Clowes expresses appreciation for Bible Examiner, and regrets the spirit manifest by “some of our brethren who do not see these precious truths.” It is in this letter, referred to earlier, that he reflects on how he “had been cast adrift a few years before by those he had labored with for a quarter century.” That would take his Methodist connections back 25 years before 1871. He also writes that a “Brother Owen is labouring with us.”

     The next page of Storrs’ magazine has a letter of appreciation from Joseph Lytle Russell, CTR’s father. Joseph also mentions “Brother Owen” visiting, which shows that he and Clowes were involved with the same meetings.

     Very soon the independent Bible study group linked to Charles Taze Russell would take center stage, and this would link up with Nelson Barbour. This is another chapter and in extant records George Clowes does not appear in it. But then, after Zion’s Watch Tower began publication we find him attending that 1886 Memorial celebration and then being remembered by both Joseph Lytle and Charles Taze when he died in early 1889.

      George never made his living from a paid ministry. He did various jobs but the most consistent was working at the Allegheny Arsenal in Lawrenceville for a number of years. In the 1860 census he is a “nail plate heater.” In the 1866-67 Directory of Pittsburgh and Alleghen Cities he is “assistant laboratory superintendent at the Arsenal.” In the 1870 census he is “master laboratory A” – the A probably standing for Arsenal. As late as 1875, from the US Register of Civil, Military and Naval Service, 1875 volume 1, dated September 30, 1875 we have George working as a Foreman at the Allegheny Arsenal for three dollars a day.

     As noted above, his original occupation of “brass founder” could include making shell cases and that may have had some bearing on where he worked, and even why he relocated from England to Pittsburgh.

     His close association with the Arsenal is shown by the aftermath of the September 17, 1862 disaster. There was an explosion in the Laboratory building where they were filling shells with gunpowder for Union forces in the Civil War. This caused a massive fire and 78 people – mainly young women – died. Loose powder on a roadway and a spark from an iron horseshoe was one possible cause. Another theory is that it was caused by static electricity from the women workers’ hoop skirts. It ended up being Pittsburgh’s worst industrial accident and the Civil War’s deadliest civilian disaster. 

     Clowes was present on the day and initially was thought to be one of the casualties. From the preliminary list of the dead in the Pittsburgh Daily Post for September 18, 1862:

     It gives his occupation as Superintendent of Cylinder Department and says that his daughter Emma died along with him. The Pittsburgh Gazette for the same date, September 18, only listed Emma and gave her age as 21, and listed her as “missing.” Daughter Emma was born in 1841, so this has to be the right family.

     A day or two later it was clarified that George had survived, and had tried to calm down the girls in the chaos and panic to get out of the buildings. From the inquest report in the Pittsburgh Daily Post for September 23, 1862:

     The reason for the confusion over casualties was that the explosion and fire meant many bodies could not be identified. The remains of over 40 unidentified people were buried in a mass grave in the Allegheny cemetery. The final list of these included Emma. Years later the Pittsburgh Dispatch for May 25, 1899, told the story and listed the names on the Allegheny Cemetery monument. You can see Emma’s name four lines up from the bottom of the clipping.

     The monument was later replaced and the one you can now visit in the cemetery lists all 78 names of victims.

     The memorial was the result of a special campaign, and understandably George Clowes was heavily involved in this project. From the Pittsburgh Daily Post for September 18, 1863:

     George was linked to the Arsenal again in 1869 where the Pittsburgh Weekly Gazatte for January 29, 1869, carried a story about a new Library Association and Reading Room to be assisted financially by the Arsenal Lodge of Good Templars. The Vice President of the new association was G. D. Clowes.

     He was also an officer of the Temple of Honor in Lawrenceville, PA, which was a fraternal order supporting the temperance movement. He also appeared on a list of names for the “Reform Republican Vigilance Committee” for his area.

     Returning to his work history, while the above-noted US Register of Civil, Military and Naval Service 1875 still has him working at the Arsenal, the 1875-1876 Directory of Pittsburgh and Allegheny lists him as the Rev. George D. Clowes. He also appears to be in newspapers of the day as a clergyman. As an example, the report of the dedication services for a new M.E. Church near the Arsenal in the Pittsburgh Weekly Gazette for June 14, 1869, listed those present. There are no initials to confirm we have the right man, but the report included “Rev. Clowes and local preachers.”

     When George died there was just a small notice in the paper. From the Pittsburgh Dispatch 26 January 1889, page 7,

     He was George D. Clowes, Sr. His son, George D. Clowes, Jr. also lived and worked in Pittsburgh for nearly all his life in the iron and steel industry.

     The records are incomplete, but George Sr. was probably buried in the Allegheny cemetery, where his wife and many other family members were laid to rest. This historic cemetery also contains the Arsenal memorial with Emma’s name, and the grave plots for nearly all of CTR’s immediate family.

Monday, June 27, 2022

Von Zech

 If you own any copies of Zech's magazine, please contact me. Another researcher is urgently seeking them. I need your permission to pass on your email address.

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

also on ebay

 Pastor Russell's Sermons .... reasonable price thus far.

1910 NY Convention

 For sale on ebay. Alas, for far more than I can afford. Some browsers will require you to click on the image to view the complete photo.

Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Lost Films

     There are several “lost” films in the history of the Watch Tower Society. The 1914 Photodrama of Creation was a big success and since at least twenty complete sets were produced, the majority of it survived – both in private hands as well as official archives. But subequent Bible Student films have not fared so well.

     There was a Photodrama “sequel" produced by Bible Students in 1917 called Restitution. It really needs its own article, but sad to say, only a few minutes have as yet been discovered. It was renamed several times in a troubled history and was finally rebranded as Redemption and sold in pieces on 16 mm film in the late 1920s.

     Some film was taken by secular sources. In 1913 when CTR arrived at the Hot Springs, Arkansas, convention, his arrival was filmed (see 1913 convention report page 66). The Hot Springs New Era newspaper for June 7, 1913, also said that the baptism ceremony was filmed by the same cameraman. But at the end of the year (Hot Springs New Era for 30 December 1913) in response to an IBSA enquiry, there were recriminations between cameraman, studio and express company when the negatives disappeared in transit. So I wouldn’t hold your breath for film of Pastor Russell alighting from a 1913 train any time soon.

     When the Chicago 1921 Pageant of Progress exhibition was filmed, the IBSA stand was reportedly featured (see write-up by Fred Franz’ brother Albert in New Era Enterprise for September 6, 1921). However, most newsreel material was very short-lived. Once shown, if shown at all, such films were usually melted down to reuse the silver and nitrocellulose base.

     But returning to the Bible Students’ own endeavors, the bumper year for lost films seems to be 1922.

     That year the Bible Students held a convention at Philadelphia over four days, April 13-16. It started in the Moose Hall and later transferred to the Metropolitan Opera House for the public meeting, where Joseph F Rutherford gave the public lecture. The review of the whole event as found in the New Era Enterprise newspaper for May 30, 1922, page 4, mentioned a special film show.

     So on the Friday evening, at Moose Hall, to an audience of around 1500 people, 8 reels of moving pictures were shown. For that size of audience it would have been on regular 35 mm film and would have been the length of a modest feature film. The convention program showed what this film contained.

     Whether this was raw unedited footage or a professional presentation we do not know, but what is obvious is that these films were soon edited down quite severely to make two one-reelers, one on Palestine, and one on Imperial Valley. This was as part of the Kinemo project, described in the New Era Enterprise for July 11, 1922, and also in The Watch Tower for May 1, 1922.

     There were three films in total in the original Kinemo project, the two aforementioned and a third on the Great Pyramid. They were produced on safety film (rather than dangerous nitrate stock) on a substandard film gauge, 17.5 mm. They could only be seen with a special Kinemo projector, designed for home or parlor use. All three films featured Joseph F Rutherford in cameo appearances.

     As earlier articles on this blog have covered, the three Kinemo films survived in private hands and have been painstakingly copied frame by frame, which is why you can see them on YouTube.

     But the question we are left with is – what about the remaining six reels as shown in Philadelphia in April 1922?

     The 1922 convention that everyone remembers today is the much larger event held later that year in September at Cedar Point, Ohio. This too provides a tantalising glimse of lost films.

     First, most will have seen the Watchtower Society’s recent call for the footage actually taken at this Cedar Point convention. This is based on an advertisement in the New Era Enterprise over several issues in October and November, 1922.

     This venture (or something similar) was suggested in the Convention Notes as found in the Enterprise for October 31, 1922.

     It is hoped that someone somewhere still has this footage. In this 100th anniversary year of this convention, it would be special indeed if it survived and could be restored. Extant photographs of the event show a full sized camera filming J F Rutherford as he spoke out of doors in “The Grove.” Time will tell. It should be noted that as well as the 17.5 mm Kinemo version, it was also possible to buy a standard 35 mm print from the same source.

     However, motion pictures were also shown at this convention, which provides even more “lost” films to consider.  Again from the Enterprise for October 31, 1922:

     The views of Egypt, Palestine and Imperial Valley were obviously the current Kinemo trilogy in some shape or form, but what about the other films?

     The description talked about “Views of the Bible House (back in Pittsburgh?) and other organization buildings and offices in Brooklyn, the Bethel Home, etc., the printing and binding of books and pamphlets, etc.” These films were shown on three evenings, Friday to Sunday.

     But what happened to them thereafter?

     Since the Society did not retain 1922 footage that was actually sold to the public at the time, this does not bode well for these other films ever surfacing.

     But stranger things have happened.

     We might end by asking why such films became “lost?” The Society’s experience during the Great War, and its view of the future, meant that archiving was not always a high priority, certainly not for material viewed as ephemeral at the time. Even when the Society produced a reprint of the first 40 years of (Zion’s) Watch Tower they had to appeal to private collectors to help them complete their file for the project. And who would know that a hundred years after these events there would be interest in these old moving pictures? We might easily make the same mistakes today in choosing what or what not to keep in our personal video DVD collection.

     Material in private hands may survive for a while, but when people die their relatives may well throw out things because they don’t realize their significence. Like many collectors I have followed up leads only for them to repeatedly end this way. It is good that now there is now far more interest in preserving the past and that technology allows for greater sharing.

Friday, June 3, 2022

A Photo Album

Some photographs have come to hand from around 100 years ago that feature well-known Bible Students. The photographs are courtesy of the Robert Riley collection. The photo book is entitled Cedar Point on Lake Erie.

The earliest photographs are from the 1919 convention at Cedar Point, Ohio. Many are of unknown groups of people and general views of the venue. But the following are those of named people many readers will know.

J F Rutherford

W E Van Amburgh and sisters

A H MacMillan and Sister Christiansen

J A Bohnet

Oscar Magnuson and friends (Bro and Sis Graig)

Shield Toutjion

W F Hudgings and wife

Although Hudgings did not stay with the IBSA he was imprisoned as part of the case against the book The Finished Mystery.

W M Wisdom and wife

Wisdom was later responsible for the book Memoirs of Pastor Russell.

The album also contains some photographs from the 1922 convention at the same venue.

W E Van Amburgh

W E Van Amburgh (again)

Clayton J Woodworth

R H Barber

M A Howlett and wife

Although the album cover reads Cedar Point, there are also a few pictures from the Columbus Ohio convention of 1924.

Clayton J Woodworth and friends. These are F T Horth and Robert and Marie Nash.

J F Rutherford and Jesse Hemery 

Notice how tall Rutherford is.