Charles Taze Russell Calls For Witnessing

by Kenneson 1 Replies latest jw friends

  • Kenneson

    In 1881 Zion's Watch Tower Tract Society was organized. Russell pens the first tracts ( small booklets) to be distributed. In April he issues out a call "Wanted 1,000 preachers." These guys were to become the forerunners of what are today called "pioneers." The article states:

    "To those so situated that can give one-half or more of their time exclusively to the work of the Lord, we have a plan to suggest. (We refer to those who have not families dependent on them for support--both men and women,) viz: That you go forth into large or small cities, according to your ability, as Colporteurs or Evangelists, seek to find in every place the earnest Christian, many of whom you will find possessed of a zeal for God, but not according to them tracts...endeavor to sell them the 'Day Dawn,' or to take their subscription for the 'Watch Tower'...

    "As few could afford to travel, pay their board and clothe themselves without some income, we propose to furnish the TRACTS and DAY DAWN'S free, and to allow any such person to take a subscription to the WATCH TOWER, using the money obrtained from both of these sources, (Day Dawn and Watch Tower,--the Tracts are free and must not be sold,) in defraying necessary expenses, (not at all probable) you would be expected to make some return to us."

    By 1885 it is estimated that there were nearly 300 Colporteurs and by 1914 the number of 1,000 was finally exceeded, meeting Russell's expectation. ( See Proclaimers, page 284)

    Also, in 1881 was published for distribution Food for Thinking Christians; 1,200,000 in the first four months. What I found amazing was who was doing the witnessing work. But, then, I guess I shouldn't be too surprised considering there were only some 100 or so Bible Students at the time. Zion's Watch Tower (Oct.-Nov., 1881) tells us: "...The work has employed hundreds of men, women and boys in preparation and distributing, nearly 500 boys being employed to distribute in London, and about 300 in New York--other cities in proportion. The distribution was made in the larger cities at the church doors on Sundays." Russell had to hire help to get the material out. And it was non-believers mainly who were passing them out on the streets near the churches.

    The Proclaimers book, page 719 says that house-to-house distribution of free tracts on Sundays by Bible Students began in 1903. Next, Zion's Watch Tower (Dec. 1, 1904) indicates that Pastor Russell's sermons began to appear in newspapers, It was called "newspaper gospelling." By 1913 it was estimated that some 2,000 papers carrying Russell's sermons were being read by some 15,000,000 readers! True to form, I found some full page sermons that appeared in some Florida papers, but many of these were in conjunction with a speaking tour he conducted during this time frame. These conventions also brought a lot of publicity.

    The August 15, 1904 ZWT contains how to witness techniques. It is entitled "A Word to Our Dear Colporteurs." It's almost a deja vu. It gives different examples of methods to use in successfully witnessing. A definite read. If the Witnesses are so adept in witnessing today, perhaps it is because they have had such a long history of practice (102 years to be exact). You can view it at

    In my research I also came across what I believe to be the inauguration of the first literature bags used in witnessing work. The Nov. 15, 1908 ZWT contains this ad:

    "Colporteur Bags and Dawn-Mobiles

    "Dear Sister Brown of Washington City, finding that canvas bags, to hang on the shoulder and under the coat, are a great convenience to Colporteurs, has gladly assumed the service of supplying these to the regular Colporteurs of our list, free. She has supplied us with a lot, which we will be glad to forward to those not yet supplied.

    "Brother Cole's kind offer of Dawn-mobiles free to Colporteur sisters is still open. Others desiring to purchase the device may remit $2.50 for one, to be sent charges collect."

    I'm not sure what the Dawn-mobile looked like. I'm guessing it was some type of apparatus (maybe like a small wagon) where the womenfolk could lug the Day Dawn books from house to house???? If anyone knows for sure what they looked like, please give us a description.

    The next type of witnessing work launched by Russell was the "Photo-Drama of Creation" created in 1914. It featured motion picture and slide presentation, synchronized with musical recordings and phonograph-record talks.( Remember that sound pictures didn't come into existence until 1926.) In January the first showing took place in New York and by the end of the year audiences totaling over 9,000,000 in North America, Europe, and Australia had seen it.

    In the June 15,1916 ZWT, before his death in October, Russell also made available what was known as the Angelphone, (signifying "The Angels Voice") phonographs to be used in connection with the "Eureka Drama" and the "Family Outfits," which were recorded lectures and musical recordings or the records plus the slides. Though it lacked motion pictures, it was successfully presented in less densely populated areas.

    The next innovations in witnessing were to be left to Judge J.F. Rutherford, who introduced sound trucks, portable phonographs, and placard bearing as means of transmitting the Watchtower message.

  • Undecided

    I remember the phonographs and the placards. I may have seen the photodrama of creation, but I was too young to remember what it was like.(Or maybe just hearing them talk about it.) I do remember colporteurs who lived in a trailer they pulled with their cars.

    Ken P.

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