Pics of Rutherford

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  • Leolaia

    Interesting points. It is certainly conceivable that Rutherford fibbed such tales that made his discovery of the faith more dramatic than it really was, and you bring up some intriguing details about his pre-Bible Student life. But I still have a number of questions that remain. What time frame do your comments pertain to? I presume 1894 when he said he purchased Millennial Dawn (in the United States vs. Rutherford transcript)? There is a little ambiguity in that the story does not say much time elapsed between the ice incident and when he bought the books. Was Rutherford a teacher as early as 1893 or 1892?

    As for him being a book seller as Covington claimed, I wonder if the story has not gotten garbled here. I don't quite understand why he made a vow not to turn away book sellers if he were a seller himself. Are there other versions of the story you know of that might confirm the details of Covington's version?

    Also there is an attractiveness to the idea that Rutherford has already experienced pneumonia prior to 1918, for it would help explain why he was so susceptible to the poor circulation of his jail cell and why he ended up with such severe health problems when the others did not.

    Still, as you note, skepticism is justified...

  • Nathan Natas
    Nathan Natas

    I've always puzzled about the "poor air circulation" story. They were in prison, right? Most prison cells -except for solitary - have at least one wall that is pretty well ventilated. Bars don't block the flow of oxygen very effectively. Now maybe this was a modern, low-security, "hotel" sort of prison, but I doubt it. It was the Atlanta penitentiary. I'll see if historic photos of the accommodations are available.

  • Nathan Natas
    Nathan Natas

    Poorly ventilated? You decide...alt

    Interior of the Atlanta Federal Penitentiary, where Ruthrford suffered due to poor air circulation.

  • luna2

    It does sound like a good "reason" why the poor, poor man just HAD to live in California during the winter months.

  • Satanus

    The wt pins blame for the cause and continuation of his pneomonia and lung condition onto the state prison. However, if he already had this weakness due to his falling through ice, then the wt has spun another yarn.


  • chasson

    Nathan and Leolaia,

    Nathan:I've always puzzled about the "poor air circulation" story

    So am I.
    This is why i asked leolaia about this story of pneumonia before Rutherford was a Bible Student. For me, even if life in prison, at this time was difficult, i always ask myself how he could contract a pneumonia in raison of poor conditions in prison, days *after* his release of jail.

    Thanks for you information Leolaia.



  • Athanasius

    Hi Leolaia,

    Rutherford's teaching years were 1887-1888. He taught at two schools, Pleasant Grove and Carpenter, both in Syracuse. He was appointed court stenographer in 1889 and moved to Boonville in April 1890, where he met Mary Fetzer whom he married in December 1891. Interestingly Rutherford got his marriage license before he received his license to practice law. In 1892 he made a formal application to practice law before the bar at Boonville. A committee of five members of the Boonville bar were appointed to examine the young stenographer to see whether his knowledge of legal procedures was sufficent to permit him to practice. The committee granted his license to practice law in Cooper County in May 1892. His marriage into the socially prominent Fetzer family no doubt opened doors for him, though Joe was also a very capable and responsible young man with his own connections.

    Rutherford's first contact with Russellism wasn't until 1894. This is confirmed by a letter that he wrote and which was reprinted in the April 15, 1894 Zion's Watch Tower. But Joe didn't really get involved with the sect, other than buying a few books, until 1906. Some Watchtower sources claim he became active in 1904, but contemporaty sources indicate that this too is myth. On May 6, 1904 Hayden Samson, a prominent Watch Tower speaker addressed a group of interested persons at the Turner Hall in Boonville where Rutherford still resided with his wife and son. Samson's speaking tour had been advertised and booked months in advance, so Joe had time to arrange his affairs to be in attendance had he wanted to. So where was Joe on this special night? Rutherford was hundreds of miles away in Independence, Kansas on a business trip. Also in the fall of 1904 Joe was on the stump campaigning for Democratic candidates for local and national office. Remember that Russell's view of politics and politicians was the same as that of the JWs today. The earliest non-Watchtower source that I was able to find that indicated Rutherford's involvement with the Watch Tower was a Boonville newspaper article dated September 27, 1907. The paper said that Joe had quit his legal practice to take up the lecture circuit for the Watch Tower.

    However, at his 1918 trial Rutherford testified that 1906 was the year he accepted the Watch Tower and made a consecration to the Lord. Since Joe didn't have any reason to lie about this under oath, 1906 is probably the year that he first got seriously involved with the Watch Tower. Thus 1906 was the year that launched the theological career of the man who would mold Russell's sect into a religion of misery for millions of innocent people.

  • Leolaia

    Thanks, Athanasius. It's fascinating reading this additional info. I'm a little confused your first message you said that "during the period in question Rutherford was the primary teacher at Carpenter Elementary school in Syracuse", yet these years are now given as 1887-1888 while Rutherford did not purchase the volumes until 1894 (the actual "period in question").

    It is interesting that the Watch Tower letter mentions nothing about the "ice lake" story. Arguments from silence are pretty risky, but this may be another knock against Covington's story.

  • Athanasius

    Hi Leolaia,

    Sorry if there was some confusion in my first post when I used the "term period in question," rather than clarifying which years were meant. I thought it was understood that the period in question was when Rutherford finished his schooling at the Hooper Institute in Clarksburg and the start of his appointment as court stenographer in Morgan and Cole Counties, which were the years 1887-1888. These would be the lost years so to speak during which Covington and the Proclaimers book (pg. 67) say Joe was a traveling book salesman, fell into an icy stream, caught pneumonia and almost died.

    If there is a non-Watchtower source for the icy stream story, I haven't seen it.

    While Joe Rutherford door-to-door book salesman is probably a myth, the future JW leader did enjoy reading and understood the value of books, later acquiring large personal and legal library including some of the writings of the Russells.

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