The Brooklyn Eagle cartoon of CT Russell here. I seem to remember some asking what it looked like.
Thank you Aussie Oz, I was the one who asked about this cartoon years ago here.
This is the cartoon that Russell sued The Eagle claiming libel! He lost the case.
Some backgroud concerning the cartoon and the lawsuit is given in Chapter 4 of Barbara Harrison's Visions of Glory.
IN 1911, the market price for wheat was 59 cents to $1 a bushel. In Charles Taze Russell's Hicks Street Tabernacle, "miracle wheat" was being sold for $60 a bushel, or $1 a pound.
In 1904, K. B. Stoner, a 70-year-old veteran of the Confederate Army, farming in Fincastle, Virginia, discovered an unusual strain of wheat growing in a little garden patch in back of his house. Stoner's experimentations led him to the conclusion that the uncommonly heavy wheat, when planted thinly, in Virginia soil, yielded as much as 1 1/2 to 2 times as much grain as ordinary wheat. It was bruited about that the "miracle wheat" had appeared in Stoner's garden as a result of Stoner's asking the Lord for a miracle. Stoner later laconically denied that he and the Lord were in collusion to increase the yield of grain.
Stoner sold his wheat for $5 a bushel-five times the market price of regular wheat.
Russell's Tabernacle sold "miracle wheat" for $55 more a bushel than Stoner.
The "miracle wheat" came into the hands of the Watch Tower Society when the president of the United Cemeteries Corporation of Pittsburgh gave J. A. Bohnet, a director of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society, “permission" to plant the Stoner wheat on his land and expressed his willingness to donate the crop to the Watch Tower Society. Inasmuch as the United Cemeteries Corporation---of which Russell was a trustee-was later found to be a dummy corporation for Watch Tower assets, this was hardly an act of disinterested charity. It was a very carefully nurtured "miracle" indeed.
The Brooklyn Eagle charged Russell with exploitation, taking raucous delight in his "bunco game." The Eagle’s investigative reporters' diligence led to an examination of the $60-a-bushel wheat by the Department of Postal Inspection, the Polytechnic Institute, and the Department of Agriculture. The consensus of chemical analysts was that the Stoner-brand "miracle wheat" was better than some and not so good as others. An official of the Department of Agriculture, in a letter published by the Rural New Yorker, declared that the "miracle wheat" did not merit the extravagant claims made for it:
This variety… is closely related to the soft winter wheats of the Atlantic Coast, of which Fultz, Fulcaster, etc., are leading types. From our experiments with Mr. Stoner's Variety we have found it to be satisfactory, but particularly for the region where it was first grown: It does not merit the extravagant claims made for it. It is a little better, perhaps, than the varieties grown in Virginia and vicinity only because it was a carefully selected strain.
Tests showed, in fact, that Fultz wheat-which was selling for $I a bushel-yielded, under ordinary circumstances, twice as much as the $60 miracle wheat: Fultz seed yielded 66 bushels to Stoner's 33.
Russell once again sang his persecution song: The pastors of the city are jealous of me, he said. "Other people than my own," said Russell, “wouldn't believe that this wheat contains extraordinary qualities. It is too much of a miracle for them to comprehend." Russell cited the prophet Ezekiel-"I will call for corn and increase it"-and delivered himself of the opinion that the "miracle wheat" was "a sign" that the Lord was fulfilling the prophecy that the desert would bloom like a rose. Directors of the Watch Tower Society, possibly with a view to litigious trouble ahead, sought to temper Russell's extravagant claims. The original advertisement in The Watch Tower had stated that the yield of "miracle wheat" ought to be from 10 to 15 times that of ordinary wheat; but one "Brother" Dockey informed an Eagle reporter that "no guarantee is offered that 'miracle wheat' possesses powers of extraordinary yield." As things heated up and the Eagle continued, scarcely containing its glee, to deride Russell (who very carefully allowed his fellow directors to act as agents for the sale of the wheat, promoting the picture of himself as an objective, non-profit-making observer of God's bounty), Watch Tower spokesmen issued slithery disclaimers: "The advertisement in The Watch Tower does not say that miracle wheat is worth $1 a pound," said the general counsel for the Watch Tower Society. "It says simply that Brother Bohnet is willing to sell it at that price. It is purely a donation sale, for the benefit of the society, and those who buy at the price quoted do so with the understanding and the idea that they are voluntarily giving aid to the society. I might place high value upon worthless furniture if I wished to, and if people wanted to buy at the price I named they could do so, if they wished, though I made no claims that the furniture had any real value beyond that of ordinary furniture."
Clearly, two, sets of messages were being communicated-one to the “worldly” and one to the believers.
Russell offered to return money to anyone who was dissatisfied. But the damage had been done. Russell knew how to sell wheat to credulous believers; the Eagle knew how to sell newspapers to people eager for diversion.
On September 23, 1912, the Eagle ran a cartoon called "Easy Money Puzzle." It showed a fat gilded banker standing on the steps of the "Onion Bank" calling to a sinister, sloppy old peddler with a top hat and a scraggly beard sneakily carrying off a parcel of loot. "You're wasting your time," the banker said. "Come on in here!" The cartoon's caption read, "If Pastor Russell can get a dollar a pound for Miracle Wheat, what could he get for Miracle stocks and bonds in the old Union Bank?" (The Union-"Onion"- bank was liquidated in 1912; the bank was unable to pay more than half of what it had held in trust for its depositors. The Eagle had been in large measure responsible for the exposure of "ill-smelling" securities which led to the bank's downfall.)
Russell sued the Eagle for libel, demanding $100,000 in damages for "injury to his reputation, good name, fame and standing." The complaint alleged that Russell-who was on holiday in Europe when suit was brought on his behalf against the Eagle-had been "brought into scandal and reproach and has been held up to odium, scandal, disgrace and contempt among his neighbors, friends, and the readers of his Journal, books and other writings and among parishioners and members of his congregation."
The Eagle’s defense was that the sale of "miracle wheat" was a scheme intended to benefit the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society, of which Pastor Russell had complete control, and that its articles and cartoons were justified by the facts: "This plaintiff has held himself out to be a teacher of other people, a public leader, and the public press has a right to criticize him or his doctrines."
The case was brought before Justice Charles H. Kelby and a jury in the Kings County Supreme Court.
Several farmers testified-their testimony avidly received by Russell's followers, who jammed the courtroom-that "miracle wheat" produced up to twice the yield of ordinary wheat when planted thin.
It was thin testimony, and skimpy cause for rejoicing. The Eagle, in its defense, called a government agronomist, who testified that the Department of Agriculture had tested "miracle wheat" under carefully checked conditions and found it to be a good-yielding wheat, but no better than other varieties. In competitive testing, he said-bolstering his testimony with certified copies of the public records of the Department of Agriculture-it had ranked eighteenth in one test, tenth in another, and third in a test when it was thinly sown.
There were several bizarre aspects to the trial. One amusing grace note was that Russell's vanity prompted him to have his attorney protest that Russell's beard was not, as in the cartoon, scraggly at all, but kempt. Russell's doctrines-held, by the Court, to be relevant to the libel-were held up for ridicule. One dogma, in particular, brought delight to the pastor's antaganists. This was the Pastor's conceit that "old worthies" such as King David, Moses, Solomon, et al., were due for resurrection before 1914 to rule as princes in the earth. One of the juicier allegations made against the Watch Tower Society was that it had coerced an insane man, Hope Hay, into contributing $10,000 to its funds. William E. Van Amburgh (the newspapers frequently misspelled his name Van Amberg), secretary-treasurer of' the Watch Tower Society, acknowledged that Mr. Hay was in an “insane asylum" and that the Watch Tower Society was footing his bills, but denied that Mr. Hay had not given his money of his own free will.
Russell did not take the stand; he conveyed all his messages through attorney J. F. Rutherford who was to become the second president of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society, after Russell's death). "What the character of the plaintiff is," the Eagle's attorney told the jury, "you can infer from the fact that he did not take the witness stand and let you look in his eyes as he told of his past life. He did not give you and me the chance to question him as to . . . why he left Pittsburgh, why he came here, and what he intends to do when he leaves here."
The burden of Justice Kelby's charge to the jury was that as a matter of law, the cartoon was libelous in itself unless justified by the evidence. The burden of proof, Kelby charged, was upon the Eagle: "Truth is always a defense in a libel suit, but the defendant must prove the truth is as broad as the charge."
The jury of twelve men was out for less than forty-five minutes before it returned a verdict of not guilty in the Eagle's favor.
The evidence that weighed most heavily with the jury was that of Mr. Van Amburgh.
Van Amburgh was an ingenuous, unresponsive witness; he acted more like a junior bookkeeper than like the financial officer of a corporation that had spent millions of dollars in a decade. He was, however, rigorously cross-examined; his grudging testimony, together with the subpoenaed financial records of the Society, gave weight to the Eagle's claim that the Watch Tower Society, under Russell's control, had flourished financially in spite of the newspaper's expose’s and
could therefore lay no claim to having been "damaged":
"How much in donations did the Watch Tower Society get in 1912?"
"$202,000," Van Amburgh replied.
"How much in 1911?"
"How much in 1910?"
"So that since this alleged libel was published your income has increased?"
"Yes, the work of the society is growing very fast, but it might have grown faster if it had not been for the libel."
"But your annual report of the Watch Tower does not show that your society gets anything from its affiliated corporations?"
"No, sir. It is not a detailed report."
Persistent prodding by the Eagle's attorneys revealed the existence of two dummy corporations, the United States Investment Co., Ltd., and the United Cemeteries Corporation.- (The president of the Cemeteries Corp. was a doctor-a nice little incongruity that tickled the fancy of the unbelievers in the courtroom.)
"And you say you do not know who the stockholders of the Investment Company are?"
"No, sir," said the secretary-treasurer. "I could not say."
"Did you ever hear any complaints from the directors of the Investment Company that they
did not get ... interest?"
“Are not the owners of the companies the same persons?"
"I do not know as an absolute certainty."
"And did you not take title to property as a dummy for the Watch Tower Society?”
"Yes, sir. I took title to a farm near Pittsburgh some years ago. The money was that of the Watch Tower Society. I deeded it to the United States Society, which, in turn, signed it over to the United Cemetaries Company."
"Why do you not do all your business in the name of the Watch Tower Society; that is why do you need the dummy corporations?”
”Some people seem to think that a religious corporation should do no so-called secular business whatever," said Van Amburgh, who had compounded his troubles by saying that the reason he held the title to substantial properties used by the Watch Tower Society was that the Investment Company did not deal in mortgages. "They do not see the propriety of it-No, let me change that answer-I mean that the United States Investment Company and the United Cemeteries were in existence before I ever came to Pittsburgh, and we have continued to use those companies for their convenience ever since.”
The Watch Tower Society has, from time to time, advised "children of light" to act as cunningly as serpents when they deal with "children of darkness." Van Amburgh was a singularly unwily serpent; every time he opened his mouth, the Eagle's attorneys milked him of information that destroyed the credibility of Russell's organization. Every word he said contributed to the jury's impression that the Watch Tower Society was a sophisticated financial corporation masquerading as primitive Christianity on a non-profit-making crusade.
Russell, for example, had not just "growed," like Topsy, into a "latter day Elias." He had a press agent and a public relations man, to enhance his image and to act as an advance man on his world tours. (The man whose dying words were "Bring me a toga" may have believed that Jehovah had chosen him among the earth's billions; but he wasn't taking any chances that Jehovah's choice would go unnoticed.) Van Amburgh's testimony further revealed that while any donor contributing $10 to the Watch Tower Society was entitled to a voting share, in fact only 50,000 voting certificates had been issued; 47,000 of those had been issued to Charles Taze Russell, whose yearly reelection was thus secure. Four hundred to five hundred thousand donors might have availed themselves of voting shares; only fifty or sixty donors did so. Clearly, this was a tribute to Russell's manipulative genius and to the intensity of his followers' belief. It was at this time that Russell was pleading financial impoverishment as justification for not paying Maria Russell increased alimony.
It is not surprising that although Russell's attorneys pleaded that a finding in favor of the Eagle would be tantamount to calling a simple man of God "a crook," the finding went against Russell. Once out of the courtroom, true to form, Russell flung his reticence away as if it were a cloak of rags and tried, once again, to cover himself with glory. He had been "smitten," he said, like Our Lord and like St. Paul. “I, like them," he proclaimed, "have been refused the law's protection. I murmur not."
Indeed he did not murmur. He bellowed and bawled and contrived to turn his disgrace to his advantage. Maintaining the pose of injured innocence, he said, flatly, that he had had "nothing whatever to do" with "miracle wheat." It seems unbelievable that his followers should have swallowed that; but Russell took care to frost his bald statement with the anticlerical declarations they loved: The Eagle, he said, had in reality been "the champion of certain clerical enemies of mine." "All manner of evil" had been spoken against" him "for the sake of the doctrines of Christ." Anyone who turned against him, therefore, would be repudiating not a crooked old man, but Christ Himself.
Once again, Russell cried wolf; and once again the hungry wolf in his elaborate fairy tale was the Catholic Church, against which the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society was the only protection.
"Presumably because there were seven Catholics on the jury," Russell said, "the Eagle's attorney was prompted to refer to the Sisters of Charity and their noble work as nurses without referring to the fact that those nurses are well paid and that the hospitals, in large measure, are supported by state taxation." Russell's organization was pure, according to his arguments-which also took into consideration the Church's wealth-precisely because it did not engage in acts of charity; the Church, he implied, used charity as a cover for sneaky thievery:
The Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society was held up to scorn because it did not have any hospital work, nor draw any revenue from taxations, and because the female members of the Society do not visit the workshops of the land weekly or monthly on pay day and exact donations to its work. Our society was held up to scorn because we do not send a wagon around the city collecting groceries and provisions for the upkeep of our work; because we do not take up collections, even on Sunday; because we have never solicited a penny or a dollar from anybody; and because we never have fairs, grab-bags, "chances," or "raffles." Our society was held up to ridicule because it offers its literature free to the poor while other similar societies charge both rich and poor alike for their tracts and other publications.
Nor did the Protestants escape: For defending the Eagle, he said, "the Protestants on the jury were led to hope for escape from eternal torment through the 'pearly gates of heaven,' welcomed with the words, 'Well done,' for giving the Eagle the verdict. Neither I nor my attorneys could offer such inducements conscientiously.”
Our home, "Bethel." where some of our society's workers reside, was held up to scorn-likened to a harem, etc. This surely did cut me deeply to the heart. I am quite willing to suffer if need be, for my faithfulness to the Lord and His Word; but it gave me great pain that the arrows intended for me did not all center upon myself-that the more than a hundred saintly earnest men, women, and children, co-laborers with me in the Lord's work, should thus be made to unjustly suffer. I can only urge upon them to apply to themselves the words of the apostle: "Cast not away, therefore, your confidence, which hath great recompense of reward;.. Ye shall receive the promise; ye endured a great fight of afflictions; partly, whilst ye were made a gazing stock and partly whilst ye became companions of them that were so used."
"I am the more encouraged," said the man who implied that Protestants on the jury had voted against him because of the Eagle's attorneys' enticing them with the promise of entry into the "pearly gates of heaven," "because I realize that the great Day of Blessing, the great Thousand Year of Messiah's Kingdom, is near at hand, is dawning now. Soon Satan, the 'Prince of Darkness,' will be bound…No longer will darkness be permitted to masquerade as light, and the light be slandered as darkness."
I wasn"t aware of how much above market price the wheat was sold. Obviously by a guilt trip