Looking for transcript of the "Miracle Wheat" trial

by Doug Mason 23 Replies latest watchtower bible

  • Masterji


    Are you sure the book is The Way to Paradise? Not in mine.


  • Band on the Run
    Band on the Run

    I am so tired of IE not working. EArlier I suggested getting touch with the NY Historical Society, which may or may not include Brooklyn, and the eqivalent organization for Brooklyn. I wonder if a Brooklyn Heights group would have records. It is a very civic minded neighborhood.

    Truth is an absolute defense to libel. It does not seem to be mentioned by the court but a cartoon is clearly opinion. It was not an illustration or a photo. Rutherford's running to court republished the libel. This seems to be a common strand running through Witness legal strategy. Russell was a public figure at the time so he would not as much protection as a truly private citizen. Without Rutherford's legal move, "miracle wheat" would not be accessible to us today. It reminds me of the Roman Catholic Church with their pedophile policy. The publicity is far wrose than any judgemt would have been.

    I am curious as to whether this was silly scheme to channel WT donations or a deeper fraud.

  • Alleymom

    Masterji -

    Click here

    The section starts on p. 14 and the bits of transcript are on p. 17 & 18.

  • talesin

    fokyc already posted the link ...

  • Alleymom

    Here's the cartoon in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle.

    Brooklyn Daily Eagle, September 23, 1911

    Edited to add -- In addition to the cartoon, see the article about Pastor Russell and the miracle wheat in the far right column.

    I found this newspaper page at www.fultonhistory.com

  • diamondiiz

    The actual transcript is gone. The only transcript from Russell's era is that of his divorce and it's not cheap to get. The other two, Russell vs Brooklyn Eagle and Russell vs JJ Ross are missing.

    Here are jpg of Brooklyn Eagle Jan11,1913 and Jan 24, 1913 they reveal a bit about the court case.

  • Alleymom

    Doug -- Here are excerpts from W.E. Van Amburgh's testimony during the Miracle Wheat trial.

    From The Way to Paradise, by W.E. Van Amburgh, with a biographical supplement, "Who Was W.E. Van Amburgh?" ISBN 1-4116-5971-6.
    The biographical supplement "Who Was W.E. Van Amburgh?" was not part of the 1924 book. The excerpts below are from the supplement, beginning on page 14.

    Testimony During the "Miracle Wheat" Trial

    Because of his position in the WTB&TS, W.E. Van Amburgh was called to testify in court during the libel suit brought by Pastor Russell agaist the editors of a newspaper, THE BROOKLYN EAGLE.

    This suit was filed because on September 23, 1912, THE BROOKLYN EAGLE published 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?"

    Russell sued the EAGLE for libel, seeking damages of $100,000 for "injury to his reputation, good name, fame and standing." The complaint alleged that Pastor Russell 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 parishoners 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 that "miracle wheat" produced up to twice the yield of ordinary wheat when planted thin. 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.

    The Court held that Russell's doctrines would be subject to examination since they were mentioned in the Pastor's charge of libel. One such was the Pastor's teaching that "old worthies" such as King David, Moses, Solomon, et al., were due for resurrection before 1914 to rule as princes in the earth.

    Pastor Russell did not take the stand; he conveyed all his messages through attorney J.F. Rutherford. "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."

    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 the testimony of William E. Van Amburgh. Van Amburgh was rigorously cross-examined; his 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 and could therefore lay no claim to having been "damaged":

    Q.: "How much in donations did the Watch Tower Society get in 1912?"

    A.: (Van Amburgh) "$202,000."

    Q.: "How much in 1911?"

    A.: "$169,000."

    Q.: "How much in 1910?"

    A.: "$139,000."

    Q.: "So that since this alleged libel was published your income has increased?"

    A.: "Yes, the work of the society is growing very fast, but it might have grown faster if it had not been for the libel."

    Q.: "But your annual report of the Watch Tower does not show that your society gets anything from its affiliated corportations?"

    A.: "No, sir. It is not a detailed report."

    Prodded by the EAGLE'S attorneys, Van Amburgh revealed the existence of two dummy corporations, the United States Investment Co., Ltd., and the United Cemeteries Corporation.

    Q.: "And you say you do not know who the stockholders of the Investment Company are?"

    A.: "No, sir. I could not say."

    Q.: "Did you ever hear any complaints from the directors of the Investment Company that they did not get ... interest?"

    A.: "No, sir."

    Q.: "Are not the owners of the companies the same persons?"

    A.: "I do not know as an absolute certainty."

    Q.: "And did you not take title to property as a dummy for the Watch Tower Society?"

    A.: "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 Cemeteries Company."


    Q.: "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?"

    A.: "Some people seem to think that a religious corporation should do no so-called secular business whatever."

    Van Amburgh 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." 11

    11 Condensed from VISIONS OF GLORY by Barbara G. Harrison (1978)

    ------------ end of excerpt ---------------

  • Band on the Run
    Band on the Run

    I had some more ideas for finding material. The reference liibrarians at the Brooklyn Public Library, and possibly, the reference department at NY Public Library in the research dept. on 42nd St. with the famous lions.

    There are some religious historians who specialize in JW history. Columbia University, NYU, and Fordham come to mind. Union Theological Seminary on Morningside Heights might have material.

    Think of all the opinion pieces on the wealth and corruption of the Popes over many centuries. Russell seems different from Rutherford. I don't understand the Bible Students take. The occult and Masonic symbols on the old publications scared the living daylights out of me. New Light every five minutes means utter chaos.

  • Alleymom

    Here is a pdf with clippings from the Brooklyn Daily Eagle on Russell, years 1909-1916.


  • HeyThere


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