UNDERSTANDING money and the history of the Watch Tower

by Terry 16 Replies latest watchtower scandals

  • Terry

    Today the Watch Tower Corp. is changing a long-standing policy in regard to donations which had been in place a long, long time.

    To understand the original policies (about money) and the changed (new policy) we have to take a peek into the past.

    I don't want to bog you down in history. You can research on your own using Google.

    Here are salient facts.


    Charles T. Russell, age of 13, joined the Congregational church (dumped Presbyterian).

    He went (like Girl Scouts are sent out with cookies to sell) door to door to RAISE MONEY for the Church.

    Russell hated fund raising. He had to ask poor people to part with their money. He said he felt he was "fleecing the flock."

    Russell sold 5 men's clothing stores for: $6,521,739.13

    $300,000 of 1876 dollars would be worth:$6,521,739.13 in 2014



    He threw his money into publishing End Times writings. He spent the family fortune like a drunken sailor on his favorite topics.

    If somebody wrote something Russell agreed with he'd pay for the publishing.

    If that somebody disagreed with Russell, he'd pull funding.

    Russell finally fell in love with his own writings to the exclusion of everybody else (including his wife) and began writing 7 ambitious volumes.

    He wanted to set everybody straight.

    1886 the money dried up due to the immense amount of money spent in printing and distributing the first three publications.

    He was spending about a million dollars a year!

    GUESS WHAT YEAR Russell tried to sell his books in bookstores? 1886.


    By 1897, nearly one million Dawns had been distributed, largely by the colporteurs. DOOR TO DOOR BOOK SALESMEN.After 1931, the term “colporteur” was replaced by “pioneer.”

    Pastor Russell's volumes were sold at about $2 a set or $2 of 1900 dollars would be worth: $55.00 in2014

    Russell also turned to writing sermons as a newspaper columnist and built up a readership of about fifteen million people.

    Having built a customer base (faithful readers) Russell went on tour giving sermons IN PERSON becoming one of the most recognized and 'famous' ministers in the world, like Joel Osteen or Joyce Meyers today.

    Russell had no problems accepting private donations!

    Pastor Russell had made a name for himself by refusing to take collections during meetings.

    The slogan "Seats Free - No Collections" angered many clergymen because it was a slam on the traditional collection plate process.


    The Watch Tower turned to advertising miraculous beans as a free giveaway and then switched to Miracle Wheat for a dollar.

    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.

    (The beans and wheat had been DONATED to Russell's ministry)

    $1 of 1911 dollars would be worth: $24.39 in2014

    Miracle Wheat brought in $1,800 of 1911 dollars would be worth:$43,902.44 in 2014


    1897: When his wife Maria petitioned the court for a LEGAL SEPARATION (not a divorce) it was granted with Alimony.

    Russell transferred his funds into the WTS account and strung Maria's alimony out torturously to make her dependant and to teach her a lesson.

    Russell was litigious if he thought he could win a lawsuit.

    The Washington Post partially quoted Maria's testimony about his claim "he floated from woman to woman like a jellyfish."

    Russell sued and was awarded one dollar in damages. But--he relentlessly pursued an appeal making himself a legal nuisance and the case was settled for $15,000. $15,000 of 1915 dollars would be worth:$348,837.21 in 2014



    Russell's attorney was Judge Rutherford who wrote a pamphlet: Great Battle in the Ecclesiastical Heavens defending Russell's reputation.

    "This is a non-stock corporation; it pays no dividends, no salaries, and no one has ever, as its books clearly show, reaped any financial benefit therefrom. It is supported entirely by voluntary contributions made by those who are interested in the promulgation of Bible Truths. Its work is exclusively religious.

    For each contribution of $10.00 the contributor is entitled to one voting share. While there are nearly two hundred thousand shares, and it would be an easy matter to elect some other man as president, there never has been cast a vote against Pastor Russell."

    Ten dollars times two-hundred thousand shares=$2,000.000 $2,000,000 of 1915 dollars would be worth:$46,511,627.91 in 2014

    Bingo! (Note: 1913 Federal Income Tax was passed into law.)


    NINE MILLION people saw the PHOTO DRAMA of CREATION (a slide show) presented to audiences around the world. Stop and consider:

    No collection plate was passed--however--DONATIONS were accepted. (A donation box in plain sight.)

    On September 23, 1912,the Eagle ran a cartoon called "Easy Money Puzzle."

    Russell sued the Eagle for libel, demanding $100,000 in damages for "injury to his reputation, good name, fame and standing."

    The case was brought before Justice Charles H. Kelby and a jury in the Kings County Supreme Court.

    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, 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.

    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.

    This is just an historical snapshot of how money and the Watch Tower had their beginnings.

  • TTATTelder

    Thanks Terry.

    I never knew Rutherford was Russell's lawyer. I guess I missed that along the way.

    This organization has been "big business" from the start.

    They have done a pretty good job of not getting too flashy with it (besides Rutherford's mansion and cars), but it is always a focus. The GB like the security of sitting atop billions today, and so do all the other high ranking staffers.


  • Old Goat
    Old Goat

    where did you get the figure for the sale of his stores?

  • nonjwspouse

    TTATT Elder, I have seen the pictures of the new digs for the WT and they do seem flashy to me.

  • TTATTelder

    I have seen the pictures of the new digs for the WT and they do seem flashy to me. - nonjwspouse

    I haven't seen any pics yet, but with the new luxury-property purchase in Wales recently, I can believe it.

    They will probably not be able to resist throwing their billions around in the coming years, especially with the constant reduction of expenses.


  • cultBgone

    Thanks, Terry. Nice historical data to share.

  • KiddingMe

    Thanks very informative.

  • Terry

    OLD GOAT: where did you get the figure for the sale of his stores?


    " Charles immediately, and in great haste, sold out his five clothing stores and all his other business interests to the tune of $300,000 dollars."

    $300,000 of 1876 dollars would be worth:$6,521,739.13 in 2014


  • Finkelstein

    ....... and how do you keep this company fluent and continuous so that the leaders maintain what they have achieved

    and perhaps have the potential to expand ? You lie, but exploit the public's outward basic belief in the bible to support those

    Kingdom building lies.

    Someone should write a book entitled " The Lies That Built a Kingdom "

  • Old Goat
    Old Goat

    The statement at pastor russell . com seems incorrect. From Schulz and de Vienne's A Separate Identity Permission to quote extensively courtesy R. M de Vienne):


    Turns his Attention to Business

    Some of Russell’s religious commentary is biographical. An article about the apostle Peter seems to fall into this category. The apostles, wrote Russell, were discouraged and confused by Jesus’ death and even though he had appeared to them, were “thoroughly disheartened. They left all to follow him, to tell the people that he was the son of God ... . Now, apparently all of these hopes were dashed, frustrated. How foolish … it would seem … to try and convince people that a man, crucified as a malefactor, as a blasphemer, was … the Messiah!”[1] They felt they could do nothing but abandon the ministry and resume their fishing business. “All interest had just centered on the fishing business,” he wrote. There is an obvious parallel to his life.

    It is probable that Russell also drew on his own experience when he wrote of the quest for riches. If one’s goal was money, he wrote, one should “try to be a millionaire.” He devoted “all his might” to business ventures, and soon other stores were opened. If an article he wrote in 1913 is biographical, his goal was to become rich. He prayed to God for wealth, “telling him that we knew what to do with the money, and how to use it in his work.”[2] He does not tell us what “good” he intended to do, though charitable works, supporting the arts and similar “good works” were palliatives for a rich man’s conscience. Later he would want the money to support his ministry. Perhaps he included some of his own experience when he wrote of the wealthy, suggesting that their thinking was: “We will have a certain evening for attending a good opera. We will not go to any disreputable place, but we will be patrons of art and music and literature. We must adopt a course that will win the approval of society. That will be the wise thing to do.”[3]

    Russell never became a millionaire; his religious views gave him other goals. But in this era he avidly pursued business interests, eventually owning five stores at one time, all in the Pittsburgh area.[4] Researchers must tread lightly through the various claims, assertions and outright nonsense presented as the absolute facts about Russell’s business ventures. His business acumen is both understated and exaggerated. His friends tend to overstate it; his enemies seek in his business activity signs of turpitude. Court testimony elicited an estimated net worth in 1879 of “about $60,000.” This was not as cash in hand but the estimated worth of his properties and cash. In court testimony Russell also suggested that he was worth fifty thousand dollars at the time his wife left him in 1897. A rating agency listed his creditworthiness as one hundred fifty thousand dollars at the same time.[5] Rutherford claimed that “when Pastor Russell closed out his business, many years ago, he had upwards of a quarter of a million dollars.”[6] We must take this as an aggregate figure. Russell sold his business interests over time. If taken as a lump sum, the figure is wrong. Between 1881 and 1907 Russell donated in property, investments (some of little worth), and cash three hundred fifty-five thousand seven hundred seventy dollars.[7]

    In 1915 William H. Bradford, an elder in the Twin Cities (St. Paul – Minneapolis) Ecclesia, wrote:

    C. T. Russell commenced business for himself while yet a boy and with very little capital. When he was eighteen he owned a store, when he was twenty-four he owned five stores and was worth three hundred thousand dollars, and this at an age when John D. Rockefeller had hardly made a start, and J. P. Morgan, with his inherited capital, had but little. If C. T. Russell had devoted his life to business it is easy to guess that John D. would not now be the richest man in the world nor J. P. Morgan have been the prince of financiers.

    However, that is the least remarkable thing about the career of Pastor Russell. With all this phenomenal talent for business he gave it all up and surrendered the most brilliant opening for obtaining wealth and power that has ever been offered to an American in order to take up a humble religious work. Such a thing as a man with surpassing wealth-getting power, voluntarily giving it up was unknown before in all history. He made no mistake, for the Master said, “Whosoever would become great among you shall be your servant.” With an insight into the higher things that enabled him to choose aright, he saw from the Scriptures that the time had come for the greatest work of the ages to be done, and as he was the right man for the place, the Lord chose him to be his servant to lead the visible earthly part of this work, namely, the harvest work of the end of the Gospel Age.[8]

    There is, of course, no way to predict what Russell would have become if he had pursued business exclusively. Bradford was swayed by his respect for Russell, but his comments are mere speculation. Russell says that he owned three stores in 1877, by late 1879 or early 1880 he added another: “I was then engaged in mercantile business and had a large store on the principal street of Pittsburgh, and three branch stores.”[9] An obnoxious polemicist with little skill as a historian suggests that this gives the lie to Russell’s claim to have owned five stores. O. R. Sullivan, a prominent Bible Student, suggested that “Pastor Russell owned and operated five large department stores in the largest cities in the United States.”[10] This is unmistakably false. Russell himself said: “I had several stores, two in Allegheny and three in Pittsburgh.” Another claim that must be discarded has Russell the inventor of the chain store idea. Beehive Stores and New York Stores were successful franchise operations, both of which originated in the 1850s and late 1860s, and both of which persisted in a small way until mid 20 th Century. A Beehive Clothing Store was located on Liberty Street in Pittsburgh as early as 1852, but we’re uncertain if it was part of the franchise or simply used a similar name.[11] The last New York Store of my personal acquaintance died in Walla Walla, Washington, sometime in the late 1970s.

    According to Maria Russell, when they were married in 1879 the three stores were the main store on 5 th Avenue, Pittsburgh, the Federal Street Store, and a hat store also on Federal Street. Russell and his father dissolved their partnership in 1880. C. T. Russell expanded the business, and “started another store on Liberty Street, Pittsburgh, a gents’ furnishing goods store” sometime just before the WatchTower began publication.[12] Rather than selling them at once, he “sold them out gradually as my time was required, and as the means was required and the opportunity for giving more time in the work I am engaged in.” Maria dated the first sale to “possibly five years” after their marriage, or to about 1884.[13]

    Another false claim is that a bequest by Russell’s uncle “made him rich.” Charles Tays Russell’s will reads: “I bequeath to my brother Joseph L. Russell and his children one thousand dollars.”[14] C. T. Russell’s three hundred and thirty-three dollar share hardly made him rich. After his aunt died the residue of a trust set up by Russell’s uncle was distributed to the heirs. The list of heirs is long, including the four children of Charles Tays’ brother Alexander, the six children of his sister Fanny, Charles’ father Joseph, his sister Margaret and himself. At her death the trust residue was very little. A court filing dated September 6, 1886, explains:

    Whereas the late Charles T. Russell, who died in the city of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA, in 1875, bequeathed three thousand dollars ($3000) to his executors in trust, to pay the interest to his sister, Miss Mary Jane Russell, during her lifetime, and, upon her death, to distribute the principal equally among “the heirs mentioned in this will”; and whereas through the inability of his executors to collect certain debts that were due to the estate of the said Charles T. Russell, deceased, the said fund was reduced from three thousand dollars ($3000) to fourteen hundred and eighteen and 51/100 dollars; and whereas the fund so reduced could not be made to yield more than six percent interest, about eighty five dollars per year, and whereas the said Mary Jane Russell is now very aged and infirm and has constantly required more than the amount of the interest of said fund to maintain her, and whereas now much more, she is in need of comfort and attention in her closing years; and whereas it has been found needful to extract certain debts for her maintenance and may require additional debt therefore in the future; Therefore we, Stephen H. Davenport and Cornelia S. Davenport, his wife, in consideration of the premises and of one dollar in hand paid to each of us, the receipt of which is hereby acknowledged, hereby authorize J. L. Russell, acting executor of the will of the said Charles T. Russell, deceased, to use as much of the principal of the said fund, in addition to the interest, as may be required, in his judgment, to pay the necessary expenses of the said Mary Jane Russell and the debts that have been extracted for her maintenance. And we hereby release and forever discharge the said J. L. Russell, his executors and administrators of and from such part of our share of the said as he shall so expend. It being understood that the balance of said fund not required for the above mentioned purpose shall be distributed in accord with the terms of the will of the said Charles T. Russell, upon the death of the said Mary Jane Russell.[15]

    A residue of less than fourteen hundred dollars spread among so many heirs did not add appreciably to Russell’s wealth. That it did is a fantasy generated by an uncritical or deceptive mind. We think the original statement from which all others have drawn false conclusions was a purposeful fabrication. Another erroneous statement made by one of Russell’s friends suggested that the land on which the Bible Student cemetery was organized had originally been property of Russell’s uncle. A check of plat maps shows otherwise.

    In 1894 Russell spoke of three stores he owned outright. Russell was also part-owner of at least one other store not sold at this time. He operated the store in partnership with A. J. Gilleland. A notice that the partnership had been dissolved and Russell’s interest sold to Gilleland appears in Pittsburgh newspapers in 1889. The notice dates the opening of the store to 1874. Whatever arrangements were made between Gilleland and Russell they came to naught. The store reverted to Russell who re-sold the Quaker Shirt Store in 1896.[16] An internet-based polemicist suggests that this store closed its doors in the mid-1890s. This is false. Federal Street was renumbered about 1900. The store continued into the 20 th Century at the same location but numbered as 200 Federal Street.

    Russell’s shirt and “furnishings” stores appealed to businessmen and clerks, those who would wear a stiff detachable collar and white shirt. Pittsburgh and Allegheny were covered with soot from steel mills, and the air was dirty and gray. “Where there’s soot there’s money” was Pittsburgh’s motto. “The air quality was so poor that white-collar workers scurried home on their lunch breaks for a change of shirts.”[17] Harsh laundry methods contributed to wear. Shirts and collars were replaced often. Selling shirts was a profitable business.

    Russell’s decision to reduce his business was based on his desire to fully serve God and Christ. He was strongly influenced by a dream:

    I might tell you without any injury to any of you about a dream that I had some years ago that had great influence upon my life. Now do not mis-understand me, I do not wish to commend dreams, I think many are nonsensical dreams. I have had many myself, probably from indigestion. I know of a great many people who lay too much stress upon dreams. I pay very little attention to dreams, only so much attention as would be in harmony with God’s word, so as to feel sure the dream came from neither a piece of pie nor inspired by the adversary and I think a great many dreams are inspired by the adversary. I think a safe course is to let no dream have any influence upon our minds except as we can prove them by the word of God. That is our standard. If it agrees not with the word it is because there is no light in it.

    But this dream that I will tell you about may help some of you. I might remark that at the time I had this dream, I was giving attention to the Lord’s work to some extent, I was publishing the Truth and some thought I was neglecting my business. I had five stores at that time, and people would say I guess Mr. Russell is fanatical on the subject of religion. I knew I was not, so was in no danger. I thought I was not giving enough time, that I ought to give all my time, and this dream helped me.

    I dreamed that I was in an attic room, the front looking to the east, and the ceiling was sloping and I thereby knew it was a top room in a house. All around the room was a platform raised about ten inches and on it were mattresses strewn and upon them bed coverings of various kinds; some had been occupied and were vacant and others were occupied by sleepers, and I was in one corner. Over yonder was a door on the right. I heard a knock that awakened me and I remember how sleepy I felt, I could hardly get my eyes open. There I saw a servant, one that I never saw or knew, he said they are waiting for you for breakfast and they sent me up to see if you were coming. Oh! my, it is late, I have overslept myself. Tell them not to wait for me. With that I thought to get up, but as I started to rise, I was heavy with sleep and my foot caught in the arm of the man sleeping next to me and I went sprawling. I thought well, what will he do? But he was sound asleep, my falling over him had not awakened him. Something in my dream told me that it was Sunday morning, with that I awakened.

    What did it mean? Well I might take a meaning out of it that might be in full accord with the truth. I said first of all, this is an upper room and the Lord speaks of housetop saints. Well, then I am glad.

    Seemingly I was amongst the housetop saints, I was glad that I was not down in the basement. Then it was Sabbath morning, early in the morning. The sunlight was coming in, all that fits well, the sun is coming in and it is time I was thoroughly awake. Then the empty beds around us, yes, yes, so far as we know, most of the housetop saints have gone in, here a few of us still sleeping; in a dozing way overcharged with the cares of this life. Well, you remember how tired and sleepy you feel almost as if you had been intoxicated. Yes, well that is a good deal the spirit of the world. You are glad you got awake, you felt so stupid, but still next to you was one still more so, and even your falling over him does not awaken him. You are glad you are awake and did not need a knock. What was that you told the servant?

    Have me excused, tell them not to wait for me. Our dear Lord has provided a bridal feast, not a supper or a dinner but a breakfast. So I knelt down and asked the Lord to wait on me for a little; I determined to be more earnest and diligent in His service. So I say that while I do not attach much weight to dreams and consider most of them fleshly and of the adversary, but if we think upon them and the words of the Lord, and accept nothing but what will agree with the Scriptures, we may get a good lesson from it.

    Well, we are house-top Christians; we have heard the knock informing us that it was morning, that it was the time of the feast and informing us that there is but little time to get ready. We have heard the knock and how glad we are. Yet we find some here and there who are still asleep. Let us help them also to hear the knock that it may go to all parts of the world and let it not be said that there were some in some parts of the world to whom you failed to give the knock. The Master said: “Behold I stand at the door and knock, if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.”[18]

    An anonymous Watchtower writer said that Russell began selling off his business interests in 1877.[19] He seems to have confused the closing of Russell’s temporary store in Philadelphia for a later event. Russell dates the decision to sell his business interests to the circulation of Food for Thinking Christians:

    As the literary work increased it became necessary to dispose of these stores; and as I found it much easier to spend money than earn it, I concluded that the capital formerly invested in the stores should not all be lavishly spent even in the good work of circulating the tidings of great joy: that the Lord would be better served if it were invested so that my time could go to his service, than if all were spent at once in his service and I then were obliged to give my entire time to business. … My money-capital being limited, I saw that it would never do to invest the funds in mortgages or in a bank, because the interest on the sum would be inadequate to the demands of ourselves and the work. Under what seemed to be a providential leading, I decided to invest with others in some oil property – oil wells. I chose this business because it seemed to be profitable, and because it would require little or no time and personal attention; for others, interested in looking out for their own interests, necessarily looked out for mine also. This judgment has, on the whole, proved correct – several coins having been taken from this fish’s mouth for our support and for the Lord’s cause.[20]

    What Russell left unsaid is that he was already well invested in other businesses. Forgotten by everyone is J. L. Russell & Son’s brief venture into the music business in 1872. We are unclear if the Russells owned The Pittsburgh Music House located near their Fifth Avenue store or merely published sheet music for it. Thurston’s Directory of Pittsburgh and Allegheny City for 1879-1880 shows Joseph Russell as one of the principals of the firm Russell & Thomas, a scrap iron business located at Duquesne Way and Fourth. The Thomas of this partnership was N. M. Thomas. Active management of this business fell to C. T. Russell, who was junior partner in the venture. A business report says they generated between seventy-five and one hundred thousand dollars in trade annually. Barbour notes Russell’s involvement in the iron trade, writing that Russell was “certainly an intelligent and a first-class business man, or he could not successfully carry on the iron trade, run three gentlemen’s furnishing stores, lecture on Sunday, and run a theological paper.”[21] This business disappears from the record about 1881 with the dissolution of the partnership. J. L. Russell then formed in partnership with C. G. Redrup the Pittsburgh Scrap Metal Co. Ltd., dealing in scrap metal and used machinery.

    In April 1890 with Otto von Zech, George Rindfuss and two others, he incorporated the Huether Patent Chase Company to market printing equipment. It was still listed in the record in 1899, but it seems to have been moribund. We do not know if this business was profitable, but we think from the lack of presence in the trade magazines that it was not.[22]

    In addition to the scrap iron business and oil lease and other interests, Russell invested funds. During court testimony, his wife remarked that he “had something to do with stock in Wall Street.” She said she did “not understand” the details. We don’t either. That off-handed comment is all we have ever found.[23] Russell purchased and marketed patent rights, often for oil drilling equipment.[24] Another aspect of Russell’s business ventures we were unable to follow in detail is his investment in the H. F. Biggam Company. Incorporated in West Virginia in 1896, but with principal office in Pittsburgh, this was a general business selling on the installment plan “or otherwise” furniture, carpets, Queensware and household and furnishing goods. Russell’s investment was about one hundred dollars.[25] Russell purchased and marketed patent rights, often for oil drilling equipment.[26]

    Originally we had intended to mention aspects of Russell’s business ventures in more appropriate places, but they are unaccountably contentious. Russell’s businesses became an issue in 1911 when the Brooklyn Eagle made outrageous claims. The mere fact that he continued to make money (all or most of which was used for the benefit of the Watch Tower Society), was used to imply fraud. Russell sued the Eagle and lost. However, nothing in any of the testimony demonstrated fraudulent or deceptive business practices. All the testimony established was that he continued to pursue business interests. Opponents either manufactured criticism out of whole cloth or were vague. For instance, James Vincent Coombs, a Disciples evangelist, wrote that in business Russell was “a schemer” without presenting the slightest evidence.[27] This certainly turns business acumen into a sin, painting all Christian business men with the same brush. In 1912 John J. Ross, a Canadian Baptist clergyman with questionable ethics, reprinted the claims.[28] The mere fact that he had been in the shirt business was used to denigrate him, but, as one of his associates observed, there is “no more disgrace to sell a shirt than to wear a shirt.” And, the mere fact that Russell continued to engage in business after starting his ministry was used to imply some sort of unwonted behavior. Russell’s modern opponents uncritically parrot these claims, some of them sensationalizing them beyond recognition.

    George Lynch-Staunton, Ross’s attorney, questioned Russell closely about his business ventures. He told Staunton that he built the business himself, that he did not inherit his stores. This is obvious from other documents, but Russell plainly stated that his father was partner in only one of his stores. He explained that he “had different stores at different times,” and that the most he had at one time was five. This accounts for the shifting description of his stores. Staunton tried his best to describe Russell as a shirt-seller, but Russell, emphasizing his management role, stated “I don’t know whether I ever sold a shirt ever in my life.”[29]

    The “Rev. Edward J. Young,” a well known Presbyterian clergyman, later a professor, wrote without the least pang of conscience: “His wife says that every one who joined his organization was required to pay $10, by which means he realized many thousands of dollars.” This is demonstrably untrue; the Reverend Young and the newspapers who repeated this story lied.[30]

    E. D. Stewart, one of Russell’s close associates, wrote that “in all his work he was so honest and his goods so thoroughly reliable that his success was near marvelous.” Alone this might be taken as the fancy of a supporter. However, M. F. Russell’s attorney, someone with little love for Russell, introduced into evidence a circular that used Russell’s name as a guarantee of honesty in a business transition. The lawyer was pursuing Russell’s money. The testimony to Russell’s reputation was unintended. Looking back over this period, one of Russell’s religious opponents remarked that “Mr. Russell was of scrupulous courtesy as he was met in the common intercourse of business or social life.”[31]

    The source of accusations of fraud or questionable dealings is revealed in a comment made by The New York Sun:

    There is very little really known about the conduct of the society. Save for the general knowledge that the society professes to receive contributions that it may more widely spread the Gospel and that it claims to expend all its money in this way, its affairs have been a confusing and complex mystery. The three officers who control the voting stock and spend the money say they are accountable to no one except God. The financial connection between the various societies seems to be somewhat loose and arbitrary, and when various officers have been questioned about it they have shown lack of knowledge of anything outside of their own departments.[32]

    If one removes the fluff, the complaint was, “We want to know all the details, and they won’t tell us; so there must be something wrong.” It is doubtful that the “people’s right to know” (read, “a nosey reporters curiosity”) extends to the private workings of any religious organization. Privacy is not of itself an indicator of wrong doing.

    Opposition writers, particularly former adherents, often seek in Russell’s faults justification for their disaffection. This is problematic behavior, leading to wild speculation being accepted as fact. The roots of these uncritical and sensationalized presentations sometimes rest in a rejection of strict behavior standards. At best, criticisms from former adherents undermine the exaggerated claims made by some of Russell’s admirers. Some claims are manufactured out of the fevered imagination of those who lack appreciation for evidential standards or for whom attacking their former religion is a hobby. Some of these writers believe themselves to be immensely clever. Alas, this is a mistaken belief. Those who parrot them uncritically are either lazy or gullible.

    Russell pursued business interests up to his death. Some of them were successful and some not. Sometimes the failures were spectacular. But for all the considerable record left by these ventures, no fraud exists. The worst that one can find is apparently evasive testimony during the Russell divorce trial, and even that is open to debate. More telling are Russell’s comments that go to motive. While Russell sought to “do good” with money, he found the opportunities limited: “Those who have money … will not find very much opportunity so far as the world is concerned. Even if we had millions of dollars the spirit of a sound mind should govern us in its expenditure. To give money to encourage anybody in wastefulness, slothfulness and idleness would be to misuse it, and not to do good.” He found by observation, or maybe experience, that wealthy people “cannot do even for [their] own families all that [they] would wish to do.” It is unclear if he meant his own relations or was speaking generally, though he concludes with “we could never do sufficient for them.” Many were made newly poor in the post Civil War depression. Knowing how to handle requests for money from family or friends was difficult. “Before we became Christians at all, we may have been under-balanced, or over balanced,” he wrote. “We may not have known how to deal properly with our families or our friends. Out of kindness and sympathy we may have been inclined to give them money, or to yield to their wishes in a way that was injurious to them; or we may have been too severe and unyielding.”[33] He may have been thinking of his Uncle Thomas Birney’s bankruptcy. Birney & Co., Thomas’s wholesale hardware store, was closed by the sheriff in January 1886 “on executions aggregating $25,000.” Some sources give an unpaid indebtedness of ninety-five thousand dollars.[34] Whatever happened over his uncle’s bankruptcy, Russell was charitable, usually in quiet ways. During his 1907 court appearance questioning from the opposition attorney elicited this.[35]

    He found increasing wealth a test of moral values. “The selfish spirit greedily gathers to itself as much as possible of all that it esteems good and valuable,” he wrote. “A measure of success in the acquisition of these treasures further leads the selfish soul to a feeling of self-complacency, independence and indifference to the well-being of others, which, gradually but rapidly developing into arrogant and self-assertive pride, will continue to ripen with every gleam of the sunlight of temporal prosperity. As selfishness continues to ripen it swells itself to ridiculous proportions and delights to vaunt itself, and gloats over its imagined importance and worthiness of honor and praise.” Humility was the wiser and easier course he said, and “pride of wealth” was of “ignoble character.” “Wealth selfishly hoarded and enjoyed certainly adds no degree of merit to the possessor, whether he inherited or acquired it.”[36] Whatever the tests brought by growing wealth and prominence may have been he remained generous and openhanded in very quite, private ways. H. W. Deming, a Bible House worker from at least 1884, recounted Russell deprecating generosity at a Bible Student Convention. Recalling the early memorial season conventions in Allegheny, he said: “The conventions were first held in a hall on Federal Street at the Memorial season. All the friends were entertained at Brother Russell’s home, and as we would go to the hall on the street car, he would never let us pay our fare. He would say, ‘I have some little coins here in my pocket, and I will just give one of these to the conductor and he will never know the difference.’”[37] Russell often bore the expenses of those who came to Allegheny to study or otherwise prepare to enter the missionary work.

    [1] C. T. Russell: How St. Peter was Punished for Denying His Lord, Zion’s Watchtower, July 1, 1912, pages 207-208.

    [2] C. T. Russell: Prayer: The Vital Breath of the New Creature, The Watch Tower, September 15, 1913, page 277.

    [3] C. T. Russell: Godliness Attracts Persecution, The Watch Tower, February 1, 1914, page 39.

    [4] The St. Paul, Minnesota, Enterprise, “Special Edition” February 12, 1915.

    [5] Russell v. Russell Transcript of Record (1907), pages 22-24, 42.

    [6] J. F. Rutherford: A Great Battle in the Ecclesiastical Heavens, the author, New York, 1915, page 16.

    [7] Russell transcript, page 39.

    [8] The St. Paul, Minnesota, Enterprise, “Special Edition,” February 12, 1915.

    [9] C. T. Russell: Harvest Siftings: A Conspiracy Exposed, Extra Edition of Zion’s Watch Tower, April 25, 1894.

    [10] O. R. Sullivan: The Wall of Unbelief and Self, A discourse reported verbatim in Souvenir Notes Bible Students Conventions: 1914.

    [11] Woodward & Rowlands’ Pittsburgh Directory for 1852, page 9.

    [12] Russell transcript, page 118; Diefenbach’s Directory: 1882-1883, page 869; In the Superior Court of Pennsylvania Western District: No. 202, April Term, 1908. Maria F. Russell by her Next friend Emma H. Russell vs Charles T. Russell, Appellant. Paper Book of Appellant, pages 7-8.

    [13] Russell transcript, page 43. Appellant’s Paper Book, page 8.

    [14] Charles Tays Russell’s will is on file at Allegheny County, Pennsylvania. Apparently no one repeating the outrageous claim of one individual has bothered to check the original.

    [15] Document dated September 2, 1886, relating to Mary Jane Russell’s inheritance found in the probate records of Charles Tays Russell, Allegheny County.

    [16] Bill of Sale between C. T. Russell and Bernard M. Block dated February 27, 1896, found in the archives of the Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives

    [17] More than a Pitt-stop, The Saturday Evening Post, January/February, 1993, page 80.

    [18] Souvenir Notes from the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society’s Conventions of Believers in the Atoning Blood of Christ, 1907, Part II, pages135-136.

    [19] “During this time Russell at the age of twenty-five began to sell out his business interests and went full time into the preaching work, going from city to city to talk to various gatherings of the public, on the streets and, Sundays, in Protestant churches, where he could arrange such with the clergy.” – Modern History of Jehovah’s Witnesses: Part 1—Early Voices (1870-1878), The Watchtower,January 1, 1955, page 7. See chapter six of this book.

    [20] C. T. Russell: A Conspiracy Exposed: Harvest Siftings, 1894, pages 20-21.

    [21] N. H. Barbour: Questions and Answers, Herald of the Morning, May 1880, page 72.

    [22] Acts of the Legislature of West Virginia at its Twentieth Regular Session Commencing January 14, 1891, page 1120-1121. List of Foreign Corporations Registered in the Office of the Secretary of the Commonwealth from April 22, 1874 to February 1, 1899, State of Pennsylvania, 1899, page 41.

    [23] Russell v. Russell, Defendant’s Paper Book, page 8.

    [24] See for example: Annual Report of the Commissioner of Patents for the Year 1898, page 259.

    [25] Acts Passed by the Legislature of West Virginia at its Twenty-third Regular Session, Beginning January 12, 1897, See Appendix “Corporations,” page 108. The incorporators were H. T. Biggam, William Roseburgh, W. F. Fazier, D. R. Torrence of Pittsburgh and Edward G. Lang, Henry Ruston, R. Fox and C. T. Russell of Allegheny. Queensware is a line of china made by Wedgwood.

    [26] See for example: Annual Report of the Commissioner of Patents for the Year 1898, page 259.

    [27] J. V. Coombs: Religious Delusions: Studies in the False Faiths of Today, The Standard Publishing Company, Cincinnati, Ohio, 1904, page 195. Coombs was a well educated but pugnacious Disciples minister. In 1895 he stated his intention to invade an independent church in California to set its minister straight. [“Mr. Coombs says he will come to Oakland, discipline the young clergyman and teach the true principles of the Christian Church.” – Brooklyn Daily Eagle, February 23, 1895.]

    [28] J. J. Ross: Some Facts and More Facts About the Self-Styled Pastor Charles T. Russell, the author, Hamilton, Ontario, 1912. Ross claimed at various times to have graduated from Woodstock College and McMaster University. While he attended both, he graduated from neither. An anonymous pamphlet published by members of the Vancouver Baptist Ministerial Association exposed Ross. (Statement of Facts Relative to J. J. Ross, D.D., Vancouver, B. C., 1926) See: John Byron Richards: Baptists in British Columbia: A Struggle to Maintain “Sectarianism,” Master’s Thesis, University of British Columbia, 1964, page 147.

    [29] The King v. John J. Ross, Hamilton, 1912, Extract of Transcript page 2.

    [30] E. J. Young: Sunday Newspapers and Russellism, The Tampa, Florida, Morning Tribune,December 15, 1914.

    [31] Russell v. Russell Transcript of Record (1907), pages 65-70; Why did Russell Flourish? The American Lutheran Survey, November 29, 1916, page 181.

    [32] Remarkable Activities of Unusual Religious Sect, The New York Sun¸ February 4, 1917.

    [33] C. T. Russell: The Importance of Attaining Balance of Mind, The Watch Tower,March 1, 1914, page 77.

    [34] Birney furnished roller skates to skating rinks on credit. Skating was a fad, and he saw dollar signs. Payment was not forth-coming and he could not maintain his business. Russell would not have had enough money to save the Birney business. We don’t even know if his uncle sought assistance. See Pith of the News, New York Herald-Tribune, January 7, 1886; Bankrupt by Roller Rinks, Pennsylvania Patriot,January 7, 1886.

    [35] Russell v. Russell Transcript of Record (1907), page 24: R: I usually gave my money away. Atty: You never gave it away, Mr. Russell, until after your wife left you? R: Yes, sir, lots of it.

    [36] C. T. Russell: Exaltation Via Humility, Zion’s Watch Tower, January 1, 1893, page 5.

    [37] Deming’s remarks are found in Souvenir Notes from the Reunion Convention of Christian Bible Students: Pittsburgh, Pa., November 1-2-3, 1929, page 24.

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