This in answer to your question is an extract of a different chapter that will appear in volume 2 of Separate Identity:
not as forthcoming as he wished. The January 1885 Zion’s Watch Tower reported on the state of the tract fund for the two
previous years, starting with the deficit of $2571.34 that existed at the start
of 1883. Expenditures for the period from January 1, 1882 – December 31, 1884,
totaled $2,366.10. The fund remained in deficit nearly twenty-five hundred
dollars. The loss of ‘two or more’ significant contributors unquestionably
affected the work, as did an economic downturn that started in 1884 and
continued into the next year. Russell commented on it and its effects:
The opening year finds the whole world in a state of
financial depression which will doubtless be worse before improvement comes.
Since we are advised in Scripture that the Day of the Lord’s presence will be a
time of trouble such as was not since there was a nation, some may be inclined
to anticipate too much, too speedily. This is a tendency which all need to
guard against. We should not for a moment lose sight of the apostles striking
illustration of the trouble of this day, as recorded in 1 Thes. 5:3. From this
illustration we should expect spasmodic trouble and distress of nations: and
that these will become more frequent and more serious until they reach the
climax stated by the prophet, and result in the death of present systems and
the delivery of the children of this world into the New and better, the ‘golden’
Millennial age, in which the King of righteousness shall rule and reign Lord of
all, blessing all the families of earth.
financial depression of 1885 was the culmination of several years of
compounding problems in the United States, Canada and elsewhere. Edwin Earl
Sparks, a contemporary historian, summarized the complex crisis this way:
The crops of 1883 although surpassing the unfortunate
yield of 1881 were scarcely up to the average, and the corn crop fell nearly
four hundred million bushels behind. Large quantities of stocks and bonds had
been watered by extensions and consolidations which could not be expected to
yield immediate dividends, and they declined steadily during the year. Northern
Pacific threw on the market in October 1883 an issue of twenty million dollars
and created a mild panic. More than ten thousand firms became bankrupt during
1882, a larger number than marked any year since 1873. Causes for the
depression were found in over-production, financial troubles abroad, over-railroad
building, and capital lying idle because rates of interest were unattractive.
dry summary doesn’t contribute as much to our understanding as does Russell’s
caution against seeing in the world’s financial travail a prophetic
fulfillment. People were hurting financially. Many Watch Tower readers were not well off, and even those who were had
to watch their pennies. The basics, food to eat and coal to heat with, were
scarce and expensive. Jobs dissipated. A United States government report said:
Out of the total
number of establishments, such as factories, mines, etc., existing in the
country, about eight per cent were absolutely idle during the year ending July
1, 1885, and perhaps five per cent more were idle a part of such time; or, for
a just estimate, seven and a half per cent of the whole number of such
establishments were idle, or equivalent to idle, during the year named. . . .
Making allowance for the persons engaged in other occupations, 998,839
constituted ‘the best estimate’ of the possibly unemployed in the United States
during the year ending July 1, 1885 (many of the unemployed, those who under
prosperous times would be fully employed, and who during the time mentioned
were seeking employment), that it has been possible for the Bureau to make. ...
A million people out of employment, crippling all dependent upon them, means a
loss to the consumptive power of the country of at least $1,000,000 per day, or
a crippling of the trade of the country of over $300,000,000 per annum.
If God supported the work, he
supported it out of the pockets of believers who were in straightened
circumstances. Contributions lagged. With the publication of The Plan of the Ages in 1886, Russell
changed his approach to circulating Watch Tower publications. It soon became
apparent that The Plan of the Ages would
not pay its own way. The volumes of Millennial
Dawn were sold at a loss through most of their printing life. This was a
result of philosophy and practicality. Russell turned to a colportage to circulate
Millennial Dawn and the Tract Society’s
books and booklets. The booklets were often given away freely, and the
agreement with the colporteurs allowed them as much support from the
circulation of books as the Watch Tower Society could manage.
View from the Tower, Zion’s Watch Tower,
January 1885, page
 E. E. Sparks: The American Nation: A History. National Development, 1877-1885, Harper & Bros. New York, 1907,
 Report on Industrial Depression,
United States Bureau of Labor, 1886, as quoted in David A. Wells: Recent Economic Changes and Their Effect on
the Production and Distribution of Wealth and the Well Being of Society, D.
Appleton & Co., New York, 1899, page 18.