One Hundred Years Ago—1914
Watchtower Material from 2014 Yearbook:
“WE BELIEVE that the Year 1914 gives evidence of greater possibilities of service for the Truth than has any previous year of the Harvest,” stated The Watch Tower of January 1, 1914. The year that the Bible Students had been anticipating for decades had finally arrived, and they were hard at work in the ministry. As a result of the efforts of the Bible Students that year, millions of people heard about the Bible’s promises. The world around them, though, expended its efforts in a very different direction.
The World Becomes More Violent
Early in 1914, one of the most violent events in the history of labor strikes in the United States took the lives of men, women, and children. Miners on strike and their families had been evicted from their company-owned housing and were forced to live in tent colonies. On April 20, in the tent colony near Ludlow, Colorado, shooting erupted. The miners’ tent colony was set ablaze. Throughout the region incensed miners retaliated by killing many company guards. The army was called in to restore order.
In Europe, things were much worse. On June 28, when Gavrilo Princip, a 19-year-old Bosnian Serb, fired the shot that killed Archduke Francis Ferdinand of Austria, he provided the spark that ignited World War I. By year’s end, World War I, then known as the Great War, had enveloped Europe.
Conventions Focus on the Preaching Work
Amid the world’s increasing turmoil, the Bible Students encouraged one another to be diligent in the preaching work. The first convention of God’s people ever held in South Africa began on April 10. The peak attendance at that convention was 34. “We were a very ‘little flock,’ indeed,” wrote William W. Johnston. “We immersed almost half of [those who attended] the . . . Convention. Eight sisters and eight brothers symbolized their consecration in the Lord’s appointed manner.” On the last day of the convention, those assembled talked about how best to advance the preaching work in South Africa. Today, more than 90,000 faithful publishers in South Africa testify to the success of that ‘little flock.’
On June 28, 1914, the very day that Archduke Ferdinand was shot, the Bible Students assembled in Clinton, Iowa, U.S.A. At that convention, on June 30, A. H. MacMillan said: “If we wish to receive our reward we want to keep actively engaged in doing the will of God, out in the service whenever possible, carrying the harvest message to the world.”
The “Photo-Drama” Attracts Millions
The “Photo-Drama of Creation,” a production consisting of recorded Bible talks and music that were synchronized with colored glass slides and motion pictures, premiered in New York City on January 11, 1914. Five thousand attended that first showing, and many were turned away because of a lack of space.
Preparation of the “Photo-Drama of Creation” had taken two years, yet it “was barely ready to give its first exhibition in January,” observedThe Watch Tower. During the first half of 1914, the brothers made several improvements to the “Photo-Drama.” For example, they added an introductory film with synchronized narration by Charles Taze Russell, making the presentation’s sponsorship clear.
At its peak, the “Photo-Drama” played simultaneously in as many as 80 cities. By July of 1914, it had reached Great Britain, being shown to packed houses in Glasgow and London. September saw the production reach Denmark, Finland, Germany, Sweden, and Switzerland. By October, it had reached Australia and New Zealand. In all, over nine million people saw the “Photo-Drama” in its first year.
Each copy of the “Photo-Drama” consisted of hundreds of glass slides, many reels of motion-picture film, and dozens of records. The copies were expensive to produce, and each showing required an experienced crew of brothers and sisters. Thus, the complete “Photo-Drama” was primarily shown in large cities. In order to reach those in rural areas, the Bible Students also produced three abbreviated versions of the “Photo-Drama.” One version, known as the “Eureka Drama Y,” contained tinted glass slides that were accompanied by recorded Bible talks and music. The other versions, known as the “Eureka Drama X” and the much shorter “Eureka Family Drama,” were audio only, with no slides or motion pictures. In the United States, more than 70,000 people had seen a version of the “Eureka Drama” by the end of 1914, less than four months after it was released.
Colporteurs and Volunteers Share in the Preaching Work
While the “Photo-Drama” work was new and exciting, the Bible Students recognized that other forms of the preaching work were their first priority. A letter from Charles Taze Russell to all colporteurs, now called pioneers, stated: “We know of no branch of the service yielding larger fruitage in this Harvest time. For this reason we are discouraging Colporteurs from entering the Photo-Drama work . . . Other brothers and sisters, equally loyal to the Lord . . . can serve in the Drama work.”
In January of 1914, the number of colporteurs was 850. Over the course of the year, those zealous evangelizers distributed more than 700,000 copies of Studies in the Scriptures. The Watch Tower expressed a “warm interest” in the colporteurs and encouraged its readers to “speak to them words of encouragement; for their way is not always strewn with thornless flowers.”
Other Bible Students distributed tracts in dozens of languages. During 1914, they placed over 47 million copies of The Bible Students Monthly and other tracts!
The Bible Students’ work did not go unnoticed. Their preaching was public, and their meetings were free. One of Christendom’s ministers lamented: “By and by people will think it is a crime to take up a collection, and then where shall we be? Pastor Russell is bringing us all into disrepute.”
The End of the Gentile Times
The Bible Students believed that “the times of the Gentiles,” spoken of in Luke 21:24 (King James Version), would end about October 1, 1914. As October drew near, anticipation increased. Some Bible Students even carried a countdown card so that they could mark off each passing day. Many felt that they would be called beyond the veil, or to heaven, on that date.
On the morning of October 2, 1914, Brother Russell entered the Bethel dining room and announced to the Bethel family: “The Gentile Times have ended; their kings have had their day.” Some of those present would have recognized those words, which were based on song 171 in their songbook Hymns of the Millennial Dawn. Since 1879, the Bible Students had been singing “The Gentile times are closing,” but those words were no longer true, since the Gentile Times, or “the appointed times of the nations,” had indeed ended.(Luke 21:24) In time, our songbooks reflected this important change.
By year’s end, the Messianic Kingdom had been firmly established in the heavens, and some Bible Students thought that their work was done. Little did they know that they were about to enter a period of testing and sifting. The yeartext for 1915 was “Are ye able to drink of My cup?” based on Matthew 20:22 in the King James Version. The “cup” Jesus was referring to included the trials that he would face up until his death. The Bible Students were about to face trials, both from within and from outside their ranks. Their response to those trials would prove their loyalty to Jehovah.
This article from the 2014 Yearbook is one of many examples of very selective quotations.
There is not much that is in need of explicit correction in this article, however, it is not understood well when so many parts of the context are left out.
Although there was encouragement from the Watchtower to prepare for greater possibilities of service, it was in the context of disappointment. Not only was the 1914 prediction appearing to be impossible, there was also talk of nothing happening at all. Russell brought up the idea of what might happen if someone were to read all this “100 years from now” after a failure of expectations. ~~
It’s true that violence was expected, but this violence had no immediate affect on the grim outlook. Consideration that they had been wrong was becoming obvious.
Also interesting is how this discussion of 1914 being a start of increasing violence is at odds with other Watchtower articles that wish to present the idea that all was peaceful and the War was such a surprise that no one could have expected. In fact, the war was expected, and had been going on for some time. The shooting of the Archduke was not really a specific event that sparked the war, it was just another level of violence that proved the war was not going away, and that people would likely take sides. ~~
The violence aspect of the times ~~ quote the other WT sources, but also quote persons who might have a perspective that this was NOT such a violent war, and may not have even been considered by all to be the defining demarcation of a new era. That could just as well have been given to 1899, 1918, 1933, 1941, 1945, 1968, …. it’s always a matter of perspective.
The preaching work was emphasized, but not as much as most of us might think. ~~ It was a specialized service that had very little to do with the current type of door-to-door preaching we think about. But we should remember that very little of what was being preached. Almost nothing we would recognize today. Most of it would be considered untrue today. Even the Photo-Drama, as mundane as it was, contained the usual bible stories as they would have been told by any religion of Christendom, but with some emphasis on pyramids, 49000 years, etc. ~~
The work on the Photo-Drama was not part of the business of the Bible Students. It was a project that nearly broke the BS, so that MacMillan in 191x says that he just had no money to even get to an assembly he wanted to go to. “The Society has no money”
The PhotoDrama is discussed and commented on here because it was the primary method of promotion that the Society used in 1914. It was a brilliant idea. Motion pictures were just being used and this was a huge undertaking. Copies were expensive to reproduce, and each showing required an experienced crew of brothers and sisters. (to mention above that brothers and sisters did NOT produce it, nor make copies.) And of course the variations were necessary just a slide and audio, audio just a speech sometimes.
Colporteurs and Volunteers.
Turns out that colporteurs were not all Bible Students. They were book salesmen. You could be a Catholic and sell the books. It’s not widely known among JWs today that the term “selling” was still used well into Rutherford’s time. Number “sold”. This letter should be read to see if any of these points are noticed.
Studies in the Scriptures is a set of books that also have very little to commend them to current JWs. The first and most popular one was “The Divine Plan of the Ages” which promoted a chronology that has been completely abandoned. It also promoted a system of reading the Bible to get that chronology that has been abandoned. (rewrite)
Look at comments about the other books in the series here…
Pyramids, Reasons for technology, 20 billion, etc.
One of these had been updated in a curious way. !! quote the update from pyramid inches .
Not taking up a collection has long been a tradition that JWs have been proud to tout. But that’s because there is a profitable publishing business behind the JWs that has always MORE than covered the cost of printing. However, with the current economy, many JWs just don’t get as much in contributions in some territories. It would not be surprising if JWs were to feel a little more pressure to take up a collection, even if it’s not done through a plate. (Note comments ….!!)
Here is the reason for quoting this article in full. Notice the mention and image of the countdown card. I own one of these that I got in a book I ordered on eBay. Imagine how a religion could print cards that had the actual “date” october 1, 1914 printed on it. In effect it was like a Mayan calendar that printed every day up until the day before October 1. To mark them off. October 2, 1914. …
Funny, at the time, they had it to October 1, 1914 and yet this was based on a date 606 that really took them to october 1 1915. They didn’t have the heart to change it because only … later they did change it to 1915 because nothing happened in 1914. The war wasn’t considered worth noting. Today we think of it as the big reason. Well historians saved them with the Archduke thing, and later they would even call it a world war instead of just “The Great War” but it was not the Greatest War in terms of people killed, wars in China had already killed. Technology was getting better so that people were being killed faster, however. This war only lasted a few years, those other Greater wars not only took more people they included a much longer period of violence. Some would claim that we have been in a fairly peaceful period overall since 1914. Many nations have had more years of peace than years of war.
Testing and sifting, was another time to remember that there i another perspective. The persons being sifted out were people who were seeing the falsehoods and false prophecies. Some were noticing that Bible truths should have kept them from stumbling so many with chronology and false teachings. In 1915, especially.
This is a misleading statement “By year’ end, the Messianic Kingdom had been firmly established in the heavens, and some Bible students thought that their work was done.” Does that imply that the Bible Students thought that since Jesus Kingdom was now established “by year’s end” that 1915 would be a year of less work? It is implied that some Bible students at least now knew that the Kingdom was established by the end of 1914. Perhaps because it was the end of the Gentile Times. But in truth, not one of them noticed. Russell didn’t think the Kingdom was established then. Franz who had already become a Bible Student in 1914 did not realize it. Rutherford didn’t either. In fact, NOT ONE Bible Student noticed or knew or believed that Jesus Messianic kingdom had been established in 1914.
That’s because it had been established in 1878. Nothing changed for them in 1914 except the fact that the Gentile Times didn’t really end as expected. The end of the GT was just that, “the end of the Gentile rulers.” Their organizations would now start collapsing and they’d be out of business within months, they couldn’t last more than 12 months, according to the updated calclations. Russell was the one who made them think.
Note this card. Stay Alive until 75. We had similar calendars with only the months marked on them, 83 or 85 months before October 1975. See the articles, there. (link)