Search This Blog

Friday, April 3, 2009

The Watch Tower Society was Incorporated in 1884

The first office of the Watch Tower Society after it was legally incorporated in 1884, prior to that date the property at 101 Fifth Avenue was used from 1879 - 1884.

The location of Br. Russell's haberdashery as seen in 2011 and 1911. Located at the NE corner of Federal Street and Robinson Street. 200 Federal Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15212.

BECAUSE of continuing expansion of its work, legal incorporation of the Society established in 1881 became necessary. After proper application, finally on December 13, 1884, Judge F. H. Collier of the Court of Common Pleas for Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, granted a legal charter that was duly recorded December 15, 1884, thus giving the Society legal life. Its original corporate name, Zion’s Watch Tower Tract Society, was changed in 1896, by court-sanctioned amendment, to its present name, Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society. The Society’s general purpose is stated in its charter’s Article II:

“The purpose for which the corporation is formed is, the dissemination of Bible truths in various languages by means of the publication of tracts, pamphlets, papers and other religious documents, and by the use of all other lawful means which its Board of Directors, duly constituted, shall deem expedient for the furtherance of the purpose stated.”

The charter provided for a board of seven directors, three to serve as officers. The original officers were President, C. T. Russell; Vice-President, William I. Mann; Secretary and Treasurer, (Mrs. C. T.) Maria F. Russell.

While the Society had been circulating a bound book entitled “Day Dawn,” written by an early associate, J. H. Paton, it was decided for Russell to become writer of a new book to be called “Millennial Dawn,” which after many difficulties appeared in 1886 as Volume 1 of a promised series. Later this became known, instead, as Volume 1 of “Studies in the Scriptures” as well as “The Divine Plan of the Ages.” More than six million copies were distributed over a forty-year period. It covered more clearly subjects previously explained in Food for Thinking Christians and in Tabernacle Teachings (later called “Tabernacle Shadows”). Its sixteen chapters (352 pages) included “Our Lord’s Return,” “Ransom and Restitution,” “Plan of the Ages,” and “The Kingdom of God.” Chapter 15, “The Day of Jehovah,” amazingly foreshowed the great preaching work now being done.

“The ‘Day of Jehovah’ is the name of that period of time in which God’s kingdom, under Christ, is to be gradually ‘set up’ . . . while the kingdoms of this world are passing away and Satan’s power and influence over men are being bound. It is everywhere described as a dark day of intense trouble and distress and perplexity upon mankind. . . . That some of the saints will still be in the flesh during at least a part of this burning time seems possible. Their position in it, however, will differ from that of others, not so much in that they will be miraculously preserved (though it is distinctly promised that their bread and water shall be sure), but in the fact that, being instructed from God’s Word, they will not feel the same anxiety and hopeless dread that will overspread the world. . . . The troubles of this ‘Day of Jehovah’ will give opportunity for preaching the good tidings of coming good, such as is seldom afforded, and blessed are they who will follow the footsteps of the Master, and be the good Samaritans binding up the wounds and pouring in the oil and wine of comfort and cheer.”

By end of the ‘80’s they had outgrown the quarters at 151 Robinson Street (earlier designated as 44, and then 40, Federal Street), Allegheny, Pennsylvania. They decided to build, and in 1889 they moved into their own large, handsome four-story brick structure costing $34,000, located at 58 and 60 (later renumbered as 610-614) Arch Street, Allegheny (North Side, Pittsburgh), containing quarters for a small “Bible House family,” printing works, shipping rooms, an assembly place for about 200, an office, an editorial department and a store front. They named it “Bible House.” Years later, the Society’s board of directors accepted the donation of title to this plant, the board valuing the building’s net equity and all of its equipment at $164,033.65.

By 1890 there were about 400 active associates of the Society. The only report available shows the placement of 841,095 tracts, 395,000 extra copies of the Watch Tower magazine, and 85,000 Millennial Dawn bound books between 1886 and 1891.

- Feb. 1, 1955 Watchtower, WTB&TS

ARTICLE II of the charter of the Watch Tower Society states: “The purpose for which the corporation is formed is, the dissemination of Bible truths in various languages by means of the publication of tracts, pamphlets, papers and other religious documents, and by the use of all other lawful means which its Board of Directors, duly constituted, shall deem expedient for the furtherance of the purpose stated.”

The Society was not to seek financial gain but only to finance the spreading of Bible truths. Membership was to consist of those who personally supported this activity by their contributions. The Watch Tower Society would continue to be involved in the preaching activities of the Bible Students, later known as Jehovah’s Witnesses.

In agreement with this principle the charter was amended in 1944 to read as follows: “The purposes of this Society are: To act as the servant of and legal world-wide governing agency for that body of Christian persons known as Jehovah’s Witnesses; to preach the gospel of God’s Kingdom under Christ Jesus unto all nations as a witness to the name, word and supremacy of Almighty God JEHOVAH; to print and distribute Bibles and to disseminate Bible truths in various languages . . . explaining Bible truths and prophecy concerning the establishment of Jehovah’s kingdom under Christ Jesus.”

The first office of the Watch Tower Society was in a building at the corner of Federal and Robinson Streets, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the location from which Russell had earlier directed his chain of clothing stores.

The Watch Tower Society continued the work of exposing false religious creeds and establishing Bible truth. During a time of growing infidelity in the world, it presented arguments against the evolution teaching, higher criticism and any other trend designed to undermine faith in the Bible.

In addition to preparing tracts, pamphlets and magazines, Russell authored a series of books on Bible truths entitled The Millennial Dawn, later called Studies in the Scriptures. The Society encouraged all the Bible Students to share in voluntary tract distribution, either on streets in front of churches or at people’s homes, putting them under the door. Full-time ministers known as colporteurs would spend their time calling on people from house to house and presenting books to them.

However, this was no book-selling campaign but rather a preaching of the good news.

In discussing the work of the colporteurs, it was stated in Zion’s Watch Tower of December 15, 1898: “Nor do the Colporteurs merely circulate the Dawns [bound books] . . . they . . . note the interested ones and call in the evenings and help them.” So the object was not merely to sell books but to arouse interest and make return visits where possible to help individuals grow in Bible knowledge.

By the end of the 1880’s there was a need for increased space, so in 1889 the Watch Tower Society moved into their newly built, four-story brick building at 610-14 Arch Street in Pittsburgh. This building was called the Bible House and served as an international headquarters for the Watch Tower Society, since its activities were expanding to other countries.

Additional Reading:

In 1909 it was decided to move the headquarters of the Watch Tower Society to Brooklyn, New York, which would be a more suitable center for the expansion of the preaching work on an international scale.

Additional Reading:

A mission structure at 13-17 Hicks Street, Brooklyn, New York, that had been used by the Plymouth Congregational Church was purchased and remodeled so that it provided space for offices, a shipping department and a small printery, as well as a large meeting hall with 800 seats on the second floor. At nearby 122-124 Columbia Heights the former four-story brownstone parsonage of Henry Ward Beecher, who had been minister for that church, was purchased for use as residence facilities for the headquarters staff of 30.

For the past 75 [101] years the Watch Tower Society has had its world headquarters in Brooklyn. (From July 1918 until September 1919 the headquarters were temporarily located in Pittsburgh on the second floor of the Martin Building at 119 Federal Street.) In order to hold title to property in New York State and better to administer the needs of the growing activities from Brooklyn, New York, an associate corporation was formed under New York law by the name of People’s Pulpit Association, now the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc. This corporation cooperates closely with the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania.

- Centennial of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania 1884-1984