Postwar Enlargement of the Theocratic Organization
1. What silenced clergy ridicule as to predictions about 1914?
AWAY back in 1880 the columns of The Watchtower had called notice to Bible chronology marking A.D. 1914 as the year for the 2,520-year period to end referred to by Jesus as the “times of the Gentiles” in his prophecy on the world’s end. (Luke 21:24) In harmony with this it was expected that in 1914 the kingdom of God by Christ Jesus in the heavens would be fully established, while this world would be involved in an unprecedented “time of trouble”. The religious leaders and systems of Christendom were all set to laugh at Brother Russell and his fellow witnesses of Jehovah over failure of his announced predictions concerning A.D. 1914. But it was no laughing matter when, at the end of July, World War I broke out and by October it had become global in its scope. Christendom’s religious mouths were silenced at this frightening turn of events, but not Brother Russell’s. October 1, 1914, on taking his place at the breakfast table in the Brooklyn Bethel dining-room, he in a strong voice denoting conviction announced: “The Gentile Times have ended!”
2. What heavenly events marked A.D. 1914?
2 Knowing that the world had now reached the time for its dissolution he refused to heed the plea of U. S. President Wilson for all clergymen and preachers to join in nation-wide prayer for peace. At that time it was not appreciated that there was also war up in heaven, between Jehovah’s newly inaugurated King Jesus Christ and the Devil’s hosts, resulting in the Devil’s being ousted from up there and debased to this earth for a short time before his destruction. But the Bible prophecies kept fulfilling. Light upon God’s Word, particularly Revelation, chapter 12, kept brightening. This disclosed that Jehovah’s Kingdom by Christ had been born A.D. 1914 and was fully established in the heavens to rule amid its enemies in heaven and earth. Its first act was to oust Satan from heaven.—See The Watchtower, March 1, 1925.
3. How was the Society’s president accused in 1918 but exonerated?
3 Brother Russell died the last day of October in 1916. By an election held at Pittsburgh’s annual business meeting, January 6, 1917, J. F. Rutherford, the Society’s legal attorney and one of its traveling representatives, was made president of the Pennsylvania corporation, to succeed Brother Russell. He was later elected president of the New York and British corporations. Through regular election by members and directors of the several corporations he continued in the presidency of them till his death, January 8, 1942. Shortly after his election the United States got involved in World War I, on April 6, 1917. The publication of the seventh volume of Studies in the Scriptures July 17, 1917, proved fateful, and troublous times for the Society in the United States took on a disastrous aspect. That Bible-study help, The Finished Mystery, was an exposé of the religious systems of Christendom. So the enemy seized upon it as part of their proof that the Society’s president and other members of the organization closely associated with him were guilty of sedition against the government, and Brother Rutherford and seven others were railroaded off to federal penitentiary in the spring of 1918, under sentences of 80 years in prison, and without benefit of bail for their freedom till appeal to a higher court should be effected. After nine months in the penitentiary bail was granted them on March 21, 1919, and they were released. Later the Appeal Court reversed the judgment against them, and in 1920 the indictment against them was disposed of. Thus they were completely exonerated as innocent of the malicious charges of the enemy.
4. How did Brooklyn Bethel come to be abandoned and then restored?
4 Meanwhile the conditions had seemed to dictate the abandonment of the Brooklyn properties and the moving of the Society’s offices back to Pittsburgh, in October, 1918. The Brooklyn Tabernacle was sold, and the Bethel home was put up for sale. No buyer appeared! Was that accidental? No, but providential! It was the hand of Almighty God, who knows his own purposes. He was reserving this site on Columbia Heights for the grander work of his faithful witnesses in postwar years. In view of the release of the Society’s officers from federal detention, and other advantages, the decision was made to move back and restore the headquarters and operating plant to 124 Columbia Heights. This was done about October 1, 1919. The Bethel home was reopened, with Brother Rutherford presiding. Even during his imprisonment the loyalty of the brethren to him and their conviction that he was innocent impelled the voting brethren of the several societies to re-elect him president at their annual business meeting.
5. What events gave stimulus to the postwar work?
5 In the summer following their release from unjust imprisonment the first international convention of Jehovah’s people at Cedar Point, Ohio, took place, September 1-8, 1919. Just prior to this The Watchtower published a series of two articles on “Blessed Are the Fearless”, showing from Bible prophecy that a bold work, the greatest of their career, must be performed by God’s devoted people among all nations before the battle of Armageddon. This work was spoken on and emphasized at this Cedar Point Assembly, and plans were announced for enlarging the work, including publishing The Golden Age.
6. What great work then lay ahead? What did this require?
6 World War I had disrupted the work in all the earth. Society connections with its Branches had been interfered with or in some cases broken off. Things were in quite a disorganized state. Now was the time to restore connections for bringing God’s faithful ones to a state of unity everywhere, under a Theocratic arrangement in which the great Theocrat Jehovah ruled from the top down through his organization. It was a time for reorganizing and training his people for renewed service. A most critical work lay ahead! It required courage. It called for expansion of the organization to the ends of the earth. In 1918 some 3,868 had been reporting field activity. The remainder of God’s faithful remnant of spirit-begotten heirs of the Kingdom must be gathered to the organization. However, early in 1918 the Lord God had revealed that a great earthly flock, whose number was estimated to run into the millions, would survive Armageddon into the New World, and these must be given the witness and gathered to the Good Shepherd’s fold. The command to preach “this gospel of the kingdom” in all the world for a witness to all nations applied now during all the postwar period down till Armageddon clears the earth for the New World. No time must be lost in organizing for the work. All obstacles must be cleared out from among God’s devoted servants. The work must be done for the vindication of Jehovah’s name and for the salvation of the witnesses themselves and of those accepting their witness. God’s visible organization for the work must be built up, instructed, strengthened and adequately equipped for the colossal work. Christ Jesus at the spiritual temple of God understood the situation and saw to it that all the needs were met.
7. What publishing equipment was provided and what slogan raised?
7 Greater work meant more equipment was needed. Jehovah God, whose work it was, provided the equipment for it. A move to do all our own printing in the United States began. A small printing plant was established at 35 Myrtle avenue, Brooklyn, and the Bethel family was increased. This proving too small as operations of Jehovah’s witnesses increased, a larger factory was installed at 18 Concord street, Brooklyn, in March, 1922. The second Cedar Point Convention followed on September 5-13, 1922. Here the King’s presence at Jehovah’s temple for judgment proceedings was announced, and the rousing call to the witness work was shouted by Brother Rutherford to that international gathering of many thousands: “Advertise the King and his kingdom!” The response was instantaneous. The service organization all over the earth was stirred to action and addressed itself to the work as never before.
8. What literature must now be published, and printed by whom? Why?
8 The burden of responsibility upon the Society at Brooklyn increased. It must widen its supervision of the work and must supply the needs of the Kingdom advertisers over a vaster area according to their increasing numbers. (Rom. 12:13) Literature setting forth the Kingdom truths was needed in larger volume, in a rising number of languages. The issues of The Watchtower, issues of The Golden Age (now the magazine Awake!), books with the newly revealed truths (no longer the outdated Studies in the Scriptures), booklets, tracts, Bibles, handbill advertisements, etc., all these must be produced to meet the growing demand and at a cost easily within the financial ability of all people to contribute for or to allow free distribution. Production of literature could no longer be left to the unconsecrated hands of worldly commercial printing plants. By God’s grace and provision of the physical equipment, we here at Brooklyn must do the printing and publishing with his own consecrated people as the workers. Branch offices in other lands must be given their share of the work.
9. How were a new factory and new Bethel home provided in 1927?
9 Space fails us for detailing how the great Provider bestowed the means of production upon his willing servants. Faced with the prospect of having to leave the Concord Street plant (whose site New York city has since converted into a public park), the Society built its own concrete factory at 117 Adams street, Brooklyn, a half mile from the Bethel home. In February, 1927, we moved in and occupied its eight stories. A larger factory and office force necessitated a larger home to house them. Jehovah provided it. That same year the original Bethel home buildings, together with an adjoining brownstone-front residence (126 Columbia Heights, bought in 1926), were torn down. A new concrete and brick structure was erected, seven stories high above Columbia Heights street, with a 75-foot frontage. This new building was joined with the old addition to the rear that fronted on Furman street and in which the family dining-room and kitchen continued to be located.
FLASHING THE NEWS BY RADIO
10. How did the Society install WBBR and improve its studios?
10 But are we forgetting the radio broadcasting? No! This, too, offered the opportunity for Jehovah’s visible organization to penetrate the numberless homes of the people with the New World message. In 1923 the Society began erecting its own radio station on the southern heights of Staten island. Finally completed, and licensed by the government, station WBBR began officially broadcasting Sunday night, February 24, 1924, on 500 watts of power, and with Brother Rutherford delivering the message “Radio and Divine Prophecy”. The studio that night was up in the top floor of the administration building, but shortly thereafter it was transferred to fine quarters in the transmitter house nearby. It proved inconvenient, however, to have the studio so far out on Staten island, about 18 miles from the Brooklyn headquarters. So in 1929 a set of studios, a large one equipped with an excellent organ and a small one, were built to the rear of the new Bethel building and extended to Furman street. There we started putting on our radio program Sunday morning, November 13, 1929, with Brother Rutherford speaking over a chain of stations using WBBR as key station. The program was carried by telephone cable to the radio transmitter out on Staten island.
11. As we grew what menacing world developments led up to 1939?
11 For many years all such physical equipment was used to the full. But the steady growth of the work and organization world-wide caused conditions to become more and more crowded at headquarters. In 1938 a four-story addition was built to the Adams Street factory. But now Fascism and Nazism had reared their hideous heads and taken the aggressive in the Western Hemisphere, and Jehovah’s witnesses had been banned in Germany and thrust into prisons and concentration camps, 10,000 strong. Communism was sensitive to the situation and was building up its power. War-clouds were gathering for a global storm. The mob spirit in the United States was rising against Jehovah’s witnesses. Catholic action was increasing strength and making tests of strength. The world peace-organization, the League of Nations, was being flouted as an impotent thing. It had not proved to be the “political expression of the Kingdom of God”, which the Protestant Council of Churches had called it, and it was nearing the brink of the “bottomless pit”. (Rev. 17:8) Come September, 1939—crash! That was the Nazi hordes smashing their way through Poland, in a blitzkrieg. World War II was on, with the atomic bomb due to climax it.
12. What questions arose? How were they resolved, and why?
12 Had we reached the finis of this world? Would the global war merge into the world catastrophe of Armageddon? Was the end of the Kingdom witness-work here, and had the peak in the expansion of Jehovah’s visible organization this side of Armageddon been reached? Would the organization now succumb to martial conditions and pressures as in 1918 and slack its hand and crumble in disorganization? Not this time, now that Jehovah’s spirit in double portion had been poured out upon his anointed remnant and had been spread to their devoted companions of goodwill, all together some 47,143 world-wide. These had been so well organized and instructed that they knew what to do amid the world upheaval. They had their instructions from Jehovah’s Word and through his Theocratic organization. Let the communications with lands overseas be snapped or made difficult! Invisibly Christ Jesus as Jehovah’s great Liaison Officer acted to keep the visible organization in unity of spirit, purpose, effort and activity. So on they went, preaching God’s Word in season and out of season, but largely out of season. The divine approval upon this course of his witnesses became observable, for he blessed it with increase. The great international convention of Jehovah’s witnesses at St. Louis, Missouri, August 6-10, 1941, the largest on record till then, proved that a great work was yet to be done. Untold thousands of God’s “other sheep” were evidently yet to be gathered to him.
THE WATCHTOWER BIBLE SCHOOL OF GILEAD
13. When and how did preparations for the postwar period begin?
13 Sunday, December 7, 1941, found Brooklyn headquarters at last in a nation at war! Thirty-two days later the Society’s president, J. F. Rutherford, died, January 8, 1942, at San Diego, California. The vice-president, N. H. Knorr, was voted to succeed him in office, by the unanimous vote of a joint meeting of the boards of directors of the Pennsylvania and New York corporations at the Brooklyn Bethel. Forward Jehovah’s work went without interruption, with determined efforts toward a bigger future. An “Advanced Course in Theocratic Ministry” was inaugurated at the Brooklyn Bethel in February, 1942, and the following year it was destined to be extended to the companies of Jehovah’s witnesses outside. Despite wartime difficulties a New World Theocratic convention was held that following summer in Cleveland, Ohio, September 18-20, with 26,000 present at the public meeting, where Brother Knorr gave the address “Peace—Can It Last?” which was carried by direct telephone lines to upward of 50 joint conventions in other cities. Over 80 cities on four continents had simultaneous conventions. Backed by divine prophecy, this public address showed a peace period would follow World War II and the international peace-beast which had gone into the bottomless pit by a shove from World War II would come out again. Witness today the United Nations! The coming peace meant that more work, the final work of Jehovah’s witnesses, was yet ahead. Now during the throes of world war was the time to prepare for the peace, to enter well-equipped and organized into the postwar epoch and its vast work. At this Cleveland convention and its subsidiaries, besides the book The New World, the first edition of the King James Version Bible printed on the Society’s own presses at Brooklyn was released. A mighty piece of working equipment this!
14, 15. How did the School of Gilead arise, with what record to date?
14 If Europe’s being the main theater of the war limited free activity there, the witness work could expand southward into Latin lands, namely, Central and South America and the islands of the Caribbean sea. But the workers sent there deserved to be trained. In the mind of Brother Knorr the idea of a missionary-training school formed. A large 3-story brick building had been erected at Kingdom Farm, South Lansing, New York, in 1940, for emergency purposes. Why let it stand idle? Why not make alterations in it and convert it into missionary-training-school quarters? Just so! The Watch Tower board of directors was enthusiastically in favor of it, and thus what was first called the Watchtower Bible College of Gilead was arranged for. By confidential letter, dated December 14, 1942, invitations were sent out to a number of full-time servants of Jehovah to apply for admission to this college (now called a school) for the free 5-month course. Of the applicants 100 were chosen to constitute the first class of Gilead students. On February 1, 1943, Brother Knorr presiding, the opening ceremonies were conducted in the beautiful school auditorium with the student body, instructors and members of the Kingdom Farm family present. As Latin America was then in view, Spanish was the foreign language taught. Since then, Portuguese, French, Italian and Japanese have also been taught various classes or groups of students. During the seven and a half years of operation since then, this School of Gilead has drawn students from more than thirty different lands on all continents.
15 Graduating two student classes a year, Gilead has sent over a thousand specially trained full-time publishers into foreign missionary fields. Each graduation is a grand event! The graduation exercises of the fifteenth class, of 120 students from 32 lands, will have a most unique setting, in the Yankee Stadium of New York city. Why there? In order to feature the opening day of the 1950 International Assembly of Jehovah’s witnesses, Sunday, July 30.
MORE BUILDING CONSTRUCTION
16. What postwar relief work was undertaken? For what purpose?
16 With the close of the occidental and oriental phases of World War II in 1945, Jehovah’s visible organization stepped expectantly into the atomic-age postwar period, but with more witnesses than ever and with new foreign Branches and with missionary homes. The entire organization was permeated with the spirit of expansion. At the sectional convention at Cleveland, Ohio, September 29, 30, 1945, Brother Knorr announced relief work would be undertaken, the companies of Jehovah’s witnesses in certain areas to contribute particularly clothing. Shortly great relief works, directed from Brooklyn headquarters, were carried forward to help rehabilitate our brethren for Jehovah’s active service in lands specially hard hit by the global war.
17. How was new construction at headquarters necessitated?
17 Then came the advices that New York city was projecting a new superhighway connecting Brooklyn with Manhattan; it was to run along Furman street and would encroach upon the ground occupied by the rear of the Bethel property, to a depth of fifty feet. Condemned by the city for proposed highway, this much of Bethel property must go. This would cut off many living-rooms, the kitchen, much of the dining-room and much of the big radio studio, including its organ. Only a new Bethel would solve the problem thrust upon us. Came Thursday, “Publishers Equipment Day,” August 8, at the 1946 Glad Nations Theocratic Assembly of Jehovah’s witnesses at the Cleveland Stadium with about 58,000 present, from 33 nations. That afternoon the new Theocratic Ministry School book entitled “Equipped for Every Good Work” had been released. It is now night. President Brother Knorr is speaking on the subject, “The Problems of Reconstruction and Expansion.” He announces something new, the dividing up of all working territory into circuits with about twenty companies or units to a circuit, and circuit servants to visit each company of a circuit, and circuit assemblies to be held every six months in each circuit. But he tells something more: To cope with the global demand for Kingdom literature the Brooklyn factory has to be enlarged. To house the larger office and factory force needed, a new Bethel home has to be erected. Watchtower radio station, WBBR, must be increased in power and facilities. The money for all this? No, none to be borrowed from commercial banks. Jehovah’s visible organization, his devoted people, would be given the privilege of loaning the needed capital by taking the 2-percent notes which the Watchtower Society would soon issue. The jubilation that followed was the precursor of an oversubscription of the loan by generous hearts.
18. What adjustments at Bethel were made to allow for this?
18 To make way for the demolition work soon to begin, the following October 12 the radio offices and broadcasting studio were transferred from Bethel back to WBBR on Staten island. The dining-room was transferred to the Bethel parlor and library-room on the basement floor. Here the Bethel family ate their meals in two shifts for lack of table space, in cafeteria style. The aforetime morning Bethel service at the breakfast table, a feature carried over from the original Bible House in Allegheny (North Pittsburgh), Pa., had to be discontinued. The new Bethel building was planned to extend along Columbia Heights from the existing Bethel southward to the end of the block at Pineapple street. To purchase the property standing thereon it took considerable time and abnormal expense. Thereafter to get the tenants out of these residences posed another problem, which caused long delays in getting onto the new construction work. Meantime building construction costs soared. For those Bethel family members who had been forced out of their living quarters by demolition of the fifty-feet-deep rear section of Bethel, houses were bought at 111, 113, and 151 Columbia Heights, in addition to using the house at 34 Orange street. This scattered the family to the least extent. The family’s Monday night Watchtower study and Theocratic Ministry School meeting had to be transferred to the Fulton street Kingdom Hall of the Brooklyn Center unit of Jehovah’s witnesses.
19. How was WBBR improved and the new equipment put on the air?
19 Much difficulty, causing vexatious delay, was met with in securing all the properties and sites adjacent to the factory. Finally the way was cleared for erecting a factory addition as planned and blueprinted. But before this, WBBR had expanded. New transmitter equipment was installed and three new steel towers, 411 feet high above grade, were erected at WBBR, Staten island. Tuesday night, May 25, 1948, at 7 p.m., the old radio equipment was signed off the air, and the new equipment, with power increased from 1,000 to 5,000 watts, was switched on, to send the program in a directional beam from the three steel towers across the hitherto impenetrable populous metropolitan area of Greater New York city. At its old studio in the transmitter house Brother Knorr officially inaugurated WBBR on its new equipment and power by a radio speech telling of the expansion of God’s visible organization. By then 233,578 Kingdom publishers over all the earth were reporting field activity monthly. The Watchtower Bible School of Gilead had already graduated a thousand students, and 534 of them were located in 68 lands and in 85 different missionary homes. Prospects for further expansion were bright.
20. What buildings now crown the construction work at headquarters?
20 An unusually mild winter of 1948-1949 furnished most favorable weather for construction work to begin on the new Bethel. The construction work on the new factory began in January, 1949. At long last the time for occupying the new structures arrived. Behold, there stands the new Bethel home, a strong imposing structure ten stories high above Columbia Heights and surmounted by a rectangular watchtower. Up above the city’s new cantilever highway of two levels for motor vehicles and a promenade Bethel rears itself in a commanding position, occupying now the complete block from Pineapple to Orange street and increasing the living quarters to accommodations for more than 450 persons, two in a room. A half mile away stands the factory with its new addition, a structure of concrete nine stories high, and the whole factory now extending from Adams to Pearl street and with its floor space almost doubled. Page space here does not allow for description of these fine buildings which Jehovah God has provided for equipping his visible organization to be richer than ever in good works. Let the pictures herewith describe them to you.
[Picture on page 221]
BETHEL AND THE NEW HIGHWAY Showing, front center, what is left of the 1910 structure; on left, the 1927 building; to the right and rear, the 1950 twelve story edifice.