Stand Complete and With Firm Conviction
“A Masterpiece of a Project”
FROM the early days of their modern-day history, Jehovah’s Witnesses have been intensely interested in one of Jesus Christ’s prophecies: “This good news of the kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations; and then the end will come.” (Matthew 24:14) As 1914
To achieve their objective of declaring the good news earth wide, these servants of Jehovah employed a method that was new, bold, and vivid. To learn more about it, let us go back in time.
A New Way to Declare the Good News
It is January of the year 1914. Imagine that you are seated among 5,000 others in a darkened auditorium in New York City. Before you is a large motion-picture screen. A white-haired man in a frock coat appears on screen. You have seen silent movies, but this man speaks, and you can hear his words. You are at the premiere of something technically innovative, and the message is unique. The speaker is Charles Taze Russell, the first president of the Watch Tower Society, and the production is the “Photo-Drama of Creation.”
C. T. Russell realized the potential for motion pictures to reach masses of people. In 1912, therefore, he began preparing the “Photo-Drama of Creation.” Eventually, it came to be an eight-hour-long photographic slide and motion picture production, complete with color and sound.
Designed to be shown in four segments, the “Photo-Drama” took viewers from creation down through human history to the climax of Jehovah God’s purpose for the earth and humankind at the end of Christ’s Millennial Reign. Years would pass before the same use of technology would be commercially successful. Yet, millions saw the “Photo-Drama of Creation” free of charge!
Choice musical recordings as well as 96 phonograph-record talks were prepared for the “Photo-Drama.” Stereopticon slides were made of fine art pictures illustrating world history. It was also necessary to make hundreds of new paintings and sketches. Some of the color slides and films were painstakingly hand painted. And this was done repeatedly, for, in time, 20 four-part sets were prepared. This made it possible to show a portion of the “Photo-Drama” in 80 different cities on any given day!
Behind the Scenes
What took place behind the scenes during exhibitions of the “Photo-Drama”? “The Drama started with a movie of Brother Russell,” said Bible Student Alice Hoffman. “As he would appear on the screen and his lips began to move, a phonograph would be started . . . and we would enjoy listening to his voice.”
Alluding to time-lapse photography, Zola Hoffman recalled: “I sat there in open-eyed amazement as we watched the portrayal of the days of creation. There were lilies there just gradually unfolding before our very eyes.”
Music lover Karl F. Klein of the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses adds: “At the same time that these pictures were being shown, there was an accompaniment of very fine music, such gems as Narcissus and Humoreske.”
There were also other memorable incidents. “Sometimes humorous mishaps would take place,” recalled Clayton J. Woodworth, Jr. “On one occasion the record was playing ‘Flee as a Bird to Your Mountain,’ and on the screen came the picture of a huge gigantosaurus, a pre-Flood animal of great size”!
Besides the regular “Photo-Drama of Creation,” there soon were “Eureka Drama” sets. (See box.) One was made up of the recorded lectures, as well as musical recordings. The other consisted of both the records and the slides. Though the “Eureka Drama” lacked motion pictures, it was very successful when shown in less densely populated areas.
A Powerful Witnessing Tool
By the end of 1914, the “Photo-Drama” had been presented to audiences totaling over 9,000,000 in North America, Europe, and Australia. Though few in number, the Bible Students did not lack the firm conviction needed to declare the good news with this new medium. They gladly contributed the funds required to rent suitable places for these exhibitions. So it was that the “Photo-Drama of Creation” did a great work in acquainting viewers with God’s Word and purposes.
In a letter to C. T. Russell, one person wrote: “That first visit to your Drama was the turning-point of my life; or, I should say, the turning-point in my knowledge of the Bible.” Said another individual: “I had almost been drawn into the quick-sands of infidelity and feel that I was saved by the ‘Photo-Drama of Creation’ which was shown here last summer. . . . I now have that peace which the world cannot give and which I would not part with for all its riches.”
Demetrius Papageorge, long a member of the Society’s headquarters staff, commented: “The ‘Photo-Drama’ was a masterpiece of a project, when we consider the small number of Bible Students and the proportionately small amount of finances available. It really had Jehovah’s spirit behind it!”
The “Eureka Drama”
Eight months after the premiere of the “Photo-Drama,” the Society saw the need to provide another version of it called the “Eureka Drama.” While the complete “Photo-Drama” continued to be shown in large cities, the “Eureka” sets presented the same basic message in villages and rural areas. One version of the “Eureka Drama” was described as giving “the sisters an exceptional opportunity” to preach. Why so? Because its case of phonograph records weighed only 30 pounds [14 kg]. For an exhibition, of course, it would also be necessary to carry a phonograph.