Charles Taze Russell

1852-1916. Founder of Jehovah's Witnesses.* As a young man he built up a chain of drapery shops in Allegheny, Pennsylvania. He reacted against doctrines of hell and was attracted by date-fixing for the Second Coming, which he estimated first as 1874, then as 1914. He caricatured the Christian doctrine of the Trinity as “three gods in one person” and held that Christ was the first created being. In 1879 he launched a magazine, Zion's Watchtower and Herald of Christ's Presence. In 1884 he set up Zion's Watchtower Tract Society in Pittsburgh, and this publishing house produced Russell's six volumes of Studies in the Scriptures (1886-1904). These set out what has remained basically the Jehovah's Witnesses' theology. A seventh volume on the Book of Revelation was completed by others in 1917 after Russell's death, and Arius and Russell are called two of the angels of the Seven Churches.

Russell's wife left him in 1897 and obtained a legal separation in 1906. Neither party asked for divorce. In 1911 Russell advertised so-called “Miracle Wheat” in his magazine, to be sold in aid of the society's funds. The Brooklyn Eagle challenged his claims; Russell sued for libel and lost. He lost also a libel case against the Rev. J.J. Ross, who attacked his doctrines and scholarship. During the hearing Russell committed perjury by asserting under oath that he knew the Greek alphabet, whereas he could not name the letters when he was shown them in court.

He traveled widely and was an able writer and speaker. His sermons were syndicated in some 1,500 newspapers. He produced a photo-drama of the Bible story, with colored slides, films, and synchronized gramophone records. It lasted eight hours (four parts of two hours each) and included twelve talks by Russell.

See also Jehovah's Witnesses; Rutherford, J.F.