CHARLES Taze Russell, known the world over as Pastor Russell, author, lecturer and minister of the Gospel, was born at Pittsburg, Pa., February 16, 1852; died October 31, 1916. He was a son of Joseph L. and Eliza Birnie Russell, both of Scotch-Irish descent. He was educated in the common schools and under private tutors. He was married in 1879 to Maria Frances Ackley. No children blessed this union. Eighteen years later a disagreement arose about the management of his journal, and a separation followed. Pastor Russell was the author of the following publications:
Object and Manner of Our Lord's Return; Food for Thinking Christians; Tabernacle Shadows; The Divine Plan of the Ages; The Time is at Hand; Thy Kingdom Come; The Battle of Armageddon; The Atonement Between God and Man; The New Creation; What Say the Scriptures About Hell; What Say the Scriptures About Spiritualism; Old Theology Tracts; The Photo-Drama of Creation; Etc., Etc. - OVERLAND MONTHLY, The Late Pastor Russell--by J. F. Rutherford
During 1880 Russell and his helpers were further busy in writing several tracts, each being numbered. After 1891 this tract series first regularly marked “Bible Students Tracts” also were called Old Theology Quarterly. They were provided free for general public distribution by Watch Tower readers to expose fallacies of church doctrines. Soon it was recognized that there was need for organizing a definite society to guide and direct the growing publishing work. So early in 1881 ZION’S WATCH TOWER TRACT SOCIETY was established as an unincorporated administrative agency with Russell as its manager. Russell and others liberally contributed $35,000 to get this tract-publishing organization going. They then moved from their 1879 headquarters located at 101 Fifth Avenue, Pittsburgh, to new and larger premises in the 40 Federal Street building from where he had formerly directed his early chain-store enterprise. Through this new arrangement began to flow millions of Bible tracts and the printing of additional Watch Tower issues put out as pamphlets. By 1881 Russell had completed writing the large pamphlets entitled Tabernacle Teachings and Food for Thinking Christians, the latter being a 162-page booklet which was printed and distributed as a special edition of the Watch Tower for September, 1881. - January 15, 1955 Watchtower, WTB&TS
In 1879 and 1880 C. T. Russell and his associates founded some thirty congregations in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts, Delaware, Ohio and Michigan. Russell himself arranged personal visits to each congregation. His program called for one or several Bible meetings with each group.
Those early congregations were called “ecclesias” (from the Greek ek·kle·si′a, meaning “congregation”) and at times were spoken of as “classes.” All congregation members voted congregationally on certain matters and also elected a board of elders, responsible for directing congregational matters. The ecclesias were linked together by accepting the pattern of activity of the congregation in Pittsburgh, where C. T. Russell and other Watch Tower writers were elders.
Jesus Christ ‘preached release to imprisoned captives.’ (Luke 4:16-21; Isa. 61:1, 2) If honest-hearted ones of the nineteenth century were to gain God-given freedom, religious error had to be exposed. Zion’s Watch Tower was serving that purpose. Yet, something else helped to fill the need—“Bible Students’ Tracts” (also called “Old Theology Quarterly”), written in 1880 and thereafter by Russell and his colleagues. These tracts were provided free for distribution by Watch Tower readers.
C. T. Russell and his associates believed they were in the time of harvest, and they were few in number—only about one hundred strong in 1881. But people needed liberating truth, and by God’s undeserved kindness they were going to receive it. “Wanted 1,000 Preachers” was the striking title of an article in Zion’s Watch Tower of April 1881. To those able to give one half or more of their time exclusively to the Lord’s work, it was suggested: “That you go forth into large or small cities, according to your ability, as Colporteurs or Evangelists, seek to find in every place the earnest Christians, many of whom you will find possessed of a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge; to these seek to make known the riches of Our Father’s grace, and the beauties of His word, giving them tracts.” Among other things, these colporteurs (forerunners of today’s pioneer publishers) were to obtain Watch Tower subscriptions. Of course, not all Watch Tower readers could be full-time preachers. Yet, those who could not devote full time were not left out, for they were told: “If you have a half hour, or an hour, or two, or three, you can use it and it will be acceptable with the Lord of the harvest. Who can tell the blessings which may flow from one hour’s service under God’s direction.” - 1975 Yearbook of Jehovah's Witnesses, WTB&TS
During those early years, the Watch Tower Society had what it called the Tower Tract Fund. What was that? The following interesting details were set out on the back of stationery sometimes used by Brother Russell: “This fund consists of the free-will offerings of those who have been fed and strengthened by the ‘meat in due season’ which the above publications [made available by the Watch Tower Society], as God’s instrumentalities, are now laying before the consecrated saints, the world over.
“This fund is constantly employed in sending out, gratis, thousands of copies of ZION’S WATCH TOWER and OLD THEOLOGY TRACTS most suitable to new readers. It also assists in the spread of the paper-bound editions of the DAWN series, by aiding those disposed to circulate them—colporteurs and others. It also provides a ‘poor fund’ by which any of the Lord’s children who, through age, or sickness, or from other cause, are unable to subscribe for the WATCH TOWER are supplied free, upon condition of their sending a letter or card at the beginning of each year, stating their desire and inability.
“No one is ever asked to contribute to this fund: all donations must be voluntary. We remind our readers of the Apostle’s words (1 Cor. 16:1, 2) and corroborate them by saying that those who can give and do give to spread the truth are sure to be repaid in spiritual favors.”
The global activity of Jehovah’s Witnesses in proclaiming the good news of God’s Kingdom continues to be supported by voluntary donations. In addition to the Witnesses themselves, many appreciative interested persons count it a privilege to support this Christian work with their voluntary contributions. - Jehovah’s Witnesses—Proclaimers of God’s Kingdom, WTB&TS
To inform others of this timely information Russell and his associates published, in 1873, the booklet The Object and Manner of the Lord’s Return. Four years later a book was published entitled Three Worlds or Plan of Redemption. In 1879 Russell, along with fellow contributors, began publishing the Watchtower magazine under the title Zion’s Watch Tower and Herald of Christ’s Presence.
This magazine was published to keep to the fore the doctrine of the ransom and also the blessings to come to mankind as a result of it. The printing of the first issue was 6,000. Russell pledged that, in connection with the publishing of this magazine, they would not beg for money but depend entirely on voluntary contributions. This principle was also applied to all meetings, which were advertised with the slogan “Seats Free—No Collections.”
Further nondenominational Bible research resulted in the publishing of many tracts and pamphlets, some being called Bible Student’s Tracts, Old Theology Quarterly, Tabernacle Teachings, and Food for Thinking Christians. More than a million copies of the last-mentioned pamphlet were distributed.
In the beginning, messenger boys were sometimes hired to distribute literature, but quite early the principle was applied that the message be distributed by the unpaid, voluntary efforts of those who believed, servants of the Lord. Already in 1881 a call was made in Zion’s Watch Tower for volunteers, preachers.
- Centennial of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania, 1884-1984, WTB&TS