Friday, April 15, 2011

DJ Judge Rutherford

I generally assume that any group that shows up on my doorstep proselytizing and/or evangelizing is a group to be avoided. I find this particular type of performance art to be patronizing, moderately offensive and highly obnoxious. So as a result I knew nothing of the Jehovah's Witnesses. It is only recently I learned about their early use of radio.

Judge Joseph Frederick Rutherford was the third president of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society and by connection he played a big role in the early development of the Jehovah's Witnesses group. They were founded loosely in the 1870s. His involvement began in the 1890s and was on their board of directors by 1916. He became their president in 1917. (They didn't even adopt the name Jehovah's Witnesses until 1931 before that they were just the IBSA.) He and several directors was arrested on charges of sedition under the Espionage Act in 1918 for the contents of a book they published that year. It may sound far fetched but they were advocating that draftees refuse their orders, which is a form of obstructing the war draft. Pacifism and passive resistance was received very poorly in WWI by the authorities.

They were released from the Atlanta Penitentiary on bail in 1919 after 8 months and charges were dropped in 1920. After being released from prison he began writing and publishing again. But do remember that arrest, some people really had it in for Rutherford. Pastor Charles T. Russel writes of a newspaper article that records what is probably the first broadcast by Rutherford. It was on April 16th 1922 at the Metropolitan Opera House in Philadelphia, PA. The Howlett referred to below is Thomas F. J. Howlett, the founder of WGL-AM. Those calls were assigned in February of 1922. It was the first Philadelphia broadcast license. "Howlett station" is Thomas F. J. Howlett, the founder of WGL-AM. Those calls were assigned in February of 1922. It was the first Philadelphia broadcast license. More here.
“Judge Rutherford’s Lecture Broadcasted from Metropolitan Opera House. Talks into Transmitter. Message is Carried Over Miles of Bell Telephone Wires to Howlett’s Station.”
In 1923 his group bought the equipment from the decommissioned 740 WDT-AM and began building WBBR. (no connection to the modern Bloomberg station) In those early days they did live on-air baptisms.  Rutherford stepped up the evangelizing  in 1924 with the launch of a 15-minute radio program which was initially on WBBR-AM, based on Staten Island. I use the word "initially" with cause. In 1927, the FCC subsumed WBBR-AM to the benefit of WJZ-AM pulling the station out from under him. It was big enough news Time Magazine wrote about it:
"At was at a hearing of the Federal Radio Commission in Washington. The commission had given the radio wave length of WBBR, Judge Rutherford's station, to WJZ of the National Broadcasting Co., and had refused to allocate any wave length to WBBR. WBBR was considered an unessential station. That was complot, cried Judge Rutherford."
WBBR-AM had signed on in 1924 at 1230 kHz. By 1927 they were sharing with WJBI-AM, WLTH-AM and WEBJ-AM on 1170. The book Airwaves Of New York recorded that his organization owned seven stations including ones in Chicago, IL, Oakland, CA and CKCX in Toronto. In mid-1924 CHUC in Saskatoon signed on. It was followed by CHCY in Edmonton, and CFYC in Vancouver. In Canada the Radio Branch began to receive complaints about IBSA stations. Some regarded technical problems, they caused interference, frequency drift etc, but most were about content: primarily their denigration of other faiths but also their opposition to canned goods, and specifically their deranged opposition to vaccination. Several IBSA stations licenses were canceled in Canada in 1928. They viewed this as another conspiracy.

Despite setbacks the network grew.  In September of 1928 he was broadcasting on a network of 53 stations and by mid august the network included 96 stations, which at the time was a record. He used this accomplishment to goad other religious broadcasting groups and Merlin Hall Aylesworth of NBC. With his grandstanding in some ways it becomes unsurprising that regulators took a dislike to him. So when WBBR lobbied to share time with WJZ, in 1927 they were told no and relegated to share time with 3 other stations. They had the frequency from 6:00 AM to 8;00 AM  weekdays, and 6:00 PM to 8:00 PM Tuesday to Friday.

When the Witnesses didn't own the station, they bought airtime. He bought airtime on half a dozen different New York stations. As Rutherford attacked other religions sometimes he was banned from individual stations. Ostensibly it was was his attacks on the clergy that resulted in bans by both NBC and BBC radio networks. But it is just as likely that he was also making a repeat performance of his WWI "seditious" comments. In teaching pacifism, and opposing nationalism and jingoism he made enemies. Specifically in wartime that causes tension. But in Canada their licenses were not renewed on 4 stations specifically because of derogatory comments about other clergy. His accusations of theocracy in government went over badly.

Nonetheless his network grew even without WBBR. Eventually this grew via a network to as many as 480 radio stations (a ludicrous number) depending on what source you favor. In the Watchtower publication Face The Facts from 1938 they put the number at 118 stations. In his own text, The Fifth Column from 1940 he estimated 240 stations in the network.  I have never found a complete verifiable list, but a newspaper clipping I found from 1934 includes to following much shorter list of 114 stations. Several things of note on the list.  they are still on WIP after almost 15 years.  I also find it interesting that it lists Cuba but not Canada. It may have been a targeted mailing or maybe they'd been run out of Canada by then. Full list below the break...

  1. WAMC-AM - Anniston, AL
  2. WAPI-AM- Birmingham, AL
  3. WBRC-AM - Birmingham, AL
  4. WJBY-AM - Gadsen, AL
  5. WODX-AM - Mobile, AL
  6. WSFA-AM - Montgomery, AL
  7. WHET-AM - Troy, AL
  8. WICC-AM - Bridgeport, CT
  9. CMK - Havana, Cuba
  10. CMHI - Santa Clara, Cuba
  11. WDEL-AM - Delaware, AL
  12. WMAL-AM - Washington, DC
  13. WOL-AM - Washington, DC
  14. WIOD-AM - Miami, FL
  15. WQAM-AM - Miami, FL
  16. WDBO-AM - Orlando, FL
  17. WCOA-AM - Pensacola, FL
  18. WENC-AM - Americus, GA
  19. WGST-AM - Atlanta, GA
  20. WRDW-AM - Augusta, GA
  21. WBBL-AM - Columbus, GA
  22. WMAZ-AM - Macon, GA
  23. WFDV-AM - Rome, GA
  24. WTOC-AM - Savannah, GA
  25. WQDX-AM - Thomasville, GA
  26. WOWO-AM - Indianapolis, IN
  27. WFIW-AM - Hopkinsville, KY
  28. WLAP-AM - Louisville, KY
  29. WLBZ-AM - Bangor,ME
  30. WAGM-AM - Presque Isle, ME
  31. WCBM-AM - Baltimore, MD
  32. WFBR-AM - Baltimore, MD
  33. WTBO-AM Cumberland, MD
  34. WBSO-AM - Babson Park, MA
  35. WHDH-AM - Boston, MA
  36. WLOE-AM - Boston, MA
  37. WNAC-AM - Boston, MA
  38. WSAR-AM - Fall River, MA
  39. WLEY-AM - Lexington, MA
  40. WNBH-AM - New Bedford, MA
  41. WMAS-AM - Springfield, MA
  42. WORC-AM - Worcester, MA
  43. WCOC-AM - Meridian, MS
  44. WFEA-AM - Manchester, NH
  45. WPG-AM - Atlantic City, NJ
  46. WODA-AM Paterson, NJ
  47. WOKO-AM - Albany, NY
  48. WMBO-AM Auburn, NY
  49. WNBO-AM -  Binghamton, NY
  50. WBBR-AM - Brooklyn NY
  51. WMIL-AM - Brooklyn, NY
  52. WGR-AM - Buffalo, NY
  53. WKBW-AM - Buffalo, NY
  54. WESG-AM - Elmira, NY
  55. WGBB-AM - Freeport, NY
  56. WOCL-AM - Jamestown, NY
  57. WINS-AM- New York, NY
  58. WHEC-AM - Rochester, NY
  59. WNBZ-AM - Sarnac Lake, NY
  60. WSYR-AM - Syracuse, NY
  61. WHDL-AM - Tupper Lake, NY
  62. WFAS-AM - White Plains, NY
  63. WBT-AM - Charlotte, NC
  64. WBIG-AM - Greensboro, NC
  65. WPTF-AM - Raleigh, NC
  66. WRAM-AM - Wilmington, NC
  67. WSJS-AM - Winston Salem, NC
  68. WADC-AM - Akron, OH
  69. WKRC-AM  - Cincinnati, OH
  70. WHK-AM - Cleveland, OH
  71. WJAY-AM - Cleveland, OH
  72. WAIU-AM Columbus, OH
  73. WCAH-AM - Columbus, OH
  74. WSMK-AM - Dayton, OH
  75. WHBD-AM - Mt. Orab, OH
  76. WSPD-AM - Toledo, OH
  77. WKBN-AM - Youngstown, OH
  78. WALR-AM - Zanesville, OH
  79. WFBG-AM - Altoona, PA
  80. WLBW-AM - Erie, PA
  81. WIBG-AM - Glenside, PA
  82. WHP-AM - Harrisburg, PA
  83. WJAC-AM - Johnstown, PA
  84. WCAU-AM - Philadelphia, PA
  85. WIP-AM - Philadelphia, PA
  86. KQV-AM - Pittsburgh, PA
  87. WCAE-AM - Pittsburgh, PA
  88. WJAS-AM - Pittsburgh, PA
  89. WEEU-AM - Reading, PA
  90. WGBI-AM - Scranton, PA
  91. WNBO-AM - Washington, PA
  92. WBAX-AM - Wilkes Barre, PA
  93. WRAK-AM - Williamsport, PA
  94. WEAN-AM - Providence, RI
  95. WQSC-AM - Charleston, SC
  96. WIS-AM - Columbia, SC
  97. WSFA-AM - Spartanburg- SC
  98. WOPI-AM - Bristol, TN
  99. WDOD-AM - Chattanooga, TN
  100. WNOX-AM - Knoxville, TN
  101. WSYB-AM - Rutland, VT
  102. WNBX-AM - Springfield, VT
  103. WDEV-AM - Waterbury, VT
  104. WBTM-AM - Danville, VA
  105. WLVA-AM - Lynchburg, VA
  106. WGH-AM - Newport News, VA
  107. WPHE-AM - Petersburg, VA
  108. WRVA-AM - Richmond, VA
  109. WDBJ-AM - Roanoke, VA
  110. WHIS-AM - Bluefield,WV
  111. WOBU-AM - Charleston, WV
  112. WMMN-AM - Fairmont, WV
  113. WSAZ-AM - Huntington, WV
  114. WWVA-AM - Wheeling, WV
Judge Rutherford moved to San Diego in 1929. He focused less on broadcasting and circulated 78s of abbreviated speeches for his followers to proselytize with. He died in 1942 at the age of  73.