See also: Bible Student movement
In 1870, Charles Taze
Russell and others formed a group in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to study the Bible. During the course of his ministry, Russell
disputed many beliefs of mainstream Christianity including immortality of the soul, hellfire, predestination,
the fleshly return of Jesus Christ, the Trinity, and the burning up of the world. In 1876, Russell met Nelson H.
Barbour; later that year they jointly produced the
Worlds, which combined restitutionist views
with end time prophecy.
The book taught that God's dealings with
humanity were divided dispensationally, each ending with a "harvest," that
Christ had returned as an invisible spirit being in 1874 inaugurating the "harvest of the Gospel
age," and that 1914 would mark the end of a 2520-year period called "the Gentile Times," at which time world society would be
replaced by the full establishment of God's kingdom on earth.
Beginning in 1878 Russell and Barbour jointly edited a religious
journal, Herald of the Morning. In June 1879 the two split over doctrinal
differences, and in July, Russell began publishing the magazine Zion's Watch Tower and Herald
of Christ's Presence, stating that its purpose was to demonstrate
that the world was in "the last days," and that a new age of earthly and human restitution under the reign of
Christ was imminent.
From 1879, Watch Tower supporters gathered as autonomous congregations
to study the Bible topically. Thirty congregations were founded, and during 1879 and 1880, Russell visited each to
provide the format he recommended for conducting meetings. In 1881, Zion's Watch Tower Tract
Society was presided over by William Henry
Conley, and in 1884, Russell incorporated the society as a non-profit
business to distribute tracts and Bibles. By about 1900, Russell had organized
thousands of part- and full-time colporteurs, and was appointing
foreign missionaries and establishing branch offices. By
the 1910s, Russell's organization maintained nearly a hundred "pilgrims," or traveling preachers. Russell engaged in significant global
publishing efforts during his ministry, and by 1912, he was the most distributed
Christian author in the United States.
Russell moved the Watch Tower Society's headquarters to Brooklyn, New York, in 1909, combining printing and corporate offices with a house of worship;
volunteers were housed in a nearby residence he named Bethel. He identified the religious movement as
"Bible Students," and more formally as the
International Bible Students Association. By 1910, about 50,000 people worldwide were
associated with the movement and congregations re-elected him annually as
their "pastor." Russell died October 31, 1916, at the age of
64 while returning from a ministerial speaking tour.