Watch Tower or Watchtower – Which Is It?

WT-hq-940Ever wonder why the name, Watchtower, (one word) is sometimes written, Watch Tower, (two words)? Does it matter? What are the legal ramifications? What does the Watchtower have in common with the Peoples Pulpit Association of New York? The answers to these questions and more are thoughtfully presented from a historical perspective.

The names under discussion are both written correctly and both are generally recognizable by the public as coupled with the religion of Jehovah’s Witnesses. A viable elucidation of “Which is it, Watch Tower or Watchtower?” is not simple because of historical twists and turns of the use of both names by the principals in charge of this religious movement throughout its one-hundred and thirty-year existence to date. To a perceptive affiliate, or to someone who has more than a casual acquaintance with the group, the words under discussion are part of corporate names, and each corporation is used by Jehovah’s Witnesses’ leadership to direct different aspects of their legal affairs. But that’s not the end of the matter. Both names are also linked with the well-known magazine, The Watchtower, distributed door-to-door by Jehovah’s Witnesses. To be precise, the way that journal’s name is written would depend upon the date of issue.

Name Confusion—Case in Point

Notice the way the word or words under discussion are written in the March 5, 2001 Christianity Today article:

Sects: Watch Tower Undergoes Corporate Shakeup

Jehovah’s Witnesses organization changing structure Mark A. Kellner
The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania (WTBTS), the corporate body of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, has restructured itself at a time when the group’s growth rate is slowing.

This illustrates writing the name of the same Pennsylvania corporation two different ways. A discerning and confused reader might wonder why Mr. Kellner did this. Probably because he, like most people, didn’t know it made a difference. In the first instance, Mr. Kellner was correct when he used two words, Watch Tower, to identify the corporation that was undergoing a shakeup. In the second instance, he wrongly used one word, Watchtower, for the name of the Pennsylvania corporation.

Two Corporations

For clarity, here are some details worthy of note about these corporations that use the name Watch Tower or Watchtower which represent Jehovah’s Witnesses interests.

  • Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania, Inc.

Originally established in 1884 under the name Zion’s Watch Tower Tract Society. In 1896 the name was changed to Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society. Since 1955, it has been known as Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania, Inc.

  • Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc.

Previously known as Peoples Pulpit Association of New York, formed in 1909. In 1939, the name, Peoples Pulpit Association, was changed to Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, Inc. Since 1956 it has been known as Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc.

Various Corporate Roles

Since its inception, Watchtower of New York has directed the congregational/organizational aspects of the religion of Jehovah’s Witnesses. In the year 2000, JW leaders formed yet another corporation which the March 5, 2001 Christianity Today article stated “will oversee religious matters.”

The name of this corporation is Christian Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses, Inc., which now oversees the preaching work of Jehovah’s Witnesses in the US, Bermuda and the Turks and Caicos Islands. In other words, this legal entity was established to organize and administer congregational affairs of Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Among other things, Watchtower of New York can prepare and distribute confidential letters to the elders of Jehovah’s Witness congregations. One might think this work should always fall under the auspices of Christian Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses, Inc. since correspondence from headquarters to field leaders of the religion would certainly fall into the category of “religious matters.” But according to their own literature, other corporate entities connected with the Watchtower may communicate with special representatives of their organization, such as elders and district and circuit overseers, all on behalf of the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses.

The Watchtower Library on CD-ROM is owned by Watch Tower of Pennsylvania. In-house attorneys use Watchtower of New York letterhead stationary for correspondence. Watch Tower of PA presently holds the copyright on the organization’s books, booklets, and The Watchtower and Awake! magazines. However, Watchtower of New York is the publisher.

As an example, Watch Tower Publications Index was named this way because Watch Tower of PA holds the copyright for the majority of the literature that is indexed in the book, but Watchtower of NY published the index.

Presently, Watchtower of NY publishes The Watchtower magazine while Watch Tower of PA holds the copyright; but it wasn’t always that way. Some time during 1988, Watch Tower of PA ceased publishing The Watchtower, and Watchtower of NY became the publisher.

Watch Tower of PA maintains an insurance desk that provides their proprietary KHAA insurance plan (Kingdom Hall Assistance Arrangement) for Kingdom and Assembly Halls and organizationally-owned automobiles, etc. That desk also takes care of paying health care expenses for its representatives. And Watch Tower of PA pays for special traveling representatives’ expenses, as well as Bethel volunteer workers’ allowances, etc. This is the corporation that handled out-of-court settlement claims that totaled upward of $12.5 million dollars paid in early 2007 to sixteen JW victims of child sexual abuse by JW pedophiles.

Watch Tower of PA basically controls the religion’s assets. Donations in the form of direct contributions, loans, and wills are directed to this corporation.

Watch Tower of PA letterhead stationary was used by Jehovah’s Witnesses’ spokesman J. R. Brown when he replied to questions from a producer of an NBC Dateline program about Jehovah’s Witnesses and child sexual abuse.

Watch Tower of PA holds title to most of the religion’s considerable real estate. In their official history book, Jehovah’s Witnesses Proclaimers of God’s Kingdom, Watch Tower of PA is said to have facilities such as Watchtower Farms. In addition, Watch Tower of PA began to build in 1989 the Watchtower Educational Center, located in Patterson, NY.

Journal Title Explained

When referencing the major religious journal connected with Jehovah’s Witnesses, whether to write Watch Tower or Watchtower one should take into account the publishing date of the journal. ZION’S WATCH TOWER and Herald of Christ’s Presence began to be published by Charles Taze Russell in July 1879. The word, ZION’S in the title was dropped starting with the January 1, 1909 issue to coincide with the “Removal of the Society’s Headquarters” (article found in the Watchtower Reprints, January 15, 1909, p. 4312) from Allegheny, PA to Brooklyn, NY. The name then read The Watch Tower and Herald of Christ’s Presence. Almost thirty years from the debut of Russell’s journal in 1879, the words Watch Tower in the title was changed to Watchtower as seen on the cover of the October 15, 1931 issue. This cover can be viewed in the Witnesses’ history book, on p. 724, where there are five different covers displayed. The October 15, 1931 cover is the fifth one shown.

Aside: This historic issue discussed the group’s new name, “Jehovah’s Witnesses,” a name introduced and adopted at a convention on July 26, 1931 in Columbus, Ohio.

Not only was the name, “Bible Students” changed to “Jehovah’s Witnesses,” and the word Watch Tower to Watchtower, but the entire October 15, 1931 Watchtower cover was redesigned, the result being most of the semblance to the magazine created by Russell was eliminated. This was part of the alteration of image and removal of important organizational structure and beliefs associated with Russell that Joseph F. Rutherford, who was the second president of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of PA, was occupied with.

An emblem popular with the Bible Student movement was a Cross within a Crown. That image disappeared from the cover of the October 15, 1931 Watchtower, as well as windows in a lighthouse that appeared to look like crosses. The actual lighthouse illustration, along with beacons of light shining from the top of the edifice down to breaking ocean waves, was gone. In its place two stone watchtowers built upon a high wall with sentries watching over the wall were featured.

The sunrise coming up over a mountain was replaced with an illustration of Ezekiel’s vision of a heavenly chariot with wheels within wheels accompanied by angels blowing trumpets. References to Jesus as the “Rock of Ages” and “Ransom For All” were replaced with Isa. 43:12,

“Ye are my witnesses, saith JEHOVAH, that I am God.”

Along with that change, located on the inside cover page, under the title, “Its Sacred Mission,” no longer found were the words, “It [the journal] stands firmly upon the great ransom sacrifice as the fundamental doctrine by which all doctrines are measured.” And the list of those who made up the Editorial Committee was removed.

For the next nearly eight years the primary purpose of The Watchtower was to prod the group’s followers to take seriously their so-called commission and duty that went along with bearing the name “Jehovah’s Witnesses” which was to “Herald Christ’s Presence.”

Clever Step by Step Transformation

With the January 1, 1939 issue, the title The Watchtower and Herald of Christ’s Presence was changed to The Watchtower and Herald of Christ’s Kingdom. Note the word, Presence was replaced by Kingdom.

Aside: Inasmuch as for nearly sixty years, from July 1879 to December 15, 1938, the intent of the journal was

“…to show that since 1874 Jesus Christ had been present, invisible to man, yet exercising his power and doing the preliminary work among the nations and peoples of earth preparatory to the inauguration of his kingdom of righteousness….”

The change from the word Presence to Kingdom was major. (Source for quote: Reprints, published 1919, “Prefatory Note,” p. 2 of Volume 1 of 7 Volumes containing the Watch Towers from July 1879, up to and including June 1919.)

Along with the title, the message changed too. “Announcing Christ’s invisible presence as beginning in 1874” disappeared from the journal. The date for the Witnesses to herald was 1914, which they announced was the birth of God’s heavenly Kingdom, and this was why the word “Presence” found in The Watchtower’s title was altered to read “Kingdom.”

This revised title lasted for only four issues ending with the February 15, 1939 Watchtower. Beginning with the March 1, 1939 issue, the title became The Watchtower Announcing Jehovah’s Kingdom.

Aside: This change was transformational. If the purpose of Jehovah’s Witnesses, as their name implies, is to witness about, or herald (announce) Jehovah, then the name The Watchtower and Herald of Christ’s Kingdom didn’t fit the function of their mouthpiece journal.

No longer was the group’s message about Christ’s Presence or Christ’s Kingdom but their core message was about Jehovah’s Kingdom. And the new title, The Watchtower Announcing Jehovah’s Kingdom, has remained unchanged since 1939 although the cover design has been updated a number of times.

The name of the corporation, Peoples Pulpit Association of New York, was also altered in 1939. Using the same one-word name as is in the journal title, Watchtower, the name of the Witnesses New York Corporation was changed to become Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, Inc.

What’s in a Name?

It has been stated that one’s entire identity is in their name. No more so than tied in with the identities of Watch Tower, Watchtower, or Watchtower and Watch Tower, different instruments connected with Jehovah’s Witnesses. The first, WatchTower, is coupled with the name, Charles Taze Russell, founder of both that corporation and The Watch Tower journal; the second, Watchtower, both the corporation and The Watchtower journal are joined with the name, Joseph F. Rutherford, the judicious, attention-grabbing second president of the movement that Russell founded.

So before you write one of these names in your blog, in your post on a discussion board, or in an article meant for publication, do some checking first so the name correctly identifies what you’re talking about: Jehovah’s Witnesses corporate arm formed in Pennsylvania; or the one formed in New York; or the major mouthpiece journal of Jehovah’s Witnesses, The Watch Tower before the October 15, 1931 issue, or that same journal, The Watchtower, beginning with the October 15, 1931 issue. All of these names have a specific identity of importance in the functioning of Jehovah’s Witnesses organization at different times or used for different purposes.



Watch Tower or Watchtower – Which Is It? — 8 Comments

  1. Very helpful and informative. Excuse my butting in what i have not been able to find in my own research.What I want to know have there been many political doners that have steered the wtbts. I would like to get a look at the invisible hand. Whether any deals where struck particularly as I theorise that the wtbts is a pressure group for unknown doners.
    I would like to start with Olin Moyle’s legal papers that are archived at Stanford.
    I have to pursue this line I do not believe it was all done for the theocracy.

  2. Thank you so much for confirming my practice of writing that key word in two different ways. Your research and attention to detail are refreshing in our increasingly illiterate and academically lazy society. God bless you for all the work you’ve done over the years.

  3. My husband listened. Really listened for the first time tonight. Because I showed him a you tube of you at family night at Bethel, then showed him your site. He has NEVER been more attentive than to your story and what you did! It was the break that I needed. I’ve been struggling alone with this, with him hiding his head in the sand. THANK YOU FOR YOUR HARD HARD WORK. <3

  4. This is helpful information. Thanks Barbara!

    One question: Does anyone know when the “Christian Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses, Inc.” came about?

    Much appreciated!

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