Review and Herald Literary Society

By Kevin M. Burton

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Kevin M. Burton, Ph.D. candidate (Florida State University). Burton did mission work in the Czech Republic and South Korea and served as chaplain at Ozark Adventist Academy. He currently teaches American history at Southern Adventist University and has published several articles on Adventist history. His M.A. thesis is titled, “Centralized for Protection: George I. Butler and His Philosophy of One-Person Leadership.” Burton’s doctoral dissertation explores Adventist political involvement in the abolition movement and Civil War.

First Published: January 29, 2020

The Review and Herald Literary Society was established in response to challenges that arose in the publishing work in the 1860s and early 1870s.

Historical Background

The Review and Herald magazine was lengthened twice during Jotham M. Aldrich’s administration of the Seventh-day Adventist Publishing Association in the 1860s. The paper first increased from eight to twelve pages on December 11, 1866, and then, from twelve to sixteen pages on June 18, 1867. Doubling the size of the Review increased printing costs. During the same time employee wages were raised as well. However, subscription prices did not rise in corresponding measure to the additional expenses. Within a short period of time the Publishing Association had incurred a large debt.1

In addition to unmet financial demands, the editor, Uriah Smith, was also challenged to double the content of the Review. In spite of his efforts, some believed that the Review began to suffer, perhaps because increased quantity often results in decreased quality. The trustees of Publishing Association began to address financial concerns and content issues in September 1868. During this month Aldrich was removed from the presidency and the paper shrank to its original size, eight pages.2

The Review was not the only periodical that struggled during the late 1860s and early 1870s. In fact, the Health Reformer likely suffered the most. In 1868, Dr. Russell T. (R. T.) Trall began to write a regular column for the Reformer, which was initially well received. Trall was quite radical, however, and began to admonish his readers to take some extreme positions, particularly in reference to sugar, salt, butter, milk, and eggs. Since readers found these views unappealing, subscriptions rapidly declined.3

In the midst of these struggles, a crisis occurred in late 1870 that almost ended the Seventh-day Adventist publishing work entirely. As sickness spread throughout Battle Creek, Ellen White lamented, “We are amid the dying and the dead . . . Typhoid fever rages to a fearful extent.”4 The publishing office was particularly affected by this epidemic. Review and Herald editor, Uriah Smith; publishing association secretary, Adelia P. (A. P.) Van Horn; press foreman, William C. (W. C.) Gage; and Youth’s Instructor editor, Goodloe Harper (G. H.) Bell, all contracted the fever around the same time and were unable to work. When the Whites returned to Battle Creek on November 7, 1870, they found that the printing presses had essentially stopped because the office was nearly deserted.5

The Review and Herald Literary Society

In response to these issues, James White stated, “We have long felt the need of an organized effort to raise a general interest among our people for the improvement of our periodicals, and for a more extensive circulation of them.”6 White hoped that such an organization would ameliorate financial and qualitative concerns as well as attract more subscribers. Therefore, on March 21-22, 1871, the Review and Herald Literary Society was established.7

In its broadest definition, a literary society is an organized group of people that share a devotion to literature and a commitment to promote a specific genre of writings. These groups were imported from Europe to the United States in the eighteenth century and became an important component of academic institutions in the nineteenth-century.8

The stated purpose of the Review and Herald Literary Society was “to promote the literary interest of our various periodicals by gleaning from the wide field of moral and religious literature the choicest selections, and furnishing original contributions, for their columns: and by interesting others to engage in the same work.”9 James White also hoped that the literary society would grow into “a school for education,” but this new venture quickly fizzled out. Membership was restricted to employees of the Seventh-day Adventist Publishing Association and they “thought it rather dull work.” White also served as president of the society, but was often absent. Without active leadership, the society failed to thrive.10

In December 1872, the Review and Herald Literary Society was re-organized. Membership was opened to anyone who wished to join and, in addition to reviewing literature, members in the society also began to debate theological topics. Members would write and present essays, and others would offer constructive criticism. Sometimes subjects were discussed for several weeks before the society moved on to a different topic. The literary society also promoted non-English languages. On several occasions passages of Scripture were memorized and recited in Chaldaic, Hebrew, Greek, Latin, French, German, and Danish.11

Although the Review and Herald Literary Society may not have accomplished all of its original goals, Adventist periodicals were strengthened throughout the 1870s, perhaps partially due to the society’s efforts. The society was no longer mentioned in denominational periodicals after 1873, yet it did not die out. Battle Creek College opened in 1874 and the society was apparently re-organized a third time under the name, Fide-Delectian Society of Battle Creek College, which remained in “a prosperous condition” at least into the 1880s.12 Though the Review and Herald Literary Society did not “become a school of education” as James White had hoped, it did become an important component of the first Seventh-day Adventist educational institution. Similar societies were added, such as the Soronians and the Bible Lyceum, and associations of this nature became an integral part of student life in other Adventist schools in the latter part of the nineteenth-century.13

Sources

Amadon, G. W. and J. M. Aldrich. “Seventh Annual Meeting of the Seventh-Day [sic] Adventist Pub. Association.” ARH, May 28, 1867.

Amadon, G. W. and J. M. Aldrich. “Sixth Annual Meeting of the S. D. A. Publishing Association.” ARH, May 22, 1866.

Amadon, George W. March 21-22, 1871. Diary for 1871. Center for Adventist Research. Byington-Amadon Diaries (Collection 012), Box 2, Envelope 30.

“American Intelligence.” Philadelphia (PA) Independent Gazetteer, and Agricultural Repository, November 27, 1790.

Andrews, J. N., G. H. Bell, and U. Smith. Defense of Eld. James White and Wife: The Battle Creek Church to the Churches and Brethren Scattered Abroad. Battle Creek, MI: Steam Press, 1870.

Avery, George R. George R. Avery to Dear Father. March 13, 1876. Center for Adventist Research. Avery Family Papers (Collection 007), Box 1, Folder, 6.

Bacheller, John W. “Special Meeting.” ARH, April 4, 1871.

“Battle Creek College.” ARH, April 18, 1882.

Burton, Kevin M. “An Adventist Gentleman in Battle Creek: The Leadership of Jotham M. Aldrich, 1866-1868.” Journal of Asia Adventist Seminary 16, no. 2 (2013): 127-152.

Burton, Kevin M. “Centralized for Protection: George I. Butler and His Philosophy of One-Person Leadership.” MA Thesis, Andrews University, 2015.

“Business Department: Receipts for Review and Herald.” ARH, December 11, 1866.

“Business Department: Receipts for Review and Herald.” ARH, June 18, 1867,

C. C. L. “The College Literary Societies.” ARH, February 21, 1882.

“Commandment Exercise.” ARH, October 14, 1873.

“Edenton.” New Bern (NC) State Gazette of North-Carolina, November 12, 1789.

Kellogg, J. H. J. H. Kellogg to W. C. White. August 17, 1873. Ellen G. White Estate Incoming Correspondence.

“Library, Center of Learning at E.M.C.” Lake Union Herald, April 21, 1959.

Merriam, Addie. “The Review and Herald Literary Society.” ARH, December 24, 1872.

Reavis, Evelyn Gertrude. May 10, 1875. Diary for 1875. Center for Adventist Research. Reavis Family Collection (Collection 279), Box 1, Folder 5.

“The Review and Herald Literary Society.” ARH, January 14, 1873.

Schwarz, Richard W. and Floyd Greenleaf. Light Bearers: A History of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, Revised Edition. Nampa, ID: Pacific Press, 2000.

Smith, U. Wilton. “Fide-Delectian Society of Battle Creek College. Monday evening, March 20, 1882.” Center for Adventist Research. Uriah Smith/Mark Bovee Collection (Collection 146), Oversize.

Sperry, Byron. Byron Sperry to W. C. White. May 22, 1875. Ellen G. White Estate Incoming Correspondence.

W[aggoner], J. H. “Answers to Correspondents.” ARH, October 28, 1873.

White, Ellen G. Ellen G. White to Uriah Smith and George W. Amadon. April 23, 1869. Letter 3, 1869. Accessed July 18, 2017, http://egwwritings.org.

White, Ellen G. Ellen G. White to Edson and Emma White. December 16, 1870. Letter 22, 1870. Accessed July 18, 2017, http://egwwritings.org.

White, Ellen G. Diary, May 1873. Manuscript 7, 1873. Accessed July 18, 2017, http://egwwritings.org.

White, Ellen G. Testimony for the Church at Battle Creek. Battle Creek, MI: Steam Press, 1868.

White, James. “An Appeal.” ARH, April 4, 1871.

White, James. “The Review and Herald Literary Society.” ARH, March 28, 1871.

White, Jas. and E. W. Whitney. “Organization of the Review and Herald Literary Society.” ARH, March 28, 1871.

Notes

  1. “Business Department: Receipts for Review and Herald,” ARH, December 11, 1866, 12; “Business Department: Receipts for Review and Herald,” ARH, June 18, 1867, 16; G. W. Amadon and J. M. Aldrich, “Sixth Annual Meeting of the S. D. A. Publishing Association,” ARH, May 22, 1866, 198; G. W. Amadon and J. M. Aldrich, “Seventh Annual Meeting of the Seventh-Day [sic] Adventist Pub. Association,” ARH, May 28, 1867, 281; Kevin M. Burton, “An Adventist Gentleman in Battle Creek: The Leadership of Jotham M. Aldrich, 1866-1868,” Journal of Asia Adventist Seminary 16, no 2 (2013): 139-146.

  2. ARH, August 25, 1868; ARH, September 1, 1868; Ellen G. White, Testimony for the Church at Battle Creek (Battle Creek, MI: Steam Press, 1868), 14; J. N. Andrews, G. H. Bell, and U. Smith, Defense of Eld. James White and Wife: The Battle Creek Church to the Churches and Brethren Scattered Abroad (Battle Creek, MI: Steam Press, 1870), 29; Ellen G. White to Uriah Smith and George W. Amadon, April 23, 1869, Letter 3, 1869, accessed July 18, 2017, http://egwwritings.org.

  3. Richard W. Schwarz and Floyd Greenleaf, Light Bearers: A History of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, rev. ed. (Nampa, ID: Pacific Press, 2000), 111-112.

  4. Ellen G. White to Edson and Emma White, December 16, 1870, Letter 22, 1870, accessed July 18, 2017, http://egwwritings.org.

  5. Kevin M. Burton, “Centralized for Protection: George I. Butler and His Philosophy of One-Person Leadership” (MA Thesis, Andrews University, 2015), 18-23.

  6. James White, “The Review and Herald Literary Society,” ARH, March 28, 1871, 120; James White, “An Appeal,” ARH, April 4, 1871, 128.

  7. George W. Amadon, diary entry for March 21-22, 1871, Center for Adventist Research. Byington-Amadon Diaries (Collection 012), Box 2, Envelope 30. White, “The Review and Herald Literary Society,” 120; Jas. White and E. W. Whitney, “Organization of the Review and Herald Literary Society,” ARH, March 28, 1871, 120; John W. Bacheller, “Special Meeting,” ARH, April 4, 1871, 128.

  8. Cf. “Edenton,” New Bern (NC) State Gazette of North-Carolina, November 12, 1789, 3; “American Intelligence,” Philadelphia (PA) Independent Gazetteer, and Agricultural Repository, November 27, 1790, 3.

  9. White and Whitney, “Organization of the Review and Herald Literary Society,” 120.

  10. Addie Merriam, “The Review and Herald Literary Society,” ARH, December 24, 1872, 16.

  11. Ibid.; “The Review and Herald Literary Society,” ARH, January 14, 1873, 40; “Commandment Exercise,” ARH, October 14, 1873, 144; J. H. W[aggoner], “Answers to Correspondents,” ARH, October 28, 1873, 160.

  12. J. H. Kellogg to W. C. White, August 17, 1873, Ellen G. White Estate, Incoming Correspondence; Evelyn Gertrude Reavis, diary entry for May 10, 1875, Center for Adventist Research, Reavis Family Collection (Collection 279), Box 1, Folder 5; Byron Sperry to W. C. White, May 22, 1875, Ellen G. White Estate, Incoming Correspondence; George R. Avery to Dear Father, March 13, 1876, Center for Adventist Research, Avery Family Papers (Collection 007), Box 1, Folder, 6; U. Wilton Smith, “Fide-Delectian Society of Battle Creek College. Monday evening, March 20, 1882,” Center for Adventist Research, Uriah Smith/Mark Bovee Collection (Collection 146), Oversize; “Library, Center of Learning at E.M.C.,” Lake Union Herald, April 21, 1959, 6, 8.

  13. C. C. L., “The College Literary Societies,” ARH, February 21, 1882, 119; “Battle Creek College,” ARH, April 18, 1882, 248.

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Burton, Kevin M. "Review and Herald Literary Society." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. January 29, 2020. Accessed January 27, 2023. https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=DA1L.

Burton, Kevin M. "Review and Herald Literary Society." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. January 29, 2020. Date of access January 27, 2023, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=DA1L.

Burton, Kevin M. (2020, January 29). Review and Herald Literary Society. Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. Retrieved January 27, 2023, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=DA1L.