Chapter 5: Carpenter and the American Flat-Earth Movement

In 1879, a 49-year-old British printer, author, spiritualist, vegetarian, and shorthand teacher loaded his wife and six children onto a ship bound for America.  William Carpenter had recently run a book shop in Lewisham, a London suburb.  The shop specialized in “works on Total Abstinence, Vegetarianism, Mesmerism, Spiritualism, Dietetics, Hydropathy, Phonography, etc.”  Carpenter also sold Rowbotham’s patent medicine, “Birley’s Syrup of Free Phosphorus,” for ten shillings per Imperial pint (a three-month supply at a teaspoonful morning and night). [ref. 5.1] 

After emigrating to America, Carpenter lived briefly on a farm in Dorchester county, Maryland, and then moved to Baltimore early in 1880. [ref. 5.2]  Settling there, he first found work as a printer and then opened a shorthand school in his home.  Carpenter was, among other things, a teacher of Pitman’s shorthand, and an aggressive promoter of the system:

A member of the Phonetic Society, 1848, we have, ever since that time, worked for Mr. Pitman’s ‘idea’ with an enthusiasm equal to our appreciation of it as worked out in the arts of phonography and phonotypy—printing in this latter system with types from his foundry, writing articles in prose and verse for his ‘Journal’ besides column after column in his favor as against his detractors with other so-called ‘systems’ run for the mighty dollar alone, lectured, made valuable suggestions which have been carried into effect in his instruction books, and taught hundreds of people to write his phonography by means of a series of over 500 pages of original exercises (now in our possession) embracing more than 87,000 words. [ref. 5.3] 

Carpenter lamented Pitman’s lack of enthusiasm for zetetic astronomy, but there was nothing he could do about it.  “Professor” Carpenter was already famous among American zetetics for his writings and for his involvement in the Bedford Canal controversy, having served as referee for John Hampden at the infamous Bedford Canal Experiment.  He quickly became de facto leader of the U.S. flat-earthers. 

In 1880, America was running in all directions at once.  The era is known as the Gilded Age, from the title of an 1874 novel by Mark Twain and Charles Dudley Warner.  Gilding is a process of embellishing cheap material with a minuscule amount of gold, and a cynic might argue that was appropriate.  Rutherford B. Hayes was president, having defeated Samuel Tilden in 1876, perhaps because his political operatives were more corrupt than Tilden’s, although this cannot be proven.  The U.S. Congress was, according to Mark Twain, the best that money could buy.  The year before the Carpenter clan arrived at Ellis Island, William Marcy (Boss) Tweed died in New York City’s Ludlow Street prison, where he was incarcerated for having engineered the theft of $45,000,000 [note 5.1]  (some say $200,000,000) from the city during the years 1858 through 1871. 

It was an odd time.  The Carpenters were among 2.8 million [ref. 5.4]  emigrants who entered the U.S. during the decade 1871 through 1880, most of them from the British Isles or Germany.  Spiritualism was still a craze in the face of rising materialism and scientific progress—electromagnetic theory, astronomical spectroscopy, and the periodic table of the elements, for example, were all making great advances.  Religion was also in a strange state, with cults and utopias abounding.  The greatest theological battle being fought was against Biblical Criticism and Comparative Religion.  The doctrine of the Trinity was in decline in mainline churches, yet adventism in various forms was growing rapidly.  Robber barons ruled the financial roost, and Jay Gould (who once posted $1,000,000 bond for his confederate, Boss Tweed) controlled 10,000 miles of American railway.  In June of 1876, General George Armstrong Custer learned the value of prudence from Chief Sitting Bull.  Mark Twain was the hottest item on the literary scene.  The Adventures of Tom Sawyer was published in 1875.  In 1879, F. W. Woolworth opened his first five-and-ten cent store in Utica, New York. 

In 1880, Baltimore was a city of perhaps 370,000, with more than 10% of the population foreign-born.  It was growing very rapidly.  The city was firmly in the control of a thoroughly corrupt Democratic political machine. 

Flat-earthism was well-established in the U.S. long before Carpenter arrived.  The New York Zetetic Society (NYZS) was organized by George Davey, Ph.D., president of the Ocean Express Steam Navigation Company, and it held its first meeting on Thursday, July 17, 1873. [ref. 5.5]  The society immediately ordered 1,000 copies of the just-published second edition of Rowbotham’s Zetetic Astronomy.  “Parallax” was named honorary president, with Davey modestly assuming the role of vice president.  The “Council” included George Henry Coulton Salter, U.S. Consul for China; Hans Powell, M.D., Surgeon General of the Grand Army of the Republic; John Nelson McJilton, D.D., Superintendent of the Baltimore Public Schools; and Lemuel P. Crane, M.D. 

Elaborate bylaws provided for several classes of membership.  Fellows of the NYZS were “chosen on account of their special devotion and discoveries in Zetetic Philosophy … those who have been prominently associated with the Zetetic cause prior to the establishment of this Society.” Nonresident membership was available to those living more than 25 miles from New York City.  There was even a class of Ex-officio members, “foreign diplomatic representatives and consuls, resident in the United States, and United States diplomatic representatives and consuls in foreign countries.” (This provision apparently honored U.S. Consul Salter.)

Baltimore Public School Superintendent John Nelson McJilton was 68 years old when the NYZS was formed and he was appointed to its Council.  A prominent clergyman and educator, Reverend McJilton also had a distinguished literary career behind him.  In the 1830s, he had briefly edited two weeklies devoted to science, literature, and the fine arts, the Baltimore Athenaeum (a “young men’s paper”) and the Baltimore Literary Monument.  In 1840, he published a 360-page book, Poems, and he also wrote The Maryland Primary Arithmetic for use in grade schools.  He was frequently asked to address educational associations or give guest sermons in Baltimore churches, and many of his addresses and sermons were published.  His personal library contained many scarce works on freemasonry. 

Another educator on the NYZS Council was John Hecker of New York.  Hecker was a Christian phrenologist bent on applying phrenological principles to education.  He published several works on phrenology and education in the 1860s, the most important being The Scientific Basis of Education Demonstrated, by an Analysis of the Temperaments and of Phrenological Facts, in Connection with Mental Phenomena and the Office of the Holy Spirit in the Processes of the Mind: In a Series of Letters to the Department of Public Instruction in the City of New York (1866).  This work went through three editions, each larger than its predecessor, and in 1868 it was translated into German.  Hecker himself visited several primary schools in New York City to analyze the temperaments of students phrenologically. 

Hecker was also the proprietor of a religious newspaper, the Churchman, which in 1855–7 was involved in a public quarrel with another New York paper, the Church Journal.  It seems that Hecker had published an attack on a local clergyman called Dr. Eigenbrodt.  The editor of the Church Journal, Rev. John H. Hopkins, came to Eigenbrodt’s defense with an article stating that Hecker’s allegations were not to be relied on, that the Churchman had deteriorated since he took it over, and that he wasn’t fit to run a newspaper.  Hecker thereupon sued Hopkins for libel in the New York Common Pleas court.  The jury awarded him six cents. [ref. 5.6]  In 1865, Hecker ran for mayor of New York on behalf of the Citizens Association.  He came third out of four candidates, with about an eighth of the vote [ref. 5.7] 

NYZS vice-president George Davey was apparently a skillful promoter.  Besides recruiting prominent people to the NYZS, he knew how to generate publicity.  For example, when the NYZS was organized, Philadelphian John Wise was seeking financial support for a trans-Atlantic balloon flight.  Between the zetetic fascination with balloon flight and publicity potential, it was too good a chance to pass up.  The New York Zetetic Society offered to support Wise in a letter to the editor of the New York Daily Graphic dated June 25, 1873:

The Zetetic Society desire to have their name put down for $100 toward the subscription for Professor Wise’s aeronautical expedition, conditionally that copies of the observations and results in detail of the voyage be sent to this society, who is prepared, upon further and satisfactory explanation from Professor Wise himself, to render him further assistance under the provision of the corporate act and by-laws of the society, empowering it to make grants of money for scientific expeditions of a useful character. 

George Davey
Vice President, Zetetic Society

John Wise was not an obscure crackpot.  America’s most famous 19th century aeronaut, he made 440 balloon ascents between 1835 and 1875.  His most famous flight took place in 1859, when a favorable wind carried him from St. Louis, Missouri to Henderson, New York, in 20 hours.  Henderson lies 56 miles north of Syracuse, near the eastern tip of Lake Ontario, a world-record 809 miles from St. Louis. [ref. 5.8]  Wise was nothing if not intrepid.  On one flight, an updraft associated with a thunderstorm caught him and carried him up to 13,000 feet, whereupon the balloon burst.  The lower part of the balloon collapsed into the upper part forming an ersatz parachute, and Wise landed without serious injury! [ref. 5.9]  Now, he was convinced that he could cross the Atlantic in a balloon, riding the prevailing winds. 

It’s not known whether Wise accepted the NYZS offer and conditions.  In any case, after numerous attempts to find sufficient backing, he finally got a consortium together, and he fought with them endlessly, whoever they were.  Eventually he constructed a 400,000 cubic foot balloon and lifted off from New York in late 1873.  Unfortunately, his trans-Atlantic balloon splashed down 41 miles from the lift-off point and about 3,400 miles short of London.  Wise’s enthusiasm for over-water ballooning was undampened; two years later, he and two companions drowned attempting a flight across Lake Michigan. [ref. 5.10] 

The NYZS made another splash when Davey publicly offered to contribute $10,000 to charity if anyone could prove “by direct evidence and experiment” that the motion of the earth’s atmosphere is due to its rotation.  The offer, made in the New York Daily Graphic on September 3, 1873, was never taken up. 

For all its seeming horsepower, the NYZS quickly passed into oblivion.  McJilton died in 1875.  Perhaps others died or lost interest.  For whatever reason, the NYZS rapidly faded from view.  By the time Carpenter reached America, no organized flat-earth movement existed in the U.S., though numerous individuals were active. 

In 1885, Carpenter sent copies of the first edition of One Hundred Proofs that the Earth Is Not a Globe, with cover letters, to Proctor, the Smithsonian, Gilman of Johns Hopkins, and everyone else he could think of.  He also placed the following ad in several newspapers:

WANTED—A scholar of ripe attainments to review Carpenter’s “One Hundred Proofs that the Earth is Not a Globe.” Liberal remuneration offered.  Apply to Wm. Carpenter, 71 Chew Street, Baltimore.  N.B.—No one need apply who has not courage enough to append his name to the Review for publication. 

Apparently, he never got a taker, though he got at least one inquiry about the offer.  One Hundred Proofs was widely reviewed in the American press. [ref. 5.11] 

Reprints of Carpenter’s One Hundred Proofs

Reprints of Carpenter’s pamphlet One Hundred Proofs that the Earth is Not a Globe.  Left: Zion, Illinois, 1929; right: St. Petersburg, Florida, 1955.

Ten years before Carpenter published his One Hundred Proofs, Johns Hopkins University was founded with a huge endowment from the will of Johns Hopkins, a Baltimore merchant.  Daniel C. Gilman was its first president, and Carpenter appointed himself Gilman’s nemesis.  Carpenter repeatedly published open letters challenging Gilman to defend the rotundity of the earth.  When Gilman resolutely ignored him, Carpenter took to passing out flat-earth literature at Johns Hopkins, and he was once evicted by a janitor. [ref. 5.12] 

The immediate cause of the bringing out (into the street) of the faculty of the ‘Johns Hopkins’ represented in the person of their obedient janitor, was, the distribution, by the author, of several dozen copies of his ‘100 Proofs.’ The rustle of the leaves of these books in the grand building must have been terrific, judging by the sequel.  The author was anxious to renew the assault, with his books, the day following: but, there, on the rampart, (a constable from the police force dutifully “on the watch” near by), stood the janitor—his voice husky with emotion, yet profoundly sublime in the exercise of his temporary authority—and gave vent to the subjoined breath-taking, awe-inspiring words:—‘We don’t want any of that trash here; and if you don’t move on from these street corners you’ll be arrested; I’ve cautioned you times enough.’ The besieging army of one beat a retreat with measured steps and slow—cogitating, the while, with regard to the magnanimity that prompted the sending out of the janitor to execute a mission of such immense philosophical importance. 

Carpenter also challenged many other prominent people to debate him on the shape of the earth, including Cardinal Gibbons, astronomer Prof. Simon Newcomb, and the Rev. T. DeWitt Talmadge, then one of America’s most famous clergymen.  When they refused, he denounced them in open letters. [ref. 5.13] 

Alfred Russel Wallace got no peace from Carpenter, even after the latter moved to America.  When Wallace made an American tour, Carpenter wrote the following letter to the editor of the Baltimore Weekly, November 20, 1886:

Sir: Never in the history of the world was there a better chance for the people of a city to inquire for the truth of a matter than that which will soon be given to the truth-seekers of Baltimore.  Mr. Alfred Russel Wallace, the coadjutor of Darwin, is about to deliver a course of lectures at the Peabody Institute.  From his own lips, then, we may hear how it was that, on the First of April, 1870, he dared to accept, from the hands of Mr. J. H. Walsh, the sum of One Thousand Pounds sterling for “proving” the surface of standing water to be “convex,” when, scores of times, it has been shown to be level

But, sir, since the proverbial politeness of the people of Baltimore would prevent them from approaching a lecturer on a public platform with questions irrelevant to the matter in hand, I will, with your permission, put the case before Mr. Wallace, through the columns of your paper, and leave it to his own sense of the fitness of things as to whether he will grant the explanation required, or, turn his back to the people of Baltimore without doing so. 

The preceding is less than a fourth of the letter, which is almost a minipamphlet. 

Carpenter claimed he had disposed of nearly 12,000 copies of One Hundred Proofs in New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and elsewhere, and had spoken to “at least a hundred thousand people.” [ref. 5.14]  (He must have been giving a lot of lectures.) On August 16, 1889, Carpenter gave an invited lecture at St. Peter’s Lutheran Church in Baltimore. 

Carpenter got into a tiff with Wilford Hall, editor of Scientific Arena.  Hall was a 19th century Jeremy Rifkin—a combination mystic, crank, and gadfly.  Hall claimed he demolished the flat earth, but he apparently refused to print Carpenter’s replies to his arguments—after he apparently promised that he would.  Carpenter explains all in a little magazine, Carpenter’s Folly

Carpenter was in touch with the leading flat-earthers of his day, not just in England, but in the U.S. also.  He mentions Lindgren and Rowe, and he knew the Reverend John Jasper.  A former slave, John Jasper was well known in the mid-Atlantic states for his favorite sermon, “De Sun Do Move,” and he and Carpenter apparently hit it off immediately. 

M. C. Flanders lived in Kendall, New York, a village 3 miles south of Lake Ontario and 25 miles west-northwest of Rochester.  In February of 1883, after several years of study, Flanders went to the newspaper office in nearby Holley and ordered posters advertising a series of lectures.  The posters were headlined as follows:

Earth Not a Globe.  An experimental inquiry into the true figure of the earth, proving it a plain, without orbital or axial motion, and the only known material world … [ref. 5.15] 

By some coincidence, these are the first 29 words of the complete title of Rowbotham’s second edition of Earth Not a Globe, except that “plain” is substituted for “plane.” By another coincidence, Flanders proposed to deliver his course of three lectures under the pseudonym of “Parallax”!  He also left behind a copy of a wretched 40-line poem by “Parallax,” which the Holley Standard then published, perhaps out of malice. [ref. 5.16]  It’s not known if Flanders had a stock of Rowbotham’s books to sell! 

Flanders must have had some success with his flat-earth lectures, for he managed to stir up opposition.  In March of 1887, he debated two spherical advocates for three nights at Ward’s Opera House in Brockport, New York.  Hampden described the result in Earth; Scripturally, Rationally, and Practically Described as follows:

Mr. L. H. Rowe, of Mandarin, Florida, a most energetic champion of the Zetetic philosophy in its relation to the earth’s form—proving it to be a Plane, without axial or orbital motion—forwarded to several newspapers, soon after the event in March last, the result of a three night’s Discussion on the rival systems of Astronomy which took place in Ward’s Opera House, Brockport, N. Y., between Prof. C. H. Jenner, assisted by Mr. Edward Barnes, who defended the Newtonian theory, and Prof. M. C. Flanders, of Kendall, who defended Zetetic Philosophy.  We are proud to chronicle the fact, by quoting from Mr. Rowe’s article in the Lisbon Observer, that a committee of five gentlemen who were chosen to decide the question at issue ruled, unanimously, in favour of the Zetetic Philosophy. 

The names of the gentlemen, who had the manliness to sign their names to the report which was drawn up and published in the Brockport Democrat are as follow [sic]:—Rev. M. H. Brown of Jefferson County; Rev. A. C. Place, of Oswego; A. J. Ferguson, of Kendall; F. H. Britt and W. H. Brown, of Ridgeway. 

The report states clearly and emphatically that these gentlemen considered the balance of the evidence to be in favour of the fact that the earth is “a plane, spread out around the central north, which is located under the north star,” and that “this plane has for its south a circumference and not a pole, and that the earth has neither axial nor orbital motion.” [ref. 5.17] 

So far as I can determine, the Brockport Democrat for this period is not extant.  In 1894, Flanders was still lecturing against modern astronomy, illustrating his ideas with some sort of apparatus. [ref. 5.18] 

In the U.S. as in England, there was an Adventist connection, and this was already manifesting itself in Boston in Carpenter’s time. 

The publishers of ‘Advent Christian’ works, Boston, conclude that, as some of their people are in favor of the ‘Proofs,’ and some are not, ‘it would be best not to sell any of them.’ If there is any danger of the people of Boston getting to loggerheads over the book, keep it away. [ref. 5.19] 

The Advent Christian Publishing Society was an arm of the Adventist Christian Church, a sect headquartered in Worcester, Massachusetts.  It differed from the Seventh-day Adventists on the Saturday Sabbath, the doctrine of the heavenly sanctuary, and on the state of the dead, which it holds to be unconscious.  The Advent Christian Church held that souls are mortal, and immortality is only conferred after the resurrection. [ref. 5.20] 

Miles Grant, an Adventist apparently associated with this group, was born at Toffingford, Litchfield County, Connecticut on December 13, 1819.  Twenty-three years later, he was teaching school in Winsted, Connecticut and a “relative infidel.” Then he attended some lectures on the prophecies of John and Daniel which changed his life.  Grant remained in Winsted until 1850, when he felt called to become an evangelist.  In 1855, he became pastor of a church in Boston and editor of World’s Crisis.  For years he was president of the American Advent Mission Society, headquartered in Boston. 

Grant remained in Boston for three years.  In 1858, he became a full time evangelist, and he preached in 20 of the United States and also in Canada, Great Britain, Ireland, and Italy.  His studies convinced him that the “Day of the Lord” was definitely near.  Grant believed in Conditional Mortality and the Premillennial Advent.  He was an excellent debater.  “As an exposer of Spiritualism he has done splendid service in America—where that system is so powerful and widespread—and has had some strange experiences in his conflicts with demon-possessed mediums, both men and women.”

Grant married a kindred spirit and lived in Boston.  He habitually arose at 4:30 a.m.  A vegetarian since about 1851, he professed to eat (1) only healthful food, (2) only in healthful quantity, (3) in a healthful manner (much mastication and salivation), and (4) at a healthful time.  The latter meant two meals a day, one at 8:00 a.m. and the other at 2:30 p.m.  His fare consisted of unleavened wheat bread, milk and apples, with a small amount of nuts and dates for dessert. [ref. 5.21] 

The Advent Christian Publishing Society published Grant’s discussion of conditional mortality (c. 1890) and his Papal Mysteries (c. 1890).  Grant rejected the Saturday Sabbath, and he was a flat-earther and ardent antispiritualist.  A prolific writer, Grant published works on spiritualism and immortality, the Sabbath question, Papal Dangers, the soul, Spiritualism Unmasked, and conditional mortality.  His Discussion on the Sabbath Question with Elder M. E. Cornell was published in Battle Creek by the Seventh-day Adventist Publishing Association. 

Grant’s most influential work was Spiritualism Unveiled and Shown to Be the Work of Demons, published in Boston in 1866, while Grant was editing the World’s Crisis.  Modern spiritualism had begun in New York 17 years previously, when the Fox sisters suddenly began generating spirit rappings.  Spiritualism evolved and spread rapidly, and many churchmen became alarmed.  Mediums claimed to summon the souls of the dead to their séances, but according to Adventist doctrine, the dead are dead and not summonable.  Was spiritualism then an outright fraud, as skeptics claimed?  Grant didn’t think so.  He argued that, while angels do not have bodies like ours, they can look like us, and the Bible describes several cases of angels appearing among men and not being recognized as angels.  He therefore concluded that the entities appearing at séances were angels—fallen angels. 

Spiritualism was therefore unmasked as part of Satan’s plot to take over the world.  Grant thought he had identified a key part of Satan’s plan:

The Political aspect of Spiritualism is an important item.  It is very evident that for some years the demons have been laying plans to control the governments of this world through their mediums.  For this reason, they have taken special pains to get the leading men in the world to embrace Spiritualism; and their success has been wonderful. [ref. 5.22] 

Wonderful, indeed.  It was known that Lincoln and his wife held séances in the White House.  Numerous prominent politicians were known to be interested in (and influenced by) spiritualism.  Between Satan and the politicians, Grant’s work rang bells among Adventists, and his ideas and arguments live on in fundamentalist writings. 

Grant first appears in the flat-earth scene as a correspondent in the Earth Review

All known facts declare that we live on a flat earth.  I am fully settled in this belief.  The signs of the times are emphatic in their testimony that Jesus will soon return. [ref. 5.23] 

Grant seems to have been affiliated with the Conditional Immortality Mission of Malvern, England, which was affiliated with the periodical The Faith.  In Zetetic Astronomy by Blount and Smith, Grant is listed as a member of the “Committee” of the Universal Zetetic Society.  He is not mentioned in Carpenter’s extant works, though they were contemporaries and had to know of each other.  This is not surprising.  Carpenter was an ardent spiritualist; Grant was an equally ardent antispiritualist.  The two men presumably would not have gotten along. 

The flat-earth movement was not without Adventist critics, however.  George W. Bailey, who seems to have been a member of the Advent Christian Church, wrote a strange and mean-spirited rebuttal to zeteticism.  A resident of Worcester, Massachusetts, Bailey self-published a 16-page pamphlet entitled An Examination of a Work Entitled “Earth Not a Globe,” Showing Its Arguments to Be Both Misleading and Fallacious in 1886. 

Worcester is situated on the Blackstone River, 44 miles west of Boston.  A manufacturing town of about 100,000, Worcester and its environs had produced numerous manufacturing luminaries: Elias Howe, inventor of the sewing machine; Eli Whitney, inventor of the cotton gin; and Thomas Blanchard, inventor of a lathe for turning irregular forms.  Politically, Worcester was relatively liberal; an 1854 attempt to enforce the Fugitive Slave Law spawned a serious riot.  Culturally, it was the home of several institutions of higher learning and a fine city library founded in 1859.  Bailey himself seems to have been a machinist. [ref. 5.24] 

Bailey’s Examination is misguided and often wrong-headed.  He had examined the 1881 printing of Rowbotham’s Earth Not a Globe, and he opened his pamphlet by blasting Rowbotham’s geometrical calculations of the curvature of the earth.  Unfortunately, Rowbotham understood geometry better than his critic. [ref. 5.25]  Score: Rowbotham 1, Bailey zip.  Bailey then turned to an examination of Rowbotham’s drawings.  As is standard practice, Rowbotham’s illustrator had exaggerated the scale to better show curvature, which Bailey denounced.  “I cannot find a diagram in the book that is not a misrepresentation,” [ref. 5.26]  he wrote.  Nonsense!  Rowbotham 2, Bailey zip. 

The first half of Bailey’s pamphlet is mostly misunderstandings and/or quibbles.  Eventually, he located some genuine errors by Rowbotham, and he cogently criticized Rowbotham’s version of the law of perspective.  His best sallies were attacks on zetetic predictions of the motion and visibility of the sun, some of them based on his own observation. 

On the day of the vernal equinox, for instance, Bailey observed the sun setting on a bearing of 270° 45′. But plotting out the sun’s position on the zetetic map of the world at 6:00 p.m. local time, it should have been on a bearing of about 298°. [ref. 5.27]  This inconsistency seems impossible to reconcile with zetetic astronomy.  Citing one of Rowbotham’s figures, Bailey showed that it implies less than four hours of daylight at 65° south latitude on the December solstice; in fact, daylight lasts about twenty hours. [ref. 5.28]  In any case, if the sun is 600 miles up, as Rowbotham suggested, then it should never be out of sight. [ref. 5.29]  Bailey gives some examples comparing zetetic calculations to actual observations. 

Bailey was obviously familiar with the Bible.  In criticizing a Rowbotham attempt to make some data fit zetetic astronomy, he referred to Isaiah 28:20.  It reads (KJV): “For the bed is shorter than that a man can stretch himself on it: and the covering narrower than that he can wrap himself in it.” [ref. 5.30] 

Bailey also wrote some nasty letters to Carpenter in which he called him an “ass” and “a dirty blackguard” among other things.  Carpenter says that Bailey’s work was “praised very warmly by the weekly organ of the Christian sect of which he is a ‘brother.’”

W. M. Herd, Battle Creek, Michigan, published what Carpenter called “a neat and truly excellent little pamphlet” entitled Terra Firma sometime before 1892.  It apparently has not survived, but the second issue of Earth Review carried a short letter from an “American friend” from Battle Creek, Michigan, who signed himself “Terra Firma.” The text follows:

Dear Sir,—I have read with interest the first number of your Journal, and think it “fills the bill,” the best of anything yet published.  The preponderence [sic] of evidence is certainly in favor of the position you take, namely, that “the earth is established, that it cannot be moved,” and that whatever the Creator says in His Word about His Created Universe, whether Sun, Moon, or Stars, Heaven, Earth or Sea, must be true, and is true; whether anyone believes it or no.  I congratulate you on the appearance, and “get up” of the Earth Review, as upon the true value of its contents, and I trust it will meet with the success it deserves. 

Yours truly,

The editor comments, “We welcome this letter from our American correspondent, who has written a good pamphlet on the subject for our Seventh Day Adventist friends over there.” [ref. 5.31] 

Herd held the common opinion among flat-earthers regarding the origin of the globular idea: “Satan, the father of lies, has reduced the art of deception to a science, and he is at the bottom of the globular theory, which he has provided with hooks and eyes that fit in marvellously with some phenomena.” [ref. 5.32] 

Herd eventually broke off correspondence with Carpenter as follows:


Your letter of 27th ult. [June 1892?] rec’d Friday, and contents noted.  I had hoped that you would receive the light of Bible Truth in regard to Spiritualism as well as other “systems of error.” As you are so infatuated with it, I must decline to have any further correspondence with you.  Therefore you must not expect my co- operation in any way, either in advertising, or exchanging, your “O.H.P.” … Yours faithfully, to rebuke and warn,

W. M. Herd

The Adventist theologian Uriah Smith, who was a friend of Herd’s, was also dead set against spiritualism.  While he professed to know about the End of the World, he wouldn’t hear about the flat earth, and Herd eventually despaired of converting him. 

Writing apparently in 1892, Carpenter said in the notes to One Hundred Proofs:

A Christian minister was excommunicated from the society of the Seventh Day Adventists of London, England, only recently, for upholding the Bible-Earth.  But he was one of the best workers for the truth.  (There must have been a big storm in that teapot!) Every truth-lover should send over a dollar to this gentleman for a bundle of his books.  Address, Mr. Albert Smith—don’t put ‘Rev.’—150 St. Saviour’s Road, Leicester, England.”

The most important Seventh-day Adventist flat-earther was civil engineer Alexander Gleason, of Buffalo, New York.  In 1890, Gleason published the first edition of Is the Bible from Heaven?  Is the Earth a Globe?.  A softcover book of 95 pages, it is divided into two sections as indicated by its title.  In 1892, Gleason published a beautiful four-color flat-earth map and, in 1893, a 402-page second edition of his book.  The latter contains many of the standard flat-earth arguments and also the results of his experiments on the waters of the Erie Canal.  Needless to say, Gleason’s experiments convinced him that the water was flat. 

Meanwhile, Carpenter was getting the Baltimore zetetics organized:

The ‘Baltimore Zetetic Society, with members all over the world’ is quietly moving onwards.  It was organized October 22, 1891, at the residence of the author of this pamphlet, which, it may be noted, is, and for some months has been, 1316 North Central Avenue, Baltimore, Maryland

Andy Echols was a flat-earther from Mexia, TX, about 42 miles east of Waco.  Carpenter called him “a hard worker in the zetetic ranks … happier than a king in spreading the truth.  We can scarcely keep him going with papers and pamphlets—anything with the flat-earth rustle in its leaves.  He thinks much as we think, and expresses himself as freely: avowing that modern astronomical theory is ‘a disgrace to the human mind.’” [ref. 5.33] 

R. E. L. (possibly R. E. L. J.) Lovell was a flat earther from Vadis, West Virginia, a small village in Lewis County, 12 miles due west of Weston, about 100 miles south (and a little west) of Pittsburgh.  Alexander Gleason frequently referred to Lovell in his 1893 edition, and Lovell wrote a short section for the book.  He was obviously well-versed in flat-earthism, and he may have been another Seventh-day Adventist. 

In Brooklyn, John Lindgren took up where the New York Zetetic Society left off.  Carpenter and Lindgren were U.S. agents for Earth Review, and so was an Allegheny, Pennsylvania shorthand teacher and preacher, Reverend Ulysses G. Morrow. 

Morrow is a major player.  He was first active in Allegheny, Pennsylvania, about the same time that Charles Taze Russell was founding Jehovah’s Witnesses there.  In 1895, Morrow horrified his fellow zetetics by defecting to the Koreshans, who claimed that the earth is hollow and we live on the inside. 

Charles L. Hathaway was a flat-earther active in the Boston area late in the 19th century.  Hathaway apparently traveled and gave flat-earth lectures, and his opinions on the earth’s shape were published in the Boston Post on February 12, 1899.  According to Morse, “his argument and diagrams occupied about one side of the paper, and I claim his argument is unanswerable.”

Orlando Ferguson is something of an enigma, a shadowy figure whose name pops up mysteriously and repeatedly in flat-earth annals.  By 1896 he had published at least two pamphlets, The Latest Discoveries in Astronomy and The Square World.  “Iconoclast” sent copies of both works to the editor of Earth Review, who chided the author for pillaging Rowbotham, Hampden, Lady Blount, and so forth without attribution. [ref. 5.34]  Unfortunately, Ferguson’s writings seem to have perished, but his “Map of the Square and Stationary Earth” (1893) survives and has been reprinted. 

Detail from Ferguson's flat-earth map

Detail from Orlando Ferguson’s flat-eath map.

Carpenter was one of the U.S. agents for the Universal Zetetic Society, and the pages of the Earth—Not a Globe—Review bear numerous letters and articles from him.  Indeed, the Earth Review contains letters to the editor from flat-earthers scattered throughout the U.S. From 1893–94, the initial years of Earth Review, Carpenter edited a little magazine called Shorthand[ref. 5.35] 

Carpenter suffered several strokes in 1896, the final one occurring on the last Sunday in August.  He died the following Tuesday, September 1, 1896.  His wife Annie died barely two months later, on November 4, 1896. [ref. 5.36] 

The flat-earth movement had a wide base in North America by the turn of the century.