Chapter 8: Voliva and Zion

When William Carpenter died on September 1, 1896, 26-year-old Wilbur Glenn Voliva was a student at Hiram College, a small private school near Cleveland.  Voliva was born on an Indiana farm on March 10, 1870.  His father, James H. Voliva, was a Methodist lawyer and his mother Rebecca was a former Presbyterian.  Wilbur was raised a Methodist, but at 14 he joined the “New Light” Christian Church.  Five years later (1889) he was ordained a minister.  During the next ten years, Voliva attended four Bible Colleges or seminaries and pastored six churches, switching denominations to the Disciples of Christ.  After graduating from Hiram College in the spring of 1897, he became pastor of the Disciples Church at Washington Court House, Ohio.

A decade of theological training and pastoring churches of two denominations convinced Voliva that Christianity was riddled with hypocrisy.  He was considering abandoning the ministry for law school when, in late 1898, he came upon an issue of Leaves of Healing, a magazine published by the Christian Catholic Apostolic Church.  Voliva was so impressed by the content that he immediately went to Chicago to see, hear, and talk to John Alexander Dowie, founder of the sect.

Dowie preached what he called the “Full Gospel.” Today’s “Full Gospel” churches usually practice faith-healing and speak in tongues, and in extreme cases church members drink poison and handle venomous snakes.  Dowie built his reputation and his church on faith-healing, but he eschewed speaking in tongues, and the only venom in his church was in his sermons.  Dowie hated doctors, druggists, pork, oysters, liquor, labor unions, and secret societies, and he denounced them from the pulpit with more invective and less charity than Jimmy Swaggart.  Voliva was much impressed with Dowie’s doctrines, healing, and preaching style, and he left his pastorate, joining Dowie’s church on February 22, 1899.  He was ordained an Elder on Sunday, April 2, 1899 and put in charge of the Christian Catholic Church’s North Side branch in Chicago.

Elder Voliva raised the membership of the North Side Tabernacle so successfully that Dowie raised his salary.  After 14 months, he was sent to Cincinnati to take over church operations there.  Again, Voliva preached and sold Leaves of Healing so successfully that he recruited hundreds of members and sent thousands of dollars back to headquarters.

Meanwhile, Dowie was working on Zion City.  Many of Chicago’s politicians, preachers, doctors, druggists, saloon-keepers, and journalists hated Dowie almost as much as he hated them.  The fiery faith-healer had long been harassed with lawsuits and criminal prosecutions, the latter on charges that his Healing Homes were unlicensed hospitals.  The persecution brought him sympathy, thousands of converts, and (most important) lots of money.  In 1899, Dowie had begun secretly buying up a large tract of land on Lake Michigan, just south of the Wisconsin border.  There he would build Zion City, a planned community where tobacco, liquor, labor unions, and the rest of his personal demons would be prohibited.  A temple site was dedicated July 14, 1900, and sites were reserved for various purposes.  The first lots were sold to church members in the spring of 1901.  At about the same time, Dowie called Voliva back to Chicago to take over planning for Zion Educational Institutions.

Voliva was just getting into the educational work when word came that the mission in Australia was collapsing.  Dowie decided to send his best man to take over.  On Sunday, August 4, 1901, Voliva was ordained an Overseer in the church, and he and his family left for Australia on August 10 to salvage the situation.

Arriving in Australia, Voliva established his headquarters in Melbourne, and he soon had branches in Sydney and Adelaide and missions in New Zealand.  As usual, he was highly successful.  He rebuilt membership to several thousand members while establishing a sound financial reputation for the Australian church.  In four years, he peddled more than 100,000 copies of Leaves of Healing and sent thousands of dollars and hundreds of converts back to headquarters.

Meanwhile, Dowie was undergoing a change.  He began referring to himself in public as “Doctor Dowie” on the basis of an honorary D.D. degree.  He designed and began wearing elaborate ecclesiastical robes covered with strange geometrical symbols.  Worse, on June 2, 1901, Dowie pronounced himself Elijah the Restorer.

Dowie’s Elijah Declaration caused consternation among his followers and brought denunciations from previously sympathetic Christian publications.  He insisted that church officers either accept his claim that he was Elijah III [note 8.1]  or resign.  Dowie’s faith-healing had long been ridiculed in the Chicago press, but the Elijah Declaration brought special merriment; a rival Elijah, Cyrus Reed Teed (also known as “Koresh”), had just left Chicago for Florida, taking his hollow-earth cult with him!

Work progressed on Zion City.  Shiloh Tabernacle, a huge wooden building with a seating capacity of 8,000, was completed in 1902.  A quarter mile east on Shiloh Boulevard, Dowie’s 25-room mansion, Shiloh House, was completed that same year.  While church members struggled physically and financially to build their homes and the rest of the city, Dowie spent huge sums of church money on himself and his family.  Shiloh House cost $25,000 to build, and he spent another $50,000 to furnish it and stock his personal library.  Then he bought an expensive summer home in Michigan in his wife’s name and began work on a $75,000 townhouse in Chicago.

Zion City was built on faith and sweat but sustained on smoke and mirrors.  Dowie knew how to build a sense of community in his followers.  He had a flair for symbolism and pageantry, and church members were frequently decked out in colorful sashes and marched around town.  Picnics, concerts, and other church activities brought believers together and separated them from outsiders.  The charismatic Dowie exhorted, cajoled, and bullied the faithful into giving until it hurt.  Money had poured into Zion’s coffers in the beginning, and Dowie always assumed it would keep pouring.  When it began to dry up, his extravagance and financial mismanagement made a crash inevitable.  It came quickly.

On Sunday, September 24, 1905, Dowie had a stroke in front of his horrified congregation.  The great healer was left partly paralyzed.  Nevertheless, only four days later he left for Mexico, where he planned to found another community.  When he returned to Zion around Thanksgiving, he was worse.  He went to Jamaica to recover.  In Zion, the roof fell in.

On December 29, Voliva got a telegram from Dowie’s Jamaican headquarters ordering him to return to Zion immediately.  Loading his family aboard the steamship Sonoma, Voliva embarked for home.  Arriving in Zion in February 1906, Voliva found that Dowie was spending $1000 a week in Jamaica, and Zion City was bankrupt.  He discovered that more than $75,000 was being spent on Dowie’s new town house in Chicago when there wasn’t enough money in the bank to pay salaries.  There was general agreement in the church that Dowie had to go.  Dowie had previously appointed him Deputy Overseer, and Voliva now seized control and tried to put Zion’s financial house in order.

It took a year-long legal battle to finally and conclusively oust Dowie, but it was accomplished.  Voliva’s fiscal restraint was too late for Zion, and in March 1907, the city went into receivership.  (On March 9, 1907 Dowie died.  He was buried in the apostolic robe he had designed for himself.) Voliva reorganized the church and set about clawing his way out of bankruptcy.  The process entailed hardship, and many loyal church members worked without salary to keep things going.

Voliva’s Theocratic Party gained political power by election fraud and then maintained it by further fraud, perjury, intimidation, and violence.  Once in power, Voliva’s hand-picked officials sometimes refused to put rival slates of candidates on the election ballot.  On at least one occasion, Voliva associates met in his offices, selected a “Republican” ticket, ratified it, and put it on the ballot without the knowledge of local Republicans.

Voliva’s takeover of the bankrupt city was almost complete.  He implored and browbeat loyal church members into mortgaging their property and giving the money to him.  He used the cash to buy the Zion properties back from the receiver piece by piece.  When he redeemed the last piece early in 1910, “Zion Industries and Institutions (Wilbur Glenn Voliva)” owned the major businesses in town.  Note the personal name in parenthesis; it was usually printed that way as part of the company name.  Ads in Leaves of Healing advised mail order purchasers of Zion products to make their checks payable to Wilbur Glenn Voliva.  Though he bought everything with the church’s money, Voliva put every title in his own name, and he owned Zion Industries and Institutions outright!

Zion Industries produced Fig Bars and candies famous throughout the country, and locally they sold coal, real estate, dry goods, and just about everything else.  Each morning, there was a devotional service on the job.  Workers were encouraged to give 10% of their earnings to the church, preferably by payroll deduction.  (A hint about worker compliance: Most of the managers were Deacons of the Christian Catholic Apostolic Church.)

Under Voliva, Zion saw tremendous political, financial, and religious strife.  Some Methodists whose ancestors settled in the area long before Zion was founded resisted Voliva’s control.  In 1908, the little Methodist church, built 70 years earlier, burned under mysterious circumstances.  Voliva’s takeover caused so much dissension within his own church that many Dowie loyalists and others splintered off to form their own sects, one of which claimed to be the real Christian Catholic Apostolic Church.  The anti-Voliva factions organized as the Independent Party, and Voliva openly boasted that he would drive them out of town.  Billboards appeared at various locations around town with messages like the following:


This City for Zion People and for Zion People Only!!!  The Zion Flag Floating Over Every Building—Over Every Foot, Inch and Pinch of the Original City Site.  Traitors, Thieves and Thugs Will Find This City


The billboards were often defaced or even cut down by vandals, and Voliva threatened to electrify them so that the miscreants would be killed, but he never did.

Shiloh Tabernacle in Zion had seven pipe-organs electronically linked to form one massive organ with over 5,000 pipes.  This organ was dedicated on June 12, 1912.  That same year, Voliva made a preaching tour of cities with large CCAC contingents, traveling in a private railway car paid for by a supporter.  He began the tour by speaking in Minneapolis the afternoon of September 29 and in St. Paul that evening.  Other cities included Winnipeg, Vancouver, Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Antonio, New Orleans, and St. Louis.

Late in 1913, Voliva’s wife, Mollie Steele Voliva, was stricken with an infection of the lymph glands.  Her husband urged her to trust in God, and he refused to let her father, a physician, treat her.  Mollie trusted and suffered for 16 months.  She died on February 4, 1915, aged 45.  Fourteen months later, Voliva married 27-year-old Ida Emanuelson, a physics teacher in the Zion Parochial Schools.

Voliva explains his “New Standard Map of the World”

Wilbur Glenn Voliva (seated) explains his “New Standard Map of the World” (from a newspaper, 1922).

It’s not clear how or when Voliva concluded that the earth is flat.  His introduction of the doctrine to the Christian Catholic Apostolic Church of Zion apparently began at Shiloh Tabernacle on Sunday, August 16, 1914, with a rambling sermon entitled “Exposure of Terrible Conditions in the Apostasy.” Most of the sermon was standard Zion fare.  The General Overseer raged against the medical profession, saying medical science is a farce and fraud; doctors are thieves, murderers, drunkards, and dope fiends; drug stores are worse than saloons.  Voliva declared that science “is nothing but a lot of rot—the inventions of men inspired by the devil!” He specifically condemned evolution, geology, and higher criticism (textual and historical analysis) of the Bible.  His numerous jibes at astronomy, however, were something new.  Voliva had detected adverse theological ramifications in the conventional view of the earth and solar system, and he thundered against them:

Where is Heaven?  Heaven is up yonder!  This is the earth!

When the Blessed Lord ascended, they saw him going up, did they not? and the angels declared that in like manner He would come again, did they not?—and when he comes, He is coming to earth, is He not?

I shall ask you this question: If the world is whirling around in space at the rate of a million five hundred thousand miles a day; whizzing around many times as fast as lightning travels—how is the Lord going to light on it?  Just tell me!

There is Heaven—right up there; and between this earth and Heaven where God’s throne is, in the upper air, are evil, wicked, lying spirits; and down below is hell!

For a man who was never a paragon of prudence, Voliva’s first public attack on astronomy was cautiously worded.  While he ridiculed the idea of a globular earth, nowhere in the sermon did he actually say that the earth is flat.  The only hint of familiarity with zetetic astronomy was his ridicule of the distance to the sun.  The new doctrine rapidly became an obsession, however, and by Christmas of 1915, Voliva’s views were much more focused and systematic.  In a pulpit blast at “Modern Astronomy” on December 26, he put his cosmology in plain English:

I believe this earth is a stationary plane; that it rests upon water; and that there is no such thing as the earth moving, no such thing as the earth’s axis or the earth’s orbit.  It is a lot of silly rot, born in the egotistical brains of infidels.

Neither do I believe there is any such thing as the law of gravitation: I believe that that is a lot of rot, too.

There is no such thing!

I get my astronomy from the Bible.

I believe the sun revolves over the earth, and that it is not stationary; and I believe that when Joshua prayed to God Almighty to stop the sun in its course, God performed a miracle and stopped it.

Like the August sermon, there is no clear indication of zetetic astronomy, unless it is the sun revolving above the earth.  It was different when Voliva returned to the subject in his sermon on February 3, 1916.  Under the subhead “The Bible Declares the Earth a Plane, not a Globe,” he said:

The foremost writers say that those who believe in the stationary plane theory can explain all phenomena as good as they can, and in addition they have the evidence of their senses and the Word of God.  However, for one to stand up in Chicago, in the shadow of the Chicago University and of the Northwestern University, and before all the preachers and lawyers and judges and doctors, and dare to question the modern astronomical theory, how they titter and laugh!  “Why,” they say “he must be crazy!” Who is crazy—the man who believes the Word of God or the people who run off after science, falsely so-called?

The claim that the “foremost writers” acknowledge the efficacy of flat-earthism alludes to the oft-recycled Woodhouse quote, first published in Earth Review.  Whether Voliva got it from Earth Review or another source, he had obviously discovered the literature of zetetic astronomy.

Meanwhile, one of his lieutenants, Apostle Anton Darms, had searched the Good Book and found fifty reasons to reject the earth’s sphericity, which he enumerated in a long article in the Christian Catholic Apostolic Church’s official magazine, Leaves of Healing.  By March 1916, the transition was complete.  The earth was now flat in Zion, and Apostle Darms was assigned to rewrite the church’s hymns where necessary.  For example, one verse of an old, familiar hymn had always been sung:

Let every kindred, every tribe,
On this terrestrial ball,
To him all majesty ascribe,
And crown Him Lord of All. 

Darms revised the verse to a form consistent with the new flat-earth orthodoxy:

Let every kindred, every tribe,
On this terrestrial plane,
To Him all majesty ascribe,
And praise His Holy Name

That same year, 1916, Voliva established a parochial school system, Zion Educational Institutions, and he appointed Apostle Darms superintendent.  Darms wrote the curriculum and lesson plans and hired the teachers, who were required to teach students that the earth is flat.  Voliva’s Theocratic Party controlled the School Board, so presumably teachers in Zion’s public schools did the same, if they wanted to keep their jobs.

Zion is our only modern example of a flat-earth theocracy.  Most wouldn’t consider it pleasant.  Voliva and his Theocratic Party made it clear that anyone not a member of the Christian Catholic Apostolic Church of Zion was welcome only as a visitor, and Voliva’s tactics against the Independents would horrify a modern civil libertarian.

In 1914, Voliva and his minions passed the strictest set of blue laws seen in 20th century America.  The police force, largely staffed and completely controlled by Voliva’s men, was efficient at enforcing them.  The stories told in contemporary accounts are so strange they sound like folklore, but in the case of Zion, they seem to be true.  Rather than merely screening films for immorality, Zion banned movie theaters altogether.  Tobacco was banned in Zion, and when trains stopped in town, police boarded them to arrest smokers.  Voliva continued Dowie’s ban on profanity, pork, oysters, alcohol, doctors, drug stores, unions, and secret societies.  Women were forbidden to cut their hair, expose their necks, or straddle a horse.  Men were not allowed to spit in the streets or wear tan shoes.  To ensure compliance, Zion citizens were encouraged to spy on each other.  The laws, of course, applied to Independents as well as church members.

Some Zionites were known to take the train south to Waukegan for a taste of the demon rum.  Others sneaked into movie houses or lit up cigarettes.  Zion detectives sometimes lurked in Waukegan looking for familiar faces patronizing dens of iniquity.  Worse treatment was sometimes in store for those who ventured back from Waukegan drunk.  On one occasion, a returning inebriate was arrested by the Zion police and beaten severely.  His son went to see him in jail and found him lying on a cot with one eye hanging down on his cheek, knocked (or gouged) out by the Zion Guard.

The elected officials of Zion, who mostly did Voliva’s bidding, spent little on city services.  Garbage service was poor, and the dirt streets turned to mud when it rained.  In 1914, soon after Voliva’s forces gained control, the Zion council voted to hand over to Voliva all the parks in Zion City as his personal property.  The Zion police could then shoo the children of Independents out of the parks for trespassing on the General Overseer’s land.  When Voliva ordered the closing of the public high school in Zion, it closed.

Voliva had little time for other religions, and he scorched Christian Scientists and Roman Catholics in Leaves of Healing.  He usually referred to the local Christian Assembly church as the “monkey house,” but on occasion he called it a “spiritual whorehouse.” Its pastor was “Jackass Dake.” The Grace Missionary church, a splinter from Voliva’s own sect, was the “goathouse,” and its pastor was “little Grinny Granny Goodwin” (alternatively a “little pimp” or a “pukescooper”).  Of course, this is only what Voliva said about them from the pulpit; what he said in private must be left to the imagination.

Like Dowie before him, Voliva frequently made personal denunciations from the pulpit.  He once caused a minor stink by referring to a defecting deacon as “Whistlebritches.” On another occasion, he humiliated a female church member in a Sunday sermon.  That night, her teenage son set fire to the Tabernacle, damaging it severely.

Zion was founded as a theocracy, and Voliva fought to keep it that way.  Some favored making Zion an open city, but Voliva and his Theocratic Political Party prevailed.  Taverns, tobacco shops, theaters, doctor’s offices, and so forth remained banned.  At election time, Voliva appointed a Christian Catholic Church slate and his people duly elected it, sometimes with the help of substantial voter fraud.  As a result, Zion was sharply divided by church affiliation.  Many of the businesses that sprang up along 27th Street were run by Independents, and the stores there became known to Christian Catholic Apostolic Church members as “Rat Row.”

Voliva never had as many spectacular healings as Dowie, though many were claimed to be healed.  Under Voliva, the Christian Catholic Apostolic Church continued its missionary work, and Leaves of Healing was distributed in many foreign countries.  One of the largest and most successful missions was in South Africa, once a republic run by the Boer flat-earther, Paul Kruger, and still something of a hotbed of zeteticism.

By 1922, Zion’s financial health was restored, and Voliva decided that the best way to get his message out would be to start a radio station.  WCBD, with 5,000 watts of power, became the voice of Zion, and Voliva went on the air regularly to thunder against the “Devil’s Triplets”—evolution, modern astronomy and so-called higher criticism.  He had a standing offer of $5,000 to anyone who could prove to him that the earth is a globe, and nobody ever collected.  By this time, Voliva was by far America’s best-known flat-earther, but he was hardly alone.

Reverend George H. Dowkontt, a well-known New York churchman, was outspoken in his support of Voliva’s cosmogony.  His father, George D. Dowkontt, was a medical missionary who emigrated to the U.S. from England around 1880.  The elder Dowkontt opened a mission in New York similar to one he had run in London, his operation including a clinic and a “day nursery” (read, day care center).  The mission was successful, and it was still operating in the 1890s. [ref. 8.1] 

The son followed in his father’s footsteps.  Attending Princeton, George H. Dowkontt made the football team in 1894 and subsequently took degrees in medicine and theology.  He put both degrees to work for several years as a foreign medical missionary.  By 1929, he was back in New York, pastor of a Brooklyn church and director of the Fulton Street Prayer Meeting.  An uncompromising fundamentalist, the Reverend Dr. Dowkontt was outraged by liberal theologians, whose views often paralleled those of infidels.  To expose a leading example, he wrote The “Deadly Parallel;” a Comparison of Thomas Paine’s “Age of Reason” with Harry E. Fosdick’s “Modern Use of the Bible” in Parallel Columns, Showing Their Striking Similarities.

Thomas Paine was (and still is) a favorite fundamentalist whipping boy.  Paine had written that modern astronomy flatly contradicts the astronomy inherent in the Bible.  Both Harry Emerson Fosdick and Dowkontt agreed with Paine, but what frosted Dowkontt was that Fosdick concluded thereby that the Bible is not scientifically reliable.  Like Voliva, Dowkontt concluded otherwise.  He once told a New York reporter that “the Bible says the earth is flat and so does my common sense.” [ref. 8.2] 

Another flat-earth clergyman of this era was Father John Dumich, a priest of the Serbian Rite Orthodox church.  Father Dumich pastored Orthodox parishes in Minneapolis and Chisholm, Minnesota, and in Rossford, Ohio (a Toledo suburb).  His 1922 book Earth Is Not Round strongly suggests that English was his second language, and it reveals little knowledge of science or zetetic astronomy.  Like John George Abizaid (of whom more below), and perhaps Voliva, Father Dumich seems to have come to his flat-earth views independent of established zetetic tradition.

Charles Sylvester DeFord lived in Fairfield, Washington, a small town twenty miles southeast of Spokane and six miles west of the Idaho border.  DeFord, his wife, and six children moved to Washington from Missouri in 1902, settling first on a farm five miles west of Mount Hope.  In Missouri, DeFord had been active in the Church of God (Adventist), a small sect organized in 1865.  The Church of God (Adventist) agreed with the Seventh-day Adventists on most doctrines, but the sect refused to accept Ellen G. White as God’s prophetess.  Like the Seventh-day Adventist, they held that Saturday is the true Sabbath, the dead remain unconscious until resurrected for Judgment, and the souls of sinners will be destroyed at Judgment while the righteous are rewarded here on earth.  Additionally, they considered the name “Church of God” divinely inspired. [ref. 8.3]  [note 8.2] 

The Church of God (Adventist) had its headquarters and publishing house at Stanberry, a small town in the northwestern corner of Missouri.  The sect was at least sympathetic to flat-earthism.  Around the turn of the century, the Church of God Publishing House published Lady Blount’s tract on the Saturday Sabbath, The Day of the Lord, which ended with a poem alluding to the flat earth.  DeFord maintained his connection with the sect for some time after moving to Washington, and during 1903 through 1905 he contributed four numbers to their bimonthly Bible Tract Series: Those False Prophets, Parable of the Ten Virgins, An Old Habit, and Crucifixion and Resurrection[ref. 8.4] 

Some time afterward, DeFord wrote and self-published a curious, undated tract entitled Christ Our Substitute which argues against that mainstay of fundamentalism, substitutionary atonement. The tract ends with a despairing poem entitled “What Is Truth?” in which DeFord cataloged some of the violently contradictory doctrines offered by various churches and concluded as follows:

Can truths that differ as these do
 And contradict each other so
Be truths that really are true?
 Some preacher tell us if you know. 

The movie meets my carnal needs.
 Tho movies are but human show,
They’re better than these wrangling creeds,
 So to the movies I will go. 

The burned-out tone suggests that DeFord knew firsthand about religious feuds and contradictions.  Indeed, his Church of God (Adventist) has been so racked by schisms that it no longer exists under that name, though several descendant sects survive.  It is not known whether flat-earthism was ever an issue in the Church of God’s internal warfare, but one of the doctrinal contradictions DeFord listed in “What Is Truth?” was the question of the earth’s shape.  It was a question he personally had long since decided.

Exactly when DeFord’s flat-earth pamphlet A Reparation: Universal Gravitation a Universal Fake, etc. was first published is unknown.  The third edition (discussed below) dates from 1930 or 1931.  The first two editions must have been small and obscure; they have vanished from the face of the earth without even a hint that anyone ever saw them.  The curious work that remains opens with these words:

To me truth is precious.  I love it.  I embrace it at every opportunity.  I do not stop to inquire, Is it popular? ere I embrace it.  I inquire only, Is it truth?  If my judgment is convinced my conscience approves and my will enforces my acceptance.  I want truth for truth’s sake, and not for the applaud [sic] or approval of men.  I would not reject truth because it is unpopular, nor accept error because it is popular.  I should rather be right and stand alone than to run with the multitude and be wrong.

The holding of the views herein set forth has already won for me the scorn and contempt and ridicule of some of my fellowmen.  I am looked upon as odd, strange, peculiar; as being a little weakminded; as having a broken wheel or a slipping cog in my mental machinery.  But truth is truth and though all the world reject it and turn against me, I will cling to truth still. [ref. 8.5] 

The truth DeFord had in mind is that the earth is a stationary plane.  He chose A Reparation for his title because he was convinced that a serious breach had been made in “the true science of the universe,” leaving it sadly in need of repair.  The zetetic work of reparation and restoration had been in progress for half a century, and DeFord thought permanent progress was being made. [ref. 8.6] 

As his title suggests, DeFord was especially scornful of gravity.  He found the very idea absurd.  How can gravity be a contractive force, he asked?  All other forces are expansive. [ref. 8.7]  The gravity of the sun and moon is supposed to cause the tides.  Why then don’t tides occur all over the earth?  According to the Youth’s Companion of October 1909, the Mediterranean Sea has no tides. [ref. 8.8]  Even the zetetic opponent David Neild, in The Earth a Globe, admitted that there are no tides in Tahiti. [ref. 8.9]  “Universal Gravitation is a universal fake,” he concluded.  “It is one of the greatest deceptions ever foisted upon an overcredulous world.” [ref. 8.10] 

DeFord had only contempt for astronomers.  Planets supposedly remain in orbit because the centripetal force of rotation is balanced by gravitational pull.  DeFord argued that the alleged balance of force would actually bring things to a standstill. [ref. 8.11]  On the other hand, astronomers also claim that the mutual gravitation between the planets is almost negligible.  “Do you smile upon your sleeve,” DeFord asked, “or do you just haw! haw! right out loud when you read such ‘scientific’ nonsense!” [ref. 8.12]  To top it all off, DeFord had read Einstein’s claim that a straight line is not the shortest distance between two points. [note 8.3]  A ten-year-old knows better, he scoffed. [ref. 8.13] 

To test the competence of astronomers, DeFord sent a simple question to “twelve astronomical experts in America and Europe,” including the famous E. W. Maunder and the immortal [note 8.4]  T. J. J. See: How much of a 150-foot lighthouse should be visible from a vantage point 640 feet above sea level and 40 miles away? [ref. 8.14]  Maunder and See replied that the hypothetical lighthouse would be completely out of sight below the horizon.  Two others replied that little or none of it would be visible.  Five estimates fell in the 96–100 foot range (disregarding refraction, spherical geometry yields 98.2 feet visible).  Two others estimated 120 and 125 feet (conventional, allowing for normal refraction).  The twelfth wrote that 54 feet should be visible, but perhaps he meant invisible (that is, 96 feet visible).

The question DeFord posed to the astronomers was not hypothetical.  The twin Cape Ann lighthouses near Gloucester, Massachusetts stood 150 feet high.  The observatory on Great Blue Hill, eleven miles south of Boston Common, is 640 feet above sea level and 40 miles from the lighthouses.  DeFord had it from the Chief Observer that both lighthouses were typically visible all the way down to the water.  Reviewing the astronomers’ answers, DeFord asked, “Now how much dependence can be put in men of science (?) who wander off into space and tell us all about conditions trillions of miles away, when they can not solve a simple problem right down here on earth itself?” [ref. 8.15] 

Throughout, DeFord’s Reparation mixes stock zetetic arguments with original insights.  He made the usual zetetic arguments about sunset being caused by perspective [ref. 8.16]  and the limited range of the sun’s rays. [ref. 8.17]  Then he declared that darkness would be impossible on a globular earth.  If the sun were as large and powerful as astronomers suppose, its rays would go around the earth, rebound, and light up the back side as well. [ref. 8.18]  Regarding lunar eclipses, zetetics had always attributed them to an unseen dark body passing in front of the moon, an assertion that brought sneers from skeptics.  Now, DeFord discovered, astronomer Percival Lowell claimed there are myriads of dark stars in the sky. [ref. 8.19] 

Considering DeFord’s background and circumstances, A Reparation is a monument of scholarship.  DeFord was familiar with the two periodicals published in Zion, Theocrat and Leaves of Healing.  He quoted from or referred to flat-earth works by Lady Blount, Rowbotham, Carl Albert Smith, Thomas Winship, and Orlando Ferguson.  He was familiar with The Earth a Globe by Reverend David Neild, the New Zealand antizetetic, and the work of geocentrist Charles Robertson.  These are not the kinds of works one would find in Fairfield Public Library—if Fairfield then had a library! [note 8.5]  Even conventional scholarship could not have been easy for DeFord.  The nearest major libraries were in Spokane and Cheney, both about 20 miles away as the crow flies.  Nevertheless, DeFord apparently spent some time studying recent geology books.  Many flat-earth writers have accomplished much less with much more.

Dowkontt, Dumich, and DeFord were relatively isolated individuals, voices crying in the wilderness, and their impact was limited.  Outside of Zion, the only large cluster of active flat-earthers was in the Boston area.  Indeed, Boston was already a hotbed of flat-earthism back in 1914, when Voliva preached his first sermon against conventional astronomy.  One Bostonian, Charles Morse, had already published three flat-earth works and another, John G. Abizaid, had published two editions of a pamphlet.  Two other Bostonians would soon publish zetetic books.  In short, Boston had no rival as the intellectual capital of flat-earthism in the United States.

Brookline, Massachusetts is a suburb three miles west of Boston Common and two miles south (and across the Charles River) from Harvard University.  In 1913, Brookline was Boston’s wealthiest residential suburb and (naturally) home of the Boston Country Club.  In that year, 64-year-old Charles W. Morse, Brookline’s “practical watch and clock repairer,” published a 78-page book entitled Unpopular Truth Against Popular Error in Reference to the Shape of the Earth.

Morse was a long-time flat-earther whose two earlier flat-earth works, Is the Earth a Level Stationary Plain, or a Whirling Globe? and Is the Earth in Motion or at Rest? have not survived.  A born controversialist, he was an inveterate writer of letters-to-the-editor, not just to the Boston papers, but to New York papers as well.  Indeed, whenever someone wrote or spoke favorably about conventional astronomy, Morse would fire off a letter or letters demanding answers to tough questions.  He rarely got a response.  An exception was the famous French astronomer Camille Flammarion.  When the Boston Herald published an article by Flammarion, [ref. 8.20]  Morse responded immediately.  The Herald refused to print his rebuttal, so Morse sent it to Flammarion himself.  A friendly correspondence ensued, and Flammarion had the response and another article by Morse printed in the magazine of the French Astronomical Society.  Morse was also invited to join the Society, which he did. [ref. 8.21] 

Morse was especially outraged whenever he heard a minister of the gospel speak favorably about modern astronomy, and he sometimes got up and walked out of church rather than listen to such blasphemy.  When he published Is the Earth in Motion or at Rest? two Baptist ministers responded favorably, but he was appalled to learn that most ministers preferred to compromise and reinterpret the Bible to fit science. [ref. 8.22] 

As we saw in Chapter 5, Worcester, Massachusetts was a hotbed of zeteticism in the late 19th century, when George W. Bailey of that city wrote his ill-conceived rebuttal to zetetic astronomy.  Apparently, the zetetic agitation continued, for in 1908, Professor Robert Marshall Brown of the State Normal School at Worcester performed an experiment on nearby Lake Quinsigamond intended to demonstrate the earth’s curvature once and for all.  Brown lined up three markers 4′ 2½″ above the water, the total distance being 1¾ miles.  He claimed the center marker appeared distinctly above the line of sight between the other two, proving that the water’s surface is curved. [ref. 8.23] 

Brown’s experiment was reported in an article entitled “How One Man Proved the Earth Round.” [ref. 8.24]  Morse disputed the report and fired off a warmly-worded response, which the Post published.  Defenders of the globe responded to Morse, and the controversy raged in the letters column for several Sundays, until the editors closed it with an article in which one “Professor X” explained all. [ref. 8.25]  Outraged at being silenced, Morse visited the Post offices and demanded the identity of Professor X.  After repeated inquiries, he learned that Professor X was in fact a young Post staff member who knew “about as much about this subject as he does about the Kingdom of Heaven, which is mighty little.” [ref. 8.26] 

Morse was determined not to let Professor Brown’s experiment go unanswered.  As he later explained in Unpopular Truth, he decided to try it for himself:

The writer, with a first-class mechanic and a well-known up-to-date photographer, made a trip to Lake Quinsigamond on the 2nd day of June, 1908, and tried the same experiment in practically the same way, and took a photograph of the scene, which proved beyond any doubt in the minds of those present, that the water in that lake was level on the surface, and so acknowledged by the photographer, who still believes that the earth is a globe. [ref. 8.27] 

Unfortunately, Morse chose not to publish this photograph, so we have to take his word about what it showed.

The old network of American zetetics, small but efficient, still existed, and Morse was plugged into it.  Members exchanged information, documents, and (presumably) copies of precious and hard-to-get flat-earth books and pamphlets.  Some material floated around for decades.  For example, in early 1888, one D. McArthur, Esq., of Elgin, Illinois, sent Carpenter a spherical clipping from the St. Charles (Illinois) Chronicle about the lunar eclipse of January 28, 1888.  Carpenter wrote a two-part response, but the Chronicle declined to print it.  Morse eventually received a copy of Carpenter’s unpublished response from one M. M. Baldridge of St. Charles, Illinois, and 25 years after it was written, he printed it in Unpopular Truth[ref. 8.28] 

Between the network and his own activities, Morse’s reputation as a knowledgeable flat-earther was widespread.  In March of 1911, some high school boys in a western state planned to debate the proposition: “Resolved that the Earth is round.” They had heard about Morse’s book Is the Earth in Motion or at Rest? and they wrote to request copies.  Morse obliged, and he was pleased to learn upon later inquiry that the globular side was so discouraged by the arguments in his book that they called off the debate!

Morse’s 1913 book, Unpopular Truth Against Popular Error in Reference to the Shape of the Earth, reveals that he was a widely read clockmaker.  His knowledge of the Bible was, of course, detailed.  His flat-earth reading included Thomas Winship’s Zetetic Cosmogony, Rowbotham’s second edition of Earth Not a Globe, Carpenter’s One Hundred Proofs, Gleason’s Is the Bible from Heaven? Is the Earth a Globe? and something by Lady Blount, perhaps her periodical The Earth.  He cited geocentrists John Watts de Peyster, Frank Allaban, and J. R. L. Lange.  Morse apparently made good use of the Boston Public Library, for he quotes two rare works from their outstanding collection, Atwoods Astronomy, Versus the Mosaic and Copernican Movements of the Earth [ref. 8.29]  and Johannes von Gumpach’s The True Figure and Dimensions of the Earth.  (Von Gumpach thought the world was shaped like a watermelon, being elongated at the poles.)

Unpopular Truth is mostly derivative, and Morse quoted long passages from his favorite flat-earth works.  He opened the book as a defender of truth, saying he had no fear of ridicule, and so forth.  He called the Copernican system “a fraud, humbug and a swindle.” [ref. 8.30]  Morse hoped his book would make people think.  Morse did not say when or how he became a flat-earther.  (Presumably, it was after Carpenter and Gleason died, for he seems never to have corresponded with either of them.) He only said that he had been searching for years for proof that the earth is a globe, and that he began as a believer.  Morse concluded that much of science is a conspiracy against Christianity.  He wrote:

I believe that no one thing has drawn the people away from Christianity more than the teachings of geology and modern astronomy, together with the Darwinian theory of Evolution, as confirmed by the believers in and preachers of Christianity. [ref. 8.31] 

Of the three branches of science assaulting Christianity, conventional astronomy was the worst.  The Bible never says the earth moves but often says the sun does, [ref. 8.32]  so the Catholic Church was right to oppose Galileo. [ref. 8.33]  Morse wrote:

As far as I can see, astronomy robs us of the word of God altogether.  Astronomy tells us there is no “up” and no “down,” so there is no place either for Heaven or Hell; and geology tells us that the account of creation is a myth; and evolution tells us boldly, that neither the things in Heaven, nor the things on earth needed a creator. [ref. 8.34] 

Mostly, Morse dealt in stock arguments recycled from the flat-earth books at his disposal.  He cited examples of lighthouses seen when they should have been below the horizon. [ref. 8.35]  He railed against geology and atheism. [ref. 8.36]  He quoted Lady Blount and Clifton regarding their 1904 Bedford Canal Experiment. [ref. 8.37]  His own reading provided some new ammunition.  For example, a Chicago newspaper reported that the shoreline of Michigan City, Indiana, was seen from the tops of Chicago skyscrapers one clear day.  At the same time, ships on Lake Michigan were seen 40 miles away, presumably from the same vantage point. [ref. 8.38] 

Morse was weakest when trying to deal with spherical arguments.  How, he asked, could the time interval from sunrise to sunset be different from the time interval from sunset to sunrise on a globe. [ref. 8.39]  He obviously didn’t understand.

In closing, Morse thanked the newspapers for giving advertising space to his previous books and for publishing many of his letters-to-the-editor.  He expressed hope that Unpopular Truth would make people think.  Years before, when he had begun his search for proof that the earth is a globe, he was a believer.  In order to retain his belief in God, however, he had to abandon something else he had believed in all his life—conventional astronomy.

Unpopular Truth was Morse’s most important flat-earth book, and it strongly influenced all of his Bostonian zetetic contemporaries and successors, Abizaid, Collamore, and Goudey.  Morse continued to fight the good fight in the newspapers, but Unpopular Truth was his last major publication.  He died in 1932.

One of Morse’s contemporaries was John George Abizaid, a Lebanese Christian who had emigrated to Boston late in the 19th century.  A manufacturer of razor straps, Abizaid published a flat-earth pamphlet, The Enlightenment of the World Geography, in Arabic in 1906.  He translated The Enlightenment into English in 1910, and his second (1912) and greatly enlarged third (1935) editions were bilingual.  Abizaid also published a “New Correct Map of the Flat Surface, Stationary Earth” in about 1920.

Abizaid’s links with zetetic astronomy are unclear.  Perhaps he arrived at his flat-earth views independently and then got caught up in the flat-earth ferment in Boston.  He had many unique ideas, and his “New Correct Map of the Flat Surface, Stationary Earth,” published about 1920, only vaguely resembles Alexander Gleason’s map.  In his later years, at least, Abizaid was familiar with the conventional zetetic literature, and in 1933 he claimed to be former president of the Universal Zetetic Society. [ref. 8.40]  Nevertheless, zetetic literature largely ignores him.  He is not mentioned in flat-earth works by his fellow Bostonians.

Abizaid made clear the purpose of The Enlightenment in the preface to the third edition: “My reason for publishing this book is not for money or fame, but because I wish to show people who differ from my views where their mistakes lie.” [ref. 8.41]  A sincere and noble desire to educate the less-enlightened is the common currency of thinkers, conventional and (especially) unconventional.  He promised “good ideas” and “absolute proofs,” but the bottom line was the familiar one: “In this Book of Holy Writ are proofs given by the prophets that the world is flat and stationary, and that the sun moon and stars are always in motion.” [ref. 8.42] 

To one tired of hearing Rowbotham’s zetetic arguments endlessly recycled, Abizaid’s approach to the shape of the earth is refreshing.  Consider the following argument:

They say the earth is round, both land and water, and that they are always moving around the sun.  But if you ask them how the water keeps in its bed while the earth is turning, they will tell you to take a pail of water and swing it fast and see, for the water will not come out until the pail is slowed down.

Who has seen the earth turn around in the way that a person turns a pail?  No one.  And as long as no one has ever seen or felt the earth turn, you need not believe that it does so. [ref. 8.43] 

Things moved along quickly when Professor Abizaid (as he called himself) was giving instruction.  He promised proofs, and he delivered them wholesale:

Here is another proof to show that the earth is flat and stationary:

If the earth is round and in motion, as they claim, we should know, for when it turns around, at times we should find our heads and feet and the world above us, as though a person were standing on a ceiling with his head downwards and his feet up. [ref. 8.44] 

Short and sweet.  By p. 18 (the 13th page of text) his case was proven and his work accomplished.  He had only to make provision for slow learners: “If anyone should wish to have a further explanation of my ideas, I will answer his questions, provided I am paid for my trouble.” [ref. 8.45]  The remainder of the English portion of the pamphlet is devoted to testimonials and such.

Most of the testimonials are from readers of previous editions.  As unorthodox thinkers commonly do, Abizaid had sent copies to prominent people, and he received politely worded notes from Richard Byrd, Hubert Wilkins, Cardinal Farley, and several Harvard professors.  Commander Byrd wrote as follows:

I received your book “The Enlightenment of the World,” also the map for which accept my thanks.  I am certain these works will be extremely interesting. [ref. 8.46] 

Abizaid also received numerous enthusiastic letters showing that, to many Bostonians, the sphericity of the earth was far from proven.  Two of Abizaid’s sons, Roger and Charles, respectively a Doctor of Osteopathy and a law student, wrote to express their agreement.  Abizaid published a list of 225 names of “those who know and believe that the earth is flat and stationary and the sun and moon is in motion.” [ref. 8.47]  Abizaids and numerous others with Arabic-sounding names comprise perhaps a third of the list, which is obviously incomplete (the authors of at least two flat-earth letters he published are not included).  The first name on the list is that of Aurin F. Hill.

Architect, writer, and insurance salesman Aurin F. Hill was one of Boston’s most persistent flat-earth activists.  Hill donated a copy of Unpopular Truth to the Boston Public Library, and he appears frequently in Abizaid’s works.  Charles L. Hathaway was another flat-earther active in the Boston area.  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.”

Robert Gould Shaw Collamore published His Pronouncement: A Layman’s Version. A Layman’s Message in 1924 with Dorrance & Company, a Philadelphia-based vanity press.  He is a shadowy character who appears on the zetetic stage, plays his part, and then vanishes.  Collamore lived in the Boston area, for he gives numerous quotations from Boston newspapers and makes geographical references to eastern Massachusetts.  He was very familiar with some of the zetetic literature, but he apparently didn’t have direct access to Rowbotham.  He frequently quoted from von Gumpach, but the fact that he ignored Rowbotham suggests that he read von Gumpach for himself.  Or, perhaps he lifted the quotes from Winship.  Collamore quoted extensively from Empson Edward Middleton.  He called South African flat-earther Thomas Winship “a friend of mine.” [ref. 8.48]  He also corresponded with Edwin Tenney Brewster, who agreed with him that the Bible is a flat-earth book and told him that there are probably tens of thousands who believe it. [ref. 8.49]  He also referred to Iconoclast in Earth Review and Shoepfer in Scientific American[ref. 8.50]  (Both of these could have come from Winship, also.)

Unlike Morse, Collamore apparently didn’t tangle with the local spherical opposition in the public press.  His Pronouncement focuses on religious issues more than other Boston flat-earth books.  Collamore was gravely concerned because some laymen and clergymen rejected the Biblical account of the creation and form of the earth while claiming to believe that the Bible is literally true. [ref. 8.51]  He wrote:

The real Fundamentalist does not subscribe to some portions of the Bible and purposely qualify or exclude Genesis and other portions coinciding with and supporting Genesis.  This is just what some persons calling themselves Fundamentalists do, although by reason of their belief in the Copernican theory they are to that extent actually Anti-Fundamentalists. [ref. 8.52] 

Collamore paid tribute to Voliva, agreeing with a Methodist clergyman who had called Voliva “the only true, prominent Fundamentalist in the United States.” Collamore found liberal preachers steeped in hypocrisy and evolution. [ref. 8.53]  Thomas Paine and Robert Ingersoll, America’s two most celebrated infidels, had used astronomy as an argument against the Bible, and liberal clergymen agreed that the Bible errs in describing the earth. [ref. 8.54]  Late in the 19th century, Andrew D. White and John W. Draper had written influential books presenting the relationship between Christianity and science as almost incessant conflict, and Collamore accepted that view. [ref. 8.55] 

Collamore offered several stock arguments against sphericity.  His long section arguing that circumnavigation is no proof of sphericity is straight zetetic astronomy. [ref. 8.56]  He took a rather pathetic shot at explaining day and night on zetetic principles. [ref. 8.57]  He dragged out such chestnuts as the alleged Standing Orders of the House of Commons, [ref. 8.58]  and he argued that canals are always dug according to flat-earth theory. [ref. 8.59]  He ridiculed astronomical estimates of the distance to the sun. [ref. 8.60]  Predictions of eclipses mean nothing, he argued, because the ancient Chaldean used the saros cycle to predict eclipses and found it perfectly dependable. [ref. 8.61] 

Collamore was not overly impressed with the competence of navigators.  He once sent a problem off to three different navigation schools, and they came up with three different responses. [ref. 8.62]  He argued that errors in navigation had caused numerous disasters off Gloucester and Boston. [ref. 8.63]  For navigation purposes, the earth is flat, [ref. 8.64]  and he quoted several navigators “admitting” as much. [ref. 8.65] 

One interesting argument, which Collamore seems to have originated, is based on the conventional view that the earth is an oblate spheroid.  If the earth’s equatorial diameter is greater than its polar diameter, then the mouth of the Mississippi is higher than the source.  How then can water flow from Lake Itasca in northern Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico? [ref. 8.66]  It is uphill all the way!  So far as Collamore was concerned, the flow of rivers like the Mississippi proves the earth is flat.

Collamore also claimed that Alfred Russel Wallace, villain of the Old Bedford Canal affair, had a change of heart in his later years:

[A]fter further study and consideration, he repudiated some of his former contentions and advanced his new theory, which startled some scientists but favorably impressed others.  He claimed the earth occupied the central position and not the sun, and that the earth was the only inhabited planet and the sun and all other orbs were contributory to the earth. [ref. 8.67] 

Presumably Collamore drew this inference from statements in one of Wallace’s last published works, Man’s Place in the Universe (1903).  Despite Collamore’s repeated insistence [ref. 8.68]  and Wallace’s well-known later eccentricities, the claim is false.

It’s not clear what happened to Collamore.  His background is hazy and his end is unknown.  His Pronouncement was his only published book.  Neither he nor his book was ever mentioned in print by another flat-earther.

Reverend Henry J. Goudey was a resident of Back Bay, Boston, on March 6, 1931, when he donated a copy of his Earth Not a Globe: Scientifically, Geometrically, Philosophically Demonstrated (Boston: by the author, 1930) to Boston Public Library.  On the title page, Goudey lists his other works as X-Rays of Truth, The Stone Kingdom, The Holy Spirit Not a Person, The Tabernacle of David Restored, A Kingdom of Conquest, and The Kingdom of God.  Goudey’s Kingdom of God was “designed especially for ministers and Bible students and represents the Kingdom of God as a reformatory institution, progressive in its nature and belonging to time and not the immortal state.” [ref. 8.69]  None of his other works has survived.

Little is known of Goudey’s life.  Unlike Morse’s Unpopular Truth, Goudey’s Earth Not a Globe is almost devoid of autobiographical information.  Goudey did not claim originality for everything in his book, though he claimed he had made all of the thoughts his own.  He acknowledged his debt to “Dr. Samuel B. Rowbotham, Prof. Wm. Carpenter, Prof. Alex. Gleason, Albert Smith, Fred H. Cook, C. S. DeFord, and others; nearly all of whom are now dead.” [ref. 8.70]  He referred to “W. G. Voliva, in his writing,” presumably a reference to the special edition of Leaves of Healing.  He also referred to von Gumpach in a manner that suggests he actually read the work. [ref. 8.71] 

Goudey did his best to bring flat-earthism up to date.  For example, rocket pioneer Dr. Robert H. Goddard of Clark College, in Worcester, Massachusetts, had in 1920 published a small pamphlet entitled A Method of Reaching Extreme Altitudes[ref. 8.72]  This pamphlet, which speculated about reaching the moon with a rocket and caused a minor stir in the national press, could hardly be ignored in a flat-earth stronghold like Worcester.  Goddard’s practical intention was lifting meteorological instruments above the altitudes reachable by balloons, and he spoke of sending rockets 60 or 80 miles straight up and having them fall back near the launch point.  Following Rowbotham’s alleged experiment with cannon balls shot straight up, Goudey argued that on a rotating earth, Goddard’s then-hypothetical rocket would land far from the launch site.  Similarly, he argued that falling bombs and flying airships refute the rotation of the earth. [ref. 8.73] 

Goudey made numerous stock arguments.  His discussion of surveying was unoriginal. [ref. 8.74]  His claim that a telescope will always bring a hull-down ship into view is early Rowbotham. [ref. 8.75]  He disposed of refraction with a bold assertion: “So as a ship and the observer are both in a medium of uniform density, the air, there is no refraction.” [ref. 8.76]  His long discussions of zetetic perspective are wholly derivative. [ref. 8.77]  Eclipses are cyclic phenomena, he asserted, and they were successfully predicted hundreds of years before Copernicus. [ref. 8.78]  He cited stock examples of eclipses of the moon with sun and moon above the horizon, saying refraction is not adequate to explain them. [ref. 8.79]  Practical navigators operate on the assumption that the earth is flat. [ref. 8.80] 

Goudey ridiculed measurements of distance to the sun in familiar zetetic fashion. [ref. 8.81]  He gave examples of the signal of a heliograph being seen too far [ref. 8.82]  and of mountains photographed from too far away. [ref. 8.83]  With Rowbotham, he brushed off the dip of the horizon in a theodolite as being due to collimation error. [ref. 8.84] 

Goudey owed much to Alexander Gleason.  He referred to Gleason’s experiments on the Erie Canal and Lake Erie. [ref. 8.85]  He reproduced the deceptive diagram Gleason invented to rebut sphericity. [ref. 8.86]  Regarding another thoroughly dishonest drawing, he said, “Now, in all fairness and honesty to all scientific intelligence and mechanical skill, we declare this diagram to be according to the so-called science of the globular theory.” [ref. 8.87]  He cited Gleason to prove that distances in the southern hemisphere work out on the zetetic scale but not on the globe. [ref. 8.88]  (Actually, they don’t work out on the zetetic scale, but Goudey could ignore this little detail as well as Gleason.)

On the issue of the sun’s distance, however, Goudey departed from Gleason.  The actual distance to the sun is easily calculated, he said.  Using Gleason’s own example, he noted that at noon on the equinox observers in Ottawa, Canada and South America both observe the sun at 45 degrees above the horizon.  Its distance is therefore 2700 nautical miles, [note 8.6]  though this distance was not universally accepted among zetetics: “Professor Alex. Gleason gives the distance however, geometrically computed, as being only 1,725 nautical miles, which is also the average distance of the moon, north star, and other heavenly bodies.” [ref. 8.89]  (This apparently glaring discrepancy is due to Gleason’s acceptance of Hampden’s claim that distance from the north pole to the equator is 57½ degrees. [ref. 8.90] ) As for the sun’s diameter, Goudey calculated the diameter of the sun from area beneath it that is bathed in vertical rays. [ref. 8.91]  He correctly attributed this method to Dr. Charles Robertson, [ref. 8.92]  but he neglected to mention that Dr. Robertson was a geocentrist who contemptuously dismissed the flat-earthers.

Goudey made few original arguments.  Perhaps he originated the claim that the north–south elongation of the continents is an argument against sphericity. [ref. 8.93]  [note 8.7]  His claim that Antarctic regions are colder than corresponding Arctic regions is also unfamiliar. [ref. 8.94] 

The Boston zetetics made enough noise so that scientist Garrett P. Serviss wrote a long article refuting them for the Boston American of January 21, 1922. 

Meanwhile, Zion had gained an unwanted notoriety, for Voliva’s strident insistence that the earth is flat drew frequent comment in the local and even national newspapers, and articles about Voliva and Zion appeared in national magazines such as Collier’s (May 14, 1927) and American Mercury (April 1930).  Indeed, Zion became a national laughingstock.

With the stream of zetetic literature produced in Boston as an example, it is all the more remarkable that neither Voliva nor any of his disciples ever produced a flat-earth book, or even a pamphlet, to defend zetetic astronomy.  The Christian Catholic Apostolic Church reprinted Carpenter’s One Hundred Proofs that the Earth Is Not a Globe in 1929, and Voliva regularly denounced astronomy over WCBD.  Except for occasional articles in Leaves of Healing and The Theocrat, the only flat-earth publication produced by Voliva and company was a special issue of Leaves of Healing entirely devoted to the shape of the earth.

The May 10, 1930 issue of Leaves of Healing runs 64 pages, not counting fold-out plates.  With about 75,000 words of text and numerous illustrations, it is equivalent to a medium-sized book.  The cover photo shows Voliva holding a book in one hand and pointing with the other to Alexander Gleason’s flat-earth map, held by an assistant.  The caption says he is “making a critical examination of the so-called proofs that the earth is a whirling globe.”

In the introduction, Voliva stated zetetic astronomy’s message as well as it’s ever been done.

The so-called Fundamentalists of the Churches, in opposition to Modernism, strain out the gnat of Evolution and swallow the camel of Modern Astronomy.  All the leading Modernists declare that the Bible teaches that the earth is a stationary plane.  In that declaration, they are right, notwithstanding the fact that they reject the Bible and accept the teachings of Modern Astronomy.  The Fundamentalists who profess to believe the Bible to be the Inspired Word of God, and who, in the face of this profession, accept the astronomical theories that are taught in schools, give the lie to their profession …

While it is true that Evolution has slain its thousands, it is equally true that Modern Astronomy has slain its tens of thousands!  Multitudes of hitherto professing Christians, unable to reconcile the theories of Modern Astronomy with the plain declarations of the Bible, have accepted those theories and rejected the Bible, so that it can be truthfully said that the faith of millions in God, in Jesus Christ, and in the Bible as the Inspired Word of God, has been uprooted and completely destroyed.

Besides the introduction and several short pieces and extracts, the magazine consists of six major articles, one by Voliva, two by Chester M. Shippey, and three by Apostle Anton Darms.  Voliva’s lead article is entitled “Which Will You Accept?  The Bible, the Inspired Word of God, or the Infidel Theories of Modern Astronomy?” Sixteen years after his first public attack on sphericity, he was still singing the same song:

Modern Astronomy, Evolution, and Higher Criticism are a trinity of evils—Modern Astronomy by no means being the least of the three—which are doctrines of seducing demons, originated and taught for the purpose of destroying, in the minds, hearts, and lives of the people, their acceptance of the Bible as the Inspired Word of God, and their belief in and practice of the Christian religion.

The Bible plainly teaches that the earth is a plane.  Modern Astronomy teaches that the earth is a globe.  Both cannot be true.  One of the two positions must be false.  Which will you, as a professing Christian, accept—the plain teaching of the Bible, the Inspired Word of God, or the wild, harebrained speculations of infidel astronomers?

The infidel theme was an old zetetic favorite.  Voliva quoted from Thomas Paine’s Age of Reason, The Clarion (a British socialist magazine with atheist tendencies), the 19th century American skeptic Robert Ingersoll, and other freethought sources.  (Some of the quotes seem to have been lifted from the Earth Review.) All of the freethinkers agreed that the Bible teaches that the earth is flat and science teaches that the earth is a globe.

Having tarred astronomy with the atheist brush, Voliva attacked it hammer and tongs.  He lambasted astronomers’ attempts to measure the distance from the earth to the sun.  Copernicus estimated 3,000,000 miles; Kepler estimated 13,000,000; Newton first estimated 28,000,000 and then 54,000,000.  Later, others estimated 95,000,000 or even 104,000,000 miles.  Voliva thought he detected some discrepancies here, with the high and low estimates showing “just a little insignificant difference of 101,000,000 miles.”

Voliva wrote that his $5,000 challenge brought him numerous letters from skeptics who betrayed “an appalling ignorance of the whole subject.” Some, for example, argued that the earth is a sphere because it can be circumnavigated.  For these benighted souls, he repeated one of his favorite illustrations:

Take a silver dollar to represent the stationary, plane earth.  The center of the dollar is the North Center.  Draw a line from the edge of the dollar to the North Center.  As you go toward the Center you are travelling north; as you go from the Center to the edge you are travelling south.  East and west are simply points at right angles to north and south.  Start from a given point and travel due east, and you will be compelled to come back to the point of departure.

A barrage of Scriptures followed.  Voliva insisted that the “firmament” of the King James Bible was understood by the ancient Hebrews to be a solid dome covering and enclosing the earth.

Two articles by Chester M. Shippey, “Answers to Common ‘Proofs’ that the Earth is a Globe” and “The True Shape of the Earth: A Practical Discussion,” addressed spherical critics.  Shippey’s answers were mostly stock replies, representing zetetic wisdom gleaned from three-quarters of a century of flat-earth works.  We will summarize some of them here to give the flavor of the whole.

1.  Why do ships sailing out to sea seem to disappear over the horizon?  Is that not proof that the earth is spherical? Answer: Not at all.  Ships are often seen at distances where they should be out of sight behind the supposed curvature of the earth.  Ships seem to disappear over the horizon for the same reason that the rails of a railroad track seem to meet in the distance.  It is a matter of perspective.  A good telescope will bring a disappearing ship back into view.

2.  Where is the edge of the earth? Answer: The seas are surrounded by a great wall of ice.  All of the great explorers in the Antarctic regions have reported ice barriers which they could not penetrate, and the further south one goes, the higher the barrier.  No one knows what lies beyond.

3.  How can there be day and night if the earth is flat and the sun is always above it? Answer: We live on a flat, stationary earth, and the sun, moon, and stars circle above us.  The sun is a small body, only 32 miles in diameter.  (We know this from measurements made in equatorial regions; the area below the sun in which a vertical pole casts no shadow is 32 miles in diameter.) The sun’s influence is limited.  When it gets too far away, it merges with the horizon and appears to set.  When it comes back into range, it appears to rise.

4.  Isn’t the sun millions of miles away? Answer: Nonsense!  The height of the sun is easily computed.  At noon on the vernal or autumnal equinox, an observer in Maine will see the sun at an altitude of 45° above the horizon.  An observer in southern Colombia, S. A.  will see the sun directly overhead.  The distance between the observers is about 3,000 miles, so simple geometry tells us that the altitude of the sun is also about 3,000 miles.

5.  How can astronomers predict eclipses if they are wrong about the shape of the earth? Answer: Eclipses occur in cycles.  Lunar eclipses, for instance, occur in a cycle of 18 years 10¾ days.  The ancients used this cycle, which they called the saros, to predict eclipses when everyone knew the earth is flat.  Besides, lunar eclipses disprove the globular theory.  Copernicans claim that lunar eclipses occur when the earth gets between the sun and the moon, yet numerous lunar eclipses have been observed with the sun and moon well above the horizon (examples: July 19, 1750; April 20, 1838; May 26, 1868).

As always, however, the bottom line was the Bible.  Apostle Darms provided the conclusive arguments in two articles, “The Teaching of the Word of God Regarding the Creation of the World and the Shape of the Earth in Fifty Questions, Answered by Scripture” and “Ten Reasons Why a Christian Should Reject Modern Astronomy.” The former, a slightly revised version of his 1915 article, contains the most extensive list of Biblical flat-earth arguments ever compiled.

According to zetetic astronomy, the earth is enclosed by a solid dome, the firmament of the King James Bible.  Isaiah 40:22 says of God, “It is He that sitteth upon the circle of the earth, and the inhabitants thereof are as grasshoppers.” Job 22:14 says, “He walketh in the circuit of heaven.” Darms argued that the Hebrew word chug, translated “circle” and “circuit”, should have been translated “arch” or “vault” in both cases.  (Modern scholars agree; the New English Bible gives “vaulted roof” and “vault,” respectively.) Other verses say that the heavens are stretched out like curtains to enclose the earth.

The sun, moon, and stars must be small bodies to fit inside the dome.  Regarding them, Genesis 1:17 says, “God set them in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth.” Revelation 6:13 also constrains the size of the stars, for it says “the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig tree casteth her untimely figs, when she is shaken by a mighty wind.” Darms argued that the stars could not fall on the earth unless they were much smaller than the earth.

Conventional astronomy holds that the earth orbits the sun.  Numerous Biblical verses assert that the earth is immovable.  Darms cited four, including Psalm 93:1, “The world also is stablished that it cannot be moved.” Furthermore, he argued, the Bible teaches that the sun moves with respect to the earth; Joshua bid the sun (not the earth) to stand still at Gibeon (Joshua 10:12).

As for the shape of the earth, the Bible frequently says the earth has corners or ends (e.g. Isaiah 11:12 and Job 28:24).  God “stretched out” (Psalm 136:6) or “spread forth” (Isaiah 42:5) the earth, terms that make sense for a plane but not for a sphere.  Any doubts are erased by one of Daniel’s visions: “I saw, and behold a tree in the midst of the earth, and the height thereof was great.  The tree grew and was strong, and the height thereof reached unto heaven, and the sight thereof to the end of all the earth (Daniel 4:10–11).” Darms pointed out that no matter how high the tree, it could not be seen all over a spherical earth.

If you believe the Bible, you have to believe that this earth was created in six days of twenty-four hours each.  The Twentieth Chapter of Exodus settles that, absolutely.

Darms argued his case at far greater length.  When he was finished, he had quoted 229 verses selected from 39 of the 66 books of the Bible.  Even this does not accurately describe the intensity of his scriptural barrage, for Darms used many of his favorite proof texts to make several points, thus repeating them again and again.

In his “Ten Reasons Why a Christian Should Reject Modern Astronomy,” Darms likewise appealed to scriptural and doctrinal arguments.  He listed the honor roll of zetetic writers known to him, but he felt that their accomplishments paled in comparison to another:

However great have been the efforts put forth by these and other writers that have taken in hand to defend the Bible, it must be said that to Wilbur Glenn Voliva belongs the honor of having brought this issue to the attention of more people than all other writers and lecturers on the subject combined.  To this servant of God belongs the honor that no one else can claim of having a Church stand with him on this important teaching of God’s Word—the Christian Catholic Apostolic Church in Zion.

Actually, it is not clear to what extent the church stood with him.  Officially, Voliva was in absolute control of the Christian Catholic Apostolic Church, and its doctrines were whatever he said they were.  No doubt Darms and others in the church were sincere flat-earthers, but some were biding their time in silence.  Silence was a quality cultivated in Zion, for Voliva did not take opposition kindly, whether in ecclesiastical or temporal affairs.  In some respects, Zion under Voliva was like a prison without walls.

By 1930, when he published the special flat-earth edition of Leaves of Healing, Voliva’s iron grip on Zion was already slipping.  In the late ’20s, the Illinois legislature had investigated Voliva’s financial and other activities and recommended prosecution.  Nothing came of the investigation, but Voliva’s influence was weakened.  The Great Depression again brought severe financial problems to Zion, and Voliva’s influence was further diminished.  In 1935, Voliva was deposed as General Overseer of the Christian Catholic Church, which dropped the word “apostolic” along with flat-earthism.

After that, Voliva began wintering in Florida, and from 1939 onward, he spent most of his time there, returning to Zion only intermittently.  Since about 1920, he had subsisted on a diet consisting largely of buttermilk and Brazil nuts, which he believed would sustain him to an age of 100.  Now he was seriously diabetic, and his eyesight was failing.  When he returned to Zion for the summer of 1942, ill health prevented him from going back to Florida.  He died in Zion on October 11, 1942, at age 72, and General Overseer Michael Mintern, his successor, conducted the funeral.

Zion has changed, and today you can go into the bowling alley on Sunday and get a drink.  The Christian Catholic Church is still a power in town, with a huge tabernacle and an impressive parochial school system.  And there are still a lot of older people who have never believed that the earth is a globe.

In 1942, the last year of his life, Wilbur Glenn Voliva received a letter from a young Texan who wrote that he had never believed that the earth is globe.  The correspondent had stumbled upon a reference to Voliva’s flat-earth views, and he wanted more information.  The 72-year-old Voliva sent a kind reply to 18-year-old Charles Kenneth Johnson.