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Talmage, in particular, as the editor of the Herald, provided the drive to address the welfare of the poor. Yet, it was ultimately Klopsch, as publisher and proprietor of the Herald, who made the decision to align the magazine with the growing national interest in social welfare and add global relief work to the organization’s agenda.
The Herald was instrumental in the Social Gospel Movement. This movement, which emphasized an integration of one’s professed Christian faith with social actions demonstrable of the faith, provided theological and sociological language for progressive Christians who sought to set free individuals from personal sin while addressing society’s complicity with that sin. For example, social gospelers were active in the temperance movement, which aimed to deliver individuals from alcoholism while also pushing for legislation that limited or eliminated the availability of alcohol. They were active in the tenement movement, which sought to provide housing for ill-housed and homeless individuals and families while simultaneously pushing for the New York State Tenement House Act, which was the first of its kind to regulate housing construction. The Herald amplified the voices of the poor and oppressed, raised funds to support movements and relief work, and provided an organizational covering for several of its own ministries that sought to ameliorate the suffering of the poor.
The Herald’s first domestic ministry was borne out of natural disaster. The Herald published regular reports of the dire situation faced by New York City’s poor and immigrant communities in the devastating winter of 1894, and a food fund was established to meet their basic needs. Many lives were saved that winter, and there was such an overflow of donations that Klopsch organized summer outings for the poor and immigrant children of the Lower East Side to an estate in Nyack, New York. The Herald eventually purchased the property and initially named it Mont Lawn Fresh Air Home. It was part of the Fresh Air Movement, which aimed to give urban youth an opportunity to enjoy the countryside, and it was not until the First World War that it was called a summer camp. Later named Mont Lawn Camp, it was one of the nation’s very first summer camps. Jacob Riis, social reformer and muckraker, occasionally contributed articles to the Herald, and was the guest speaker at the dedication of Mont Lawn Camp’s chapel in 1905. In the early 1960s, the camp was relocated to a 200 acre stretch of land in the Poconos. And today, apart from a summer camp that serves more than 1,000 economically-disadvantaged children every summer, the camp doubles as a retreat center in the off-season. To maintain a continuum of care, the staff operates City Camp, a year-round youth program that provides young people with academic enrichment and mentorship.
Klopsch’s act to ensure that the poor and immigrant New Yorkers had sufficient food to survive the harsh winter created a movement in which the children of New York’s poor and immigrant communities continue to benefit. In 1895, a year after Klopsch established Mont Lawn Fresh Air Home, he acquired the Bowery Mission. He believed in the potential of ministries such as Mont Lawn Camp and the Bowery Mission to transform society by investing in the most broken, despised, and discarded of humanity. Klopsch joined the board of the National Gospel Mission Union (the predecessor of the Association of Gospel Rescue Missions) where he worked to unify and expand rescue mission work across the country. Klopsch understood that these ministries were vital to meet the personal needs of the poor, and he leveraged the organizations he led to serve as catalysts for social change.
The Herald provided oversight and financial support to many ministries, charities, and social movements in the United States. As a widely circulated publication, the Herald lent its influence to many social issues ranging from post-reconstruction work and women’s rights to pro-labor and anti-war movements. The Herald allied itself to the suffrage cause and lent its support to increase women’s political and economic rights in the United States. It advocated for equal rights and policies benefiting African Americans and dedicated many articles opposing the barbarous act of lynching. And Charles M. Sheldon, author of In His Steps (also called What Would Jesus Do?) and lifelong advocate for equality and racial justice, published this poem in the Herald: “My brother, of whatever tongue or raceWhatever be the color of thy skinTho’ either white or black or brown thy faceThou art in God’s great family — my kin.” The Herald gave extensive publicity and financial aid to the Mayesville Institute for Negro Youth, located in Mayesville, South Carolina. The Mayesville Institute was akin to Booker T. Washington’s Tuskegee Institute. This partnership between Mayesville and the Herald was initiated by a letter sent by a young African American girl appealing to the magazine for support. Her courage and advocacy inspired the development of the Christian Herald Scholarship Fund, which supported twelve students (the entire student body) in a program which included agricultural training as well as blacksmithing, metal work, and other such trades. The Herald also condemned as inhumane the concept held by many corporations and employers that they had a right to buy labor like other commodities in the cheapest market that competition would allow. Through its editorials, the magazine supported legislation to outlaw the seven-day work week and raised awareness of the pressing need to protect children in industry, compensate injured laborers, and support farmers through mortgage and price supports. The editor wrote in 1916 that one of the tragedies of the church, was that she had “so often misunderstood and neglected and alienated the laborers.” Gospel welfare workers, like most progressive contemporaries, were pacifist in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. During the 1890s, the Herald condemned war as a “relic of barbarism,” and Talmage called war “the worst curse that ever smote the nations.” During WWI, the Herald agitated for peace, and termed the war a “tremendous indictment against Christianity” and proof that armaments were a provocative rather than a deterrent to war. The Herald was strongly pacifist in the buildup to WWI and rejected the United States’ increased militarization. In November 1915, the Herald printed an open letter from Charles Sheldon to President Wilson, who had used the Bible in defense of militarism. The letter asked, as Sheldon often asked, “What Would Jesus Do?” Sheldon argued that Jesus would promote “justice and brotherhood” rather than armaments. Sheldon stood fully in opposition to President Wilson. He “commended the Herald for its firm stand at a time when most Eastern dailies and a number of religious journals were ‘preaching war.’” The Herald argued “America is not first. Humanity is first.” When the U.S. entered the War in 1917, the Herald called for united support, “Now that the decision has been made.” After the War, the Herald lent its support to disarmament. As part of the post-war relief effort, the Herald established the Relief Fund for Widows and Orphans to alleviate the suffering of those affected by war.
Since Klopsch’s acquisition of the Herald in 1889, he leveraged the publication to serve as a charitable institution to provide international relief to war-torn and famine-affected regions throughout the world, while continuing to provide support to missionaries domestic and abroad. The State Department was the primary vehicle through which he channeled the monies and resources, such as grains and blankets, he acquired through the readers of the Herald. Klopsch then often went to the affected region to personally supervise the distribution of funds and resources. At each affected region he organized a local committee to lead the work. And, returning to his New York office, he wrote articles detailing the situation abroad, petitioning his readers for continued support. From 1892 until Klopsch’s death in 1910, the Herald provided more than $100 million in today’s currency for relief and mission work in Russia, India, China, Japan, Sweden, Finland and other countries.
The Herald’s first action as an international relief agency began in 1892 when Klopsch and Talmage used the magazine to call on readers to respond with financial contributions to the famine in Russia. Riveting articles and photographs brought the Russian famine into the homes of U.S. readers. As a pioneer in photojournalism, Klopsch understood the power of the photograph. Articles by and about Leo Tolstoy, the Russian novelist and Christian anarchist, were included in the magazine. Tolstoy fed hundreds of victims in the afflicted area and used his writing to raise awareness to the plight of famine-affected Russians throughout the world. In gratitude for their work, the Czarevitch invited Klopsch and Talmage to the Imperial Palace. The Crown Prince, who a few years later in 1896, became Czar Nicholas II, the last czar of imperial Russia, received them and showed his deep gratitude for providing relief to the Russian people.
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