A stunning work of American folk art based on the writings of “Dispensationalist” minister Clarence Larkin (1850-1924). Viewed in person it is simply astonishing, and its impact cannot possibly be captured in a photograph.
Larkin’s Evangelical theology leaned heavily on a futurist interpretation of the Book of Revelations as a blueprint for understanding current and coming events. In his most famous book, Dispensational Truths (1918), Larkin took this idea of blueprint literally and included more than 100 detailed, analytic, hand-drawn charts embodying his ideas. These charts, which combine a prophetic and apocalyptic vision with a visual economy that might be admired by Edward Tufte, continue to hold sway in some modern sects, and Dispensational Truths remains in print. Many of Larkin’s charts may be viewed at http://www.preservedwords.com/charts.htm or http://clarencelarkincharts.com.
Wikipedia offers the following capsule biography for Larkin:
“Clarence was born on October 28, 1850, in Chester, Delaware County, Pennsylvania. He experienced conversion at the age of 19. He then got a job in a bank. When he was 21 years old, he left the bank and went to college, graduating as a mechanical engineer. He continued as a professional draftsman for a while, then he became a teacher of the blind. This last endeavor cultivated his descriptive faculties, while his drafter’s [sic] training influenced his artistic style. Later, failing health compelled him to give up his teaching career. After a prolonged rest, he became a manufacturer. When he was converted he had become a member of the Episcopal Church, but in 1882, at the age of 32, he became a Baptist and was ordained as a Baptist minister two years later.
He went directly from business into the ministry. Larkin’s first pastorate was at Kennett Square, Pennsylvania; his second was at Fox Chase, Pennsylvania, where he remained for 20 years. His study of the Scriptures, with the help of some books that fell into his hands, led him to adopt many of the tenets of the premillennialist theology that was gaining favor in conservative Protestant circles in the Gilded Age. He began to make large wall charts, which he titled “Prophetic Truth,” for use in the pulpit. These led to invitations to teach elsewhere. During this time he published a number of prophetical charts, which were widely circulated and contributed articles for the Sunday-School Times. In 1918, he completed Dispensational Truth, but high demand for the work led him to produce a greatly expanded edition of 1920.”
This banner here seems to provide an overview of Larkin’s thought, in particular his organization of history into seven “dispensations” (i.e., “ages,” or “epochs.”) It was most likely intended for use in an itinerant tent revival presided over by the Reverend W.H. Hartman, who apparently worked throughout the Midwest in the 1920s and ’30s.
Minor soiling, else excellent