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Founder - William Booth

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While women weep as they do now, I'll fight;

while little children go hungry as they do now, I'll fight;

while men go to prison, in and out, in and out, as they do now, I'll fight;

while there is a drunkard left, while there is a poor lost girl on the streets, while there remains one dark soul without the light of God, I'll fight;

I'll fight to the very end.

William Booth, Founder of The Salvation Army 

William Booth, founder, embarked upon his ministerial career in 1852, desiring to win the lost multitudes of England to Christ. He walked the streets of London to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ to the poor, the homeless, the hungry, and the destitute.

Booth abandoned the conventional concept of a church and a pulpit, instead taking his message to the people. His fervor led to disagreement with church leaders in London, who preferred traditional methods. As a result, he withdrew from the church and traveled throughout England, conducting evangelistic meetings. His wife, Catherine, could accurately be called a cofounder of The Salvation Army.

In 1865, William Booth was invited to hold a series of evangelistic meetings in the East End of London. He set up a tent in a Quaker graveyard, and his services became an instant success. This proved to be the end of his wanderings as an independent traveling evangelist. His renown as a religious leader spread throughout London, and he attracted followers who were dedicated to fight for the souls of men and women.

Thieves, prostitutes, gamblers, and drunkards were among Booth's first converts to Christianity. To congregations who were desperately poor, he preached hope and salvation. His aim was to lead people to Christ and link them to a church for further spiritual guidance.

Many churches, however, did not accept Booth's followers because of their past. So Booth continued giving his new converts spiritual direction, challenging them to save others like themselves. Soon, they too were preaching and singing in the streets as a living testimony to the power of God.

In 1867, Booth had only 10 full-time workers, but by 1874, the number had grown to 1,000 volunteers and 42 evangelists, all serving under the name "The Christian Mission." Booth assumed the title of general superintendent, with his followers calling him "General." Known as the "Hallelujah Army," the converts spread out of the East End of London into neighboring areas and then to other cities

Booth was reading a printer's proof of the 1878 annual report when he noticed the statement "The Christian Mission is a volunteer army." Crossing out the words "volunteer army," he penned in "Salvation Army." From those words came the basis of the foundation deed of The Salvation Army.

From that point, converts became soldiers of Christ and were known then, as now, as Salvationists. They launched an offensive throughout the British Isles, in some cases facing real battles as organized gangs mocked and attacked them. In spite of violence and persecution, some 250,000 people were converted under the ministry of The Salvation Army between 1881 and 1885.

Meanwhile, the Army was gaining a foothold in the United States. Lieutenant Eliza Shirley had left England to join her parents, who had migrated to America earlier in search for work. In 1879, she held the first meeting of The Salvation Army in America, in Philadelphia. The Salvationists were received enthusiastically. Shirley wrote to General Booth, begging for reinforcements. None were available at first. Glowing reports of the work in Philadelphia, however, eventually convinced Booth, in 1880, to send an official group to pioneer the work in America.

officers knelt on the dockside at Battery Park in New York City to give thanks for their safe arrival. At their first official street meeting, these pioneers were met with unfriendly actions, as had happened in Great Britain. They were ridiculed, arrested, and attacked. Several officers and soldiers even gave their lives. Three years later, Railton and other Salvationists had expanded their operation into California, Connecticut, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. President Grover Cleveland received a delegation of Salvation Army officers in 1886 and gave the organization a warm personal endorsement. This was the first recognition from the White House and would be followed by similar receptions from succeeding presidents.

The Salvation Army movement expanded rapidly to Canada, Australia, France, Switzerland, India, South Africa, Iceland, and local neighborhood units. The Salvation Army is active in virtually every corner of the world.

General Booth's death in 1912 was a great loss to The Salvation Army. However, he had laid a firm foundation' even his death could not deter the ministry's onward march. His eldest son, Bramwell Booth, succeeded him.

Edward J. Higgins served as the first elected general, beginning in 1929. The first female general was Booth's daughter, the dynamic Evangeline Booth, serving from 1934 to 1939. The Army's fifth general was George Carpenter, succeeded in 1946 by Albert Orsborn. General Wilfred Kitching was elected in 1954, succeeded by Frederick Coutts in 1963. Erik Wickberg followed in 1969; Clarence Wiseman in 1974; Arnold Brown in 1977; Jarl Wahlstrom in 1981; and Eva Burrows, the second female general, in 1986. General Bramwell Tillsley was elected in 1993 and was succeeded by General Paul Rader in 1994, followed by General John Gowans in 1999, General John Larsson in 2002, and General Shaw Clifton in 2006. General Linda Bond was elected the 19th General of The Salvation Army in January 2011, the third female to serve in this capacity. She currently commands the Army from International Headquarters in London, England.

CatherineWife - Catherine Booth (17 January 1829 - 4 October 1890) Because of her influence in the formation of The Salvation Army she was known as the 'Mother of The Salvation Army'.

BramwellBooth    Son - Bramwell Booth, (8 March 1856 - 16 June 1929) was the first Chief of Staff (1881-1912) and the second General of The Salvation Army (1912-1929), succeeding his father.

EvangelineBooth    Daughter - Evangeline Cory Booth (December 25, 1865 - July 17, 1950) was the 4th General of the Salvation Army from 1934 to 1939.


AUGUST 20th - This date in 2013 marks the 101 year anniversary of the passing of William Booth, Founder of The Salvation Army. It was and still is a monumental day in Salvation Army history, for what occurred that day was noted around the world. Newspapers told the story of the man who stood with the poor; who founded a religious organization that spread throughout the world, and continues to grow today. People from all walks of life took note of the passing, as The London Times reported:

"A man must be dull of soul who is unimpressed by what took place yesterday in London . . . for it was a rare and singular thing.

Let any one who is minded to belittle it ask himself how many men in history, devoid of rank or power or station, have won from their fellow-men . . . high and low, such a tribute of devotion and respect."

(The Times, August 30, 1912; pg 5): R. Gordon Moyles, author of several books on The Salvation Army, has released a new book recounting the events surrounding the General's last days, entitled Farewell to the Founder.

Included are numerous tributes from people of influence who recognized the significance of the moment:

Condolences poured in from presidents and prime ministers, emperors, kings and queens, church leaders and politicians.

More than 100,000 people from all classes of society stood in line for hours to pay their respects at a four-day public viewing at Congress Hall in London.

On the day of the funeral, which was designated an official half-holiday, more than two million people flanked the streets of London to see the five mile long funeral cortege pass by.

In remembering William Booth's death, we can more deeply appreciate the impact of his passion for saving souls and for helping the outcast and the homeless.

For those who, like me, appreciate historical sources, I share with you a few links to news and video from that day:



You can view the funeral procession on YouTube:

Those of us who are part of today's Salvation Army mission owe it to ourselves and our work to learn what we can about the work and passion of William and Catherine Booth. For more information, check out the Divisional Library Resource Catalog, available through a link from the website at:


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