Clicking on the Web: Salvation Army got start in London

It’s music to our ears every Thanksgiving and Christmas season.

Howared Lestrud
Howared Lestrud

It is the pleasant sound of bells ringing at many Salvation Army Red Kettle locations around our communities.

The drive is well under way and continues until Christmas.

The Red Kettle Campaign began two weeks ago with the aim to raise $9.8 million in the 10-county Twin Cities metro area.

It is hoped that $3.4 million of that total will come from the Red Kettle donations.

Annette Bauer of the Salvation Army said the Salvation Army Christmas donations will be used during the year to fund housing and food programs helping a growing number of Minnesota residents found in crisis situations.

People who want to volunteer can sign up online at or call 651-746-3519.

Country music star Kenny Chesney kicked off the 122nd national Salvation Army Red Kettle Campaign with a live concert at halftime of last Thursday’s National Football League game in Dallas, Texas.

Last Christmas, the American public donated a record $146.7 million to the Salvation Army’s red kettles.

People of all ages know the purpose of The Salvation Army red kettles but many of us do not know the history of The Salvation Army.

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Let’s read:

William Booth 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.

Early Salvationists were subjected to violence and ridicule.

Publications of the day, such as this 1885 issue of Puck, poked fun at their uniforms and methods.

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.Commissioner George Scott Railton and seven Hallelujah Lassies officially “opened fire” in the United States on March 10, 1880.

On March 10, 1880, Commissioner George Scott Railton and seven women 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.

By the time he died, Booth had laid a firm foundation and 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.

Editor’s note: Howard Lestrud is ECM online managing editor.