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The Salvation Army


Salvation army establishments - A very comprehensive account of nineteenth century Salvaton Army ventures in the nineteenth century, from the excellent and indispensable Workhouse site.

Wikipedia - for the encyclopedia kind of article - all the salient facts are here.

Portsmouth Citadel Band - The site includes a brief history with a few photos

The Salvation Army and doughnuts - a short video clip that shows us how the Salvos may have invented the doughnut

YouTube - lots of choices, mostly American of videos on the history of the Salvation Army

The Salvation Army (UK) - still the world headquarters

The Salvation Army in WW1 - told from the American point of view, but interesting nonetheless

The Salvation Army was founded in 1865 in London’s East End by William Booth and his wife Catherine, former Methodists and evangelists.  It began life as the Christian Revival Association, then the East London Christian Mission, “but in 1878 Booth reorganized it along military lines when his son Bramwell objected to being called a "volunteer" and stated that he was a "regular" or nothing. The name then became The Salvation Army” (Wikipedia).

Booth was much affected by the plight of the poor and destitute, and founded his church out of a desire to meet their physical needs, and also their spiritual needs, which were not being met by the established church, whose members were often scandalised by the attendance of the poor at their churches.  For the Booths, no-one was too far gone to be saved.  William Booth expressed their aims thus: "The three ‘S's’ best expressed the way in which the Army administered to the 'down and outs': first, soup; second, soap; and finally, salvation."  To this end they set up soup kitchens and shelters where the poor could find a bed, or a warm place for the night.  One of the first of these was a Woman’s Shelter in Whitechapel (illustrated below. 

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We know the Salvation Army today from the annual Red Shield Appeal, for their op shops and the good work they do with those that other charities seem to neglect - the homeless, the meths drinkers, the junkies.  In my youth I also remember a lot of Salvation Army bands, and I’m sure they still exist, but they do not seem to be so evident - and the religion bit is also not as obvious to us people on the outer, though I am sure that it is in evidence if you are on of their beneficiaries, which is odd since we live in an age of religious fervour.  There have, of course, as with all charitable organisations, been claims of abuse and malpractice - but not that many and overall the Army is a generally admired organisation.

I shall not attempt to provide an in-depth, or even short potted history here, as others have already done this much better than I ever could - see the Links column at left.  So just a few random facts and the odd quotation accompanied by some pictures I found here and there on the net.  The reason it appears on this website at all is that several members of my mother’s family seem to have been members of the Sally Army as it is known in England.  Here in Australia we call them the Salvos.

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The Workhouse site has a lengthy extract from an account of a visit in 1891, part of which is quoted here:

 “The rule of the Shelter is—bed at nine, rise at six, and all out by eight. Night after night the same poor old Goodies come in from the harsh world to rest in the friendly warmth of this Shelter. They do their little industries in the big hall, and knit trifles for the morrow's sale by which they are to secure their right to their board and lodging here. Attached to this woman's Shelter is a place for mothers and their babies ; and to supplement the "unwomanly rags" in which so many arrive, the Captain often organises a sale of old clothes, which, at least, are cleaner and more sufficing than those which these poor creatures are wearing.”

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The extract from the visit illustrates well the nineteenth century mix of compassion and condemnation, together with the faith that salvation was just around the corner if one did but pull oneself together.

Men were housed in separate shelters, where, for a penny, they could find shelter, sitting up, somewhere warm, and breakfast.  For a little more they could have a bunk and food in the evening.  The real price, of course, was to sit through a service and the Army’s attempts at conversion.  Probably a very small price to pay.

I guess the last thing for which they are famous is the Salvation Army band - and within the band, the tambourine.  The bands were begun as a distracting mechanism, for when they first went out into the streets attempting to convert people they were met by a lot of opposition.  The music distracted the crowd and allowed the ‘soldiers’ to spread their message.  I do remember seeing them play quite a bit when I was young, but cannot recall any now - maybe I don’t live in the right areas - maybe they do major concerts now rather than stand on street corners.

After a little while the Army also organised ‘Elevators’ or work projects, where people could manufacture things or work in the open air.  It provided training and a job, although it was probably not very well paid.

The Army also set up their own churches, or citadels, where the poor could worship Jesus.  Their beliefs included a dismissal of several sacraments, including baptism and communion, as masking the pure beliefs of Christianity.  They eschewed alcohol, gambling, smoking, drugs and pornography - so a fairly rigid, but pure set of beliefs.

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