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April 2017 : Autographs as Artifacts

Above: The cover of Edna Asher Case's autograph album, spanning 1922-1929

This April, the Billy Graham Center Archives features the autograph album of Edna Asher Case (1905-1999). In the 1920s, autograph albums were a popular way to document and remember the places and people you encountered—much like social media is used today. Case's autograph album—a slim 4x6 leather bound book with brightly-colored pages—offers readers today a glimpse into the bustling world of 1920s American evangelistic fervor, captured in the sprawling signatures and well wishes of celebrity revivalists, musicians, and urban social work crusaders.

Born in 1905 to parents deeply involved in evangelism work in Chicago and St. Louis, Edna's childhood coincided with the pinnacle of Billy Sunday's revival ministry. Sunday's evangelistic team included Edna's aunt, the vocalist and speaker, Virginia Asher. Through her aunt's connections, Edna was introduced to many of the leading evangelists and revival preachers of the early twentieth century whose signatures and personal messages fill her autograph book. The album contains dated entries spanning 1922-1929, and and ranging from Chicago to Winona Lake, Indiana.

Edna Case's autograph book is held the BGC Archives Collection 197 Papers of Virginia Healey Asher which contains more information about Asher's contribution to Billy Sunday's revival team and her own evangelistic and social work in Chicago and beyond.

More examples of twentieth-century photograph albums are found in Collection 231 and Collection 562.

Additionally, Collection 196, contains an oral history interview in which Edna Case describes her extended family's ministry activities in the Greater Chicago area—like Pacific Garden Mission—and her memories of evangelists Billy Sunday, Homer Rodeheaver, J. Wilbur Chapman, William Biederwolf, Paul Rader, and others.

Above: The autographs of William Ashley "Billy" and Helen "Ma" Sunday from July 1922. Individuals who signed Case's album often included a favorite verse reference. Never one for understatement, Billy Sunday included all 22 verses of Psalm 34. "Ma" Sunday opted for the perennial favorite, Isaiah 41:10: "Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness." (KJV)

Above: Homer A. Hammontree, a graduate of Moody Bible Institute where he later served as head of the music department. Hammontree toured army camps during both World Wars, working as a song leader with evangelist Mel Trotter and others.

Above: Autograph of influential Chicago revival leader and radio evangelist, Paul Rader, who was also serving as pastor of Moody Church when he signed this album. The address he includes is possibly his home address, which is now in Park Ridge, Illinois.

Above: Autographs of Ruth and Bettie Rodeheaver, who apparently were quite impressed with the 15-year old Edna Case in 1920, leaving the inscriptions: "To the sweetest - prettiest little lady I know" and "to her little sunshine girl."

Above: Autograph of Homer Rodeheaver, famous trombone player and gospel music pioneer. Called "Rody" by his friends, he served as a song-leader for both William Biederwolf and later Billy Sunday.

Above: Autograph of William E. Biederwolf, a well-known Presbyterian minister, evangelist, and sometime president of the Winona Lake Bible Conference. Edna Case likely met many of the celebrity revivalists and traveling musicians at a summer conference at Winona Lake.

Above: Autograph of Grace Saxe, a dedicated member of Billy Sunday's evangelistic team. From the entries above, 2 Timothy 2:15 is a reoccurring favorite verse: "Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth." (KJV)

Below: Photo of Billy Sunday's evangelistic team, which includes several individuals featured in Edna Case's autograph album—Billy Sunday, Homer Rodeheaver, Grace Saxe, and Virginia Healey Asher ("Aunt Jennie") and her husband William Asher.


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Last Revised: 03/31/2017
Expiration: indefinite

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