Billy Graham Center
Hitting the Sawdust Trail with Billy Sunday
(The documents and images featured here are for
the personal use of students, scholars and the public. Any commercial use
or publication of them is strictly prohibited.)
Click on images to view full-sized photographs
Click here to link to a Web page with an online audio file of Billy Sunday's "Booze" sermon.
Sunday is still one of the twentieth century's best known evangelists.
By the time of his death in 1935, he had preached to millions, and it is
estimated that three hundred thousand men and women were led to faith in
Christ at his over two hundred campaigns. He was also recognized for his
determined contribution to passing the Prohibition Amendment, and promoting
the sale of war bonds during World War I. None of the recognition, however,
replaces the impact Sunday had on the lives of those who hit the sawdust
trail at one of his meetings.
Sunday himself was converted at the Pacific Garden Mission in Chicago (1886) while playing professional baseball for the Chicago White Stockings. In 1891, he left baseball to enter full-time Christian work, first at Chicago's
YMCA, and then working for itinerant evangelists. He held his first independent
evangelistic crusade in Garner, Iowa, in 1896, beginning a career which
spanned five decades.
In his heyday, Sunday's campaigns were held in temporary wooden structures
or tabernacles, built for the event. Sawdust covered the tabernacle floor.
Those who responded to Sunday's appeal to trust Christ walked up the sawdust
covered aisles to shake the evangelist's hand. These campaigns, however,
were preceded by extensive planning and prayer, and there was usually a
A Sunday campaign was the product of the contributions of many people.
Sunday developed a team of co-workers which traveled with him and handled
various duties, including administration and music. Key figures on this
team were his wife Helen (or Ma), musicians Homer Rodeheaver and B.D. Ackley,
and businesswoman Virginia Asher. Local clergy and lay volunteers were
also instrumental in planning and running a Sunday evangelistic campaign.
This virtual display case contains a visual
and documentary sampling of those campaigns where Sunday practiced his
energetic and often criticized evangelistic style. It also highlights the
contribution he and his co-workers made to evangelistic methods in America.
Together these items not only illustrate Sunday's ministry but also suggest
topics for your further study. If you want to learn more about Billy Sunday
or evangelism in the United States, we encourage you to visit the Archives
Reading Room on the third floor and/or review the guides on our website. To get a
list of all of the collections in the BGC Archives with information on Billy
Sunday, go to our searchable online
database and search the term Sunday, Billy.
...or order reels of microfilm of the Sunday Papers by
loan. The originals which comprise the microfilm edition of the Sundays'
papers (Collection 61) are held by:
Grace College and Theological Seminary
200 Seminary Drive
Winona Lake, Indiana 46590
Click to see a list of other institutions
which also have the microfilm edition of the Sundays' Papers.
If you would like more information on how to order a video copy of The Billy Sunday Storyfrom several commercial vendors, visit the Archives FAQ page with contact details.
We'd like to know what you think of this exhibit. Feel free to send
us an e-mail message at
with your comments or questions.
Last Revised: 8/31/01