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 follow-up program.
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 key in planning and running a Sunday evangelistic campaign.
This exhibit consists of images accompanied by text which illustrate a sampling of those campaigns where lives were changed, where Sunday practiced his energetic and often criticized evangelistic style, and where he and his co-workers made their contribution 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, review the guides on our website:
...or order reels of microfilm of the Sunday Papers by inter-library loan. The originals which comprise the microfilm edition of the Sundays' papers (Collection 61) are held by:
Click to see a list of other institutions which also have the microfilm edition of the Sundays' Papers.