Billy Graham Center

Papers of William Edward Biederwolf - Collection 195

[Note: What follows is a description of the documents in this collection which are available for use at BGC Archives in Wheaton, Illinois, USA. The actual documents are not, in most cases, available online, only this description of them. Nor are they available for sale or rent.]

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Table of Contents

Brief Description of This Collection

Title Page and Restrictions

Biography of William Edward Biederwolf

An Essay on the Contents of the Collection (Scope and Content)

Other Information Which Will Be Helpful to the User of This Guide

List of Oversize Materials in This Collection (Location Records)

List of the Contents of Boxes of Paper Records in This Collection (Container List)

Brief Description

Sermons, speeches, scrapbooks, articles, correspondence, and other materials which document the education and evangelistic activities of Biederwolf.

Collection 195
[July 16, 1908]

Biederwolf, William Edward; 1867-1939
Papers; 1884-1922, n.d.
3 Boxes (1 RC, 2 ODC; 2.3 cubic feet), Oversize Materials


There are no restrictions on the use of this collection.


William was the seventh child of two German immigrants to America, Michael and Abolana Schnetzer Biederwolf. He was born in and grew up in Monticello, Indiana. After receiving his secondary education, he taught school briefly and, during an evangelistic meeting in Monticello, made a public confession of his faith in Christ. Shortly afterwards, in the fall of 1886, he enrolled as a student at Wabash College in Crawfordsville, Indiana. In 1890 he enrolled at Princeton University in New Jersey, where he received his A.B. in 1892 and his M.A. in 1894. He was also on the football team and during the summer he worked in city rescue missions in New York and Pennsylvania. He next attended Princeton Seminary, from which he graduated in 1895. Upon graduation, he spent a year assisting evangelist B. Fay Mills. He received a fellowship from Princeton to study Greek. He left in April 1896 to study at the University of Berlin in Germany, following which he toured Palestine. After a stay in Paris, he returned to the U.S. in 1897. He was ordained as a Presbyterian minister the same year. His first pastorate was Broadway Presbyterian Church of Logansport, Indiana. The next year, 1898, he volunteered for service in the Spanish-American War and was made chaplain of the 161 Indiana Volunteer Infantry. His year of military service included six months in Cuba. He returned to Logansport for two more years as a pastor and in 1900 resigned to go into evangelistic work full time.

For a number of years, he spent much of his time assisting in the evangelistic campaigns of J. Wilbur Chapman. Then, as he became better known, he began to hold more of his own meetings. Between 1910 and 1920, he was often listed with Chapman and Billy Sunday as one of the leading evangelists in the country. Besides city-wide meetings, he also was involved in attempts to organize state-wide simultaneous meetings. In 1923-1924, he left the U.S. for a preaching tour of the Far East. He served for a time as president of the Interdenominational Association of Evangelists and then as chairman of the Commission on Evangelism of the Federal Council of Churches. In 1909, he began the Family Altar League which encouraged members of families to pray and have devotions together. Many of his activities centered on Winona Lake, Indiana. From 1922-1939, he served as director of the Winona Lake Bible Conference. He also served as director of the Winona School of Theology from 1922-1933 and was president from 1933-1939. These posts were in addition to the pastorate of the Royal Poinciana Chapel which he held from 1929 until his death on September 10, 1939. He had several books published, including several volumes of selected sermons. He received an honorary Doctorate of Divinity from Northern Baptist Theological Seminary in 1931 and an honorary Doctor of Laws from Bever College in 1934.

In April 1896, William married Ida Casad, who also grew up in Monticello.

Scope and Content

[NOTE: In the Scope and Content description, the notation "folder 2-5" means box 2, folder 5.]

The collection consists mostly of scrapbooks, magazine articles, and manuscripts of Biederwolf's sermons and speeches. There are also a few letters and some miscellaneous items. They were in no particular order when received by the Archives, so the folder titles and the arrangement are the archivist's.

Most of the speeches and sermons date from Biederwolf's college days. They were either exercises for class or were perhaps given at small gatherings or at city rescue missions. The speeches touch on political and social questions of the day, such as the position of Blacks in America (folder 1-28), the prohibition party (folder 1-31), and land policy inequities (folder 1-26). Others praise famous men (folder 1-32) or patriotism (folder 1-30). The sermons, similarly, trace the development of his style. Some sermons have a number of dates on the front cover which indicate when they were delivered. The latest date was put on the folder title. A few sermons are from his later career, such as folders 1-20 and 1-23.

A few items are concerned with his Spanish-American War experiences--a sermon he preached when he left home in 1898 (folder 1-21) and comments he made when he returned home (folder 1-36).

Biederwolf apparently was a devoted scrapbook keeper. Some of the scrapbooks in the collection (folders 1-8, 1-10, 2-4, and 2-5) consist largely of anecdotes and sermons from other preachers, such as T. DeWitt Talmage, J. Wilbur Chapman, and many others. Others appear to have been compiled during Biederwolf's own activities. The scrapbook in folder 1-7 is concerned mainly with a rescue mission in Scranton, Pennsylvania, which Biederwolf served briefly as superintendent in 1892. The scrapbook in folder 3-1 contains articles, handbills, tickets, posters, and letters from Biederwolf's apprenticeship with Mills and Chapman as well as records of his own evangelistic meetings. There are numerous accounts of the work of the three men in different cities around the country, descriptions of the reactions they provoked, and lengthy excerpts from sermons. The scrapbook in folder 1-9 contains newspaper accounts of (apparently) Biederwolf's sermons. Folders 2-1, 2-2, and 2-3 contain magazines which give a very complete picture of evangelism in early twentieth-century America and the pitch of enthusiasm which was reached just before World War I. There are several magazines devoted solely to "revivalism," "trail-hitting," etc., which describe the techniques for united meetings of all churches, single church meetings, and simultaneous campaigns. Several magazines describe the Kansas Forward Campaign of 1908-1909 in which Biederwolf carried the idea of simultaneous campaigns a step further and held evangelistic meetings all over an entire state. Other articles discuss the Men and Religion Forward Movement, which was a national evangelistic effort. Virtually every evangelist of any fame has his or her work described in one of these journals. Among those mentioned are Billy Sunday, Henry Stough, Gypsy Smith, and John Linden. Folder 2-3 contains several magazines from Australia describing the evangelistic meetings held by Chapman and Charles Alexander in that country in 1909. Of special interest are two issues of Brann's Iconoclast in folder 2-2 which contain extended critiques of Billy Sunday's work and a movie review of D. W. Griffith's film classic Intolerance in the February 1917 issue of The United Presbyterian. Folder 2-3 contains a brochure about the attempts of the Men and Religion Forward Movement in Atlanta, Georgia, to deal with white slavery and prostitution.

Folder 1-5 contains some brochures explaining the work of various components of an evangelistic campaign, such as the music committee and the personnel workers. There are also in the same folder pamphlets describing Biederwolf's meetings in Plainfield, New Jersey; New Brunswick, New Jersey; Alton, Illinois; Rushville, Indiana; and Hamilton, Ohio.

The correspondence in folder 1-1 mainly deals with theological questions, such as what is the unforgivable sin. There are also testimonials to Biederwolf's work. Apparently he used these letters for advertising purposes or as sermon illustrations. There is an interesting note in this file by a Mr. Holden stating that he would not be able to speak at the Winona Lake Conference and hinting that the reason is because Mel Trotter had been removed from the conference.


The material in this collection was given by J. Palmer Muntz to his son, J. Richard Muntz, who in turn gave the material to the Center in May 1980 and September 1981, except for a 1915 postcard which was acquired from a manuscript dealer in January 1981.

Accession 80-74, 81-1
December 17, 1981
Robert Shuster
J. Malone
J. Nasgowitz


NOTE: The meetings at the end of the list are ones for which no dates are known. Meetings followed by "Mills" or "Chapman" in parentheses were meetings led by one of these evangelists in which Biederwolf assisted. For some meetings only the year is known or the year and length of meeting (4 weeks, 6 weeks, etc.).

Date Location
October-November, 1895 Louisville, Kentucky (Mills)
November, 1895 Columbus, Ohio (Mills)
1896 New Haven, Connecticut (Mills)
February 11-16, 1896 West Haven, Connecticut
March, 1896 Lagoda, Indiana
September, 1901 Flemingsburg, Kentucky
1901? Mt. Sterling, Kentucky
January, 1902 Goshen, Indiana
November-December, 1902 Eau Claire, Wisconsin
December, 1902 Wichita, Kansas
December 28, 1902-January, 1903 Marion, Indiana
15 days, 1902? West Bay City, Michigan
1902? Elkhart, Indiana
1903 Janesville, Wisconsin
November, 1903 Ft. Scott, Kansas
January 3-February, 1904 Emporia, Kansas
February 14-28, 1904? Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (Chapman)
March, 1904 Columbus, Ohio (Chapman)
March, 1904 Chicago, Illinois (Chapman)
April, 1904 Oak Park, Illinois
December 5-19, 1904 Pueblo, Colorado
1904 Atlanta, Georgia (Chapman)
1905 Portland, Oregon (Chapman)
1905? Jamestown, New York
1905? New Brunswick, New Jersey
1906 Ottawa, Canada (Chapman)
1906 Davenport, Iowa (Chapman)
1907 Smith Center, Kansas
April 26 - May 26, 1908 Creston, Iowa
September 1, 1908-June 30, 1909 Kansas Forward Simultaneous Evangelism Campaign
January 1-15, 1911 Boston, Massachusetts. Tremont Temple
6 weeks, 1911 Xenia, Ohio
5 weeks, 1911 Streator, Illinois
5 weeks, 1911 Piqua, Ohio
5 weeks, 1911 Lorraine, Ohio
September 22-28, 1912 Rush County, Indiana
5 weeks, 1912 Hamilton, Ohio
5 weeks, 1912 Greensburg, Pennsylvania
March 23-April, 1913 Williamsport, Pennsylvania
5 weeks, 1913 Jamestown, New York
5 weeks, 1914? Waynesboro, Pennsylvania
February 14-March 28, 1915 Meadville, Pennsylvania
5 weeks, ca. 1914-1916 Lockport, New York
5 weeks, ca. 1914-1916 Norristown, Pennsylvania
6 weeks, ca. 1914-1916 Watertown, New York
6 weeks, ca. 1914-1916 York, Pennsylvania
6 weeks, ca. 1914-1916 Allentown, Pennsylvania
April 9-May 22, 1916 Plainfield, New Jersey
1917 Wilkinsburg, Pennsylvania
1919 Los Angeles, California
1920 Princeton, New Jersey
September, 1923-March, 1924 Hawaii, Japan, Korea, China, Philippines, India, Siam, Australia
January 6, 1935 Dover, New Jersey
? Sioux Falls, South Dakota
? Austin, Texas
? Beloit, Kansas
? Anaconda, Montana
? Hamilton, Iowa
? Alton, Illinois
? Long Beach, California
? West Palm Beach, Florida
? Charleston, South Carolina
? Coffeyville, Kansas
? Hamilton, Ohio
? Birmingham, New York



Name Duties
G. Kilmer Ackley
Charles Alexander Vocalist, song leader
Henry Backemeyer Cottage prayer meetings organizer
D. Vincent Blayney General Assistant
Helen Boals Pianist, secretary
Marie F. Brake Women's work
Fred Butler Vocalist
E. O. Excell Vocalist
Lawrence Greenwood Shop meetings organizer, musician
Homer Grimes Shop meetings organizer
James Heaton Vocalist
G. Tilson Hobson Shop meetings organizer
Howard Wade Kinsey Vocalist
William "Billy" McEwan Vocalist, choir leader
Harry Maxwell Vocalist
Ralph Mitchell Vocalist
Mae Parshall Pianist, personal work
Charles Roach Shop meetings organizer
Paul Roberts Publicity
Alvin W. Roper Pianist
Henry Sluyter Children's worker
Clarence B. Strouse
F. Swarthout Advance Man
E. Howard Taylor General Assistant
Ray G. Upson Vocalist
Will Weeden Vocalist

Accession 80-74
Type of material: Oversize Materials
The following items are located in the OS FILE. Request by the boldfaced folder title and OS# at the beginning of each entry below.

SCRAPBOOK PAGES; 1904, N.D. (OS 17). Two pages (#'s 62 and 73) from the scrapbook in box 3. Front of page 62 has articles about Biederwolf's meetings in Ft. Scott, Kansas, in 1903. The back of page 62 and front of page 73 are both 1904 (?) posters announcing Biederwolf meetings. The back of page 73 has an undated article about an address by Biederwolf to a Spanish-American War veteran's convention.


Box Folder Item
Articles about Biederwolf
2 1 1903-1911
2 2 1913-1922
2 3 1909-1912
1 1 College Essays; 1890-1892
1 2 Correspondence; 1895-1922
Debate Notes
1 3 1884
1 4 1891
1 5 Evangelistic Materials; 1912-1916, n.d.
1 6 Prayer; March 1886
2 4 ca. 1890
1 7 1892-1903
3 1 1895-1904, n.d. including poster
1 8 1902-1903
2 5 n.d.
1 9 n.d.
1 10 n.d.
1 11 Bible Study; 1893
1 12 Christian Heroism; 1893
1 13 Gospel of the Kingdom; n.d.
1 14 Hebrews 9:26, 24, 28; 1893
1 15 Jeremiah 8:9; ca. 1897
1 16 John 19:18; 1891
1 17 Mark 12:34; 1892
1 18 Matthew 16:26; 1891
1 19 Untitled; n.d.
1 20 Wycliffe Smith's Funeral; 1899
1 21 Concerning His Appointment as Chaplain of the 161 Indiana Volunteers
1 22 Sermon Illustrations, "Sayings from my Sermons"; n.d.
1 23 Sermon on Booze; n.d.
1 24 Sermon on Death, untitled; n.d.
1 25 Empire and Equal Rights; 1887
1 26 Feudalism in the Land of Lincoln; n.d.
1 27 Mohamedaean Enthusiast; n.d.
1 28 Negro Exodus; n.d.
1 29 Old Settlers; 1887
1 30 The Patriots of East Tennessee; n.d.
1 31 The Prohibition Party; 1888
1 32 Thomas Edison; n.d.
1 33 Two Men, One of Genius and One of Talent; n.d.
1 34 Welcome to Alumni; ca. 1905
1 35 Yearbook; 1892
1 36 Toasts; ca. 1898

Click to see the presentation ""Make This the Best Year of Our Lives": Scenes of Christian Ministry from the Year 1898.", which includes material from this collection.

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