William Booth Establishes The Christian Mission In London's East End

On July 5, 1865, William Booth, an ordained Methodist minister and his wife Catherine, established the Christian Mission in London's poverty-stricken East End.

Renamed the Salvation Army in 1878, the Booths were determined to assail the twin enemies of poverty and religious indifference with the efficiency of a military organization. Booth modeled his organization after the British army, labeling ministers "officers" and new members "recruits."

He espoused the religious doctrines subscribed to by mainstream Protestant evangelical denominations at the time. The Salvation Army was unique, however, in its commitment to establishing a presence in the most forsaken neighborhoods and in its provision for the absolute equality of women within the organization.

Booth was born in Sneinton, Nottingham, England, the only son of four surviving children born to Samuel Booth and Mary Moss. His father was wealthy by the standards of the time, but during Booth's childhood, as a result of his father's bad investments, the family descended into poverty.

In 1842, Samuel Booth, who by then was bankrupt, could no longer afford his son's school fees, and 13-year-old William Booth was apprenticed to a pawn-broker. Samuel Booth died later that same year.

Two years into his apprenticeship Booth was converted to 'salvation' and Methodism. He then read extensively and trained himself in writing and in speech, becoming a Methodist lay preacher. Booth was encouraged to be an evangelist primarily through his best friend, Will Sansom. Sansom and Booth both began in the 1840s to preach to the poor and the "sinners" of Nottingham, and Booth would probably have remained as Sansom's partner in his new "Mission" ministry, as Sansom titled it, had Sansom not died of tuberculosis, in 1848.

Ah--that charming Captain Shout is coming to convert me to-day. Ha, ha…I'll just let them go ahead, as long as they send the Captain to me, for I do like him so much…I must have the piano open for him, for these Salvationists do love to sing and make a noise wherever they go.”

— "Mrs. Gay"