Northern Division: Serving every county in Minnesota and North Dakota
William Booth writes at his desk

Nat’l Salvation Army Week, Part IV: History

Added on Thursday, May 17, 2018

National Salvation Army Week is May 14-20. To celebrate, The Salvation Army Northern Division will publish a special story every weekday of the event. Each story will highlight a topic or service that illustrates how The Salvation Army is Doing the Most Good® in Minnesota and North Dakota. Please help us #FightForGood by volunteering or making a donation.  

Incredibly, The Salvation Army was founded nearly 100 years before President Dwight D. Eisenhower declared the first National Salvation Army Week in 1954.

The Salvation Army first organized in 1865, when a 36-year-old Methodist minister named William Booth (pictured above) and his wife, Catherine, began reaching out to drunkards, prostitutes, and thieves in the slums of London, England. The Booths offered food, shelter, clothing, and the message of Christ. (Listen to William Booth preach.)

Thirteen years later, in 1878, The Salvation Army brand was born when William Booth and his son, Bramwell, stumbled upon the name by accident. (Watch what happened.)

Old photo of Eastside Salvation Army locationThe Salvation Army came to America in 1880, opening its first operation center in Minnesota in 1886, followed by North Dakota in 1896. By 1900, The Salvation Army had opened 21 facilities in both states. Today The Salvation Army operates 26 Worship and Service Centers in Minnesota and North Dakota, plus satellite offices, housing facilities, and 30 Salvation Army Stores. (Pictured: The Eastside Salvation Army in 1913.)

William Booth died in 1912 (watch video of his funeral), yet his legacy and vision remain alive and well. Across America and in 129 countries around the world, The Salvation Army – the fourth largest charity in America – continues to fight for millions of souls by demonstrating the love of Christ through food and shelter programs, rehabilitation services, disaster relief, and other critical support.

Last year in Minnesota and North Dakota, The Salvation Army helped 353,000 people, including 700,000 hot meals served, 209,000 nights of shelter, 82,500 bags of groceries, and much more.

Portrait of President Dwight EisenhowerOur commitment to serving people in need, without discrimination, is what led President Eisenhower (pictured) to announce the following when he declared the first National Salvation Army Week more than 60 years ago: “Among Americans, The Salvation Army has long been a symbol of wholehearted dedication to the cause of brotherhood.”

Explore our history

Click on the links below to delve deeper into The Salvation Army’s local and worldwide history during National Salvation Army Week.

A woman rings a bell at a red kettleOrigin of the Red Kettle: They’re one of the most iconic and successful fundraising tools of all time. How’d they start?

William and Catherine Booth: Learn more about the husband and wife who started it all.

Twin Cities history: People hurled rotten tomatoes at Salvation Army officers when they first arrived in Minneapolis and St. Paul in 1886.

Historic photos: The Minnesota Historical Society has 140 photographs depicting old-time Salvation Army activities in Minnesota.

Donut girls: The Salvation Army popularized donuts in America during World War I after Salvation Army “Donut Lassies” served soldiers battling on the front lines.

Join the Fun

To celebrate National Salvation Army Week, we’re hosting nightly trivia May 14-18, aptly named Sal Army Trivia. Are you ready to play? Take a look at our Sal Army Trivia rules so you know what to expect.

Nat’l Salvation Army Week stories

Help celebrate National Salvation Army Week by volunteering or making a donation to support your local community.