© 2007 Utah Humanities Council
In December 1894, General William Booth arrived in Salt Lake City by train. Booth, an Englishman who was born into a poverty-stricken family in Nottingham, converted to evangelical Christianity while still a teenager, an experience that led him to seek out the most downtrodden of English society. Out of this ministry emerged the Salvation Army, a mostly urban religious organization that focused on the moral redemption of prostitutes, alcoholics, and other so-called social outcasts.
By all accounts, the people of Salt Lake City received Booth warmly. Posters announcing his visit had been put up all around town in the days leading up to his arrival. Nearly a dozen of the city’s Protestant ministers were on hand to greet the old general as he stepped off the train, then they whisked him away to the First Methodist Church for a private reception with local religious and civic leaders. But it was Booth’s evening address in the LDS Tabernacle that was the centerpiece of his visit. According to newspaper reports, the place was nearly packed. According to the Salt Lake Tribune, when the general took the stand to rail against poverty and expound on the horrors of slum living, his voice seemed to “reach the sympathies of every hearer.”
The general, however, did issue a rebuke to the Tabernacle crowd, claiming they were “the most restless” he had ever addressed. Years later, his opinion toward Salt Lake had mellowed and he remembered that nowhere was he received “with greater respect than in Salt Lake City by the Mormons.”
Content for this episode of the Beehive Archive was provided by the Utah State Historical Society and the Utah Statehood Centennial Commission.
See news reports about Booth in the following editions of the Salt Lake Tribune: December 13 and 14, 1894. Also see the January 1996 collection of the History Blazer, a joint project of the Utah State Historical Society and the Utah State Centennial Commission. The History Blazer can be found on the Utah History Suite CD available from the Utah State Historical Society.