Hitting the Sawdust Trail with Billy Sunday

(The documents and images featured here are for the personal use of students, scholars and the public. Any commercial use or publication of them is strictly prohibited.)

Campaign interior during one of Sunday's meetings in Bloomington, Illinois. This particular meeting was on January 19, 1908. The dates of the Bloomington meetings were December 27, 1907-February 3, 1908.

Portrait of Billy Sunday, 1916
Billy Sunday is still one of the twentieth century's best known evangelists. By the time of his death in 1935, he had preached to millions, and it is estimated that three hundred thousand men and women were led to faith in Christ at his over two hundred campaigns. He was also recognized for his determined contribution to passing the Prohibition Amendment, and promoting the sale of war bonds during World War I. None of the recognition, however, replaces the impact Sunday had on the lives of those who hit the sawdust trail at one of his meetings.

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.


Detail of the front page from the New York American's "Extra" on Sunday in 1917


Outside tabernacle during 1912 Campaign in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania
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.


Inside the tabernacle for the 1911 campaign in Toledo, Ohio

Group photo of the Sunday team of the members of Sunday's team in 1913.
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 instrumental in planning and running a Sunday evangelistic campaign.


Detail from the back page of the New York American's "Extra" showing campaign organization graphic, 1917.

Wheaton College 2005


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"I tell you that the curse of God Almighty is on the saloon." -Billy Sunday

"Whiskey and beer are all right in their place, but their place is in hell." -Billy Sunday

"The man who votes for the saloon is pulling on the same rope with the devil, whether he knows it or not." -Billy Sunday

Billy Sunday (1862-1935)


Beer is for fools!!! 


Watch Billy Sunday preach!

Billy Sunday Sayings

More Billy Sunday History

More Sermons by Billy Sunday

Hear Billy Sunday's "Booze Kills!" (MP3)

Hear Billy Sunday on Prohibition (MP3)

G.A.D.D -God Against Drunk Drivers

The Salvation of a Nation (by Pastor Jack Hyles)

We Can Have Revival Now (Evangelist John R. Rice)


Alcohol Kills!


"Whiskey and beer are all right in their place, but their place is in hell." -Billy Sunday

"I want to preach the gospel so plainly that men can come from the factories and not have to bring along a dictionary." Billy Sunday

Ye Must Be Born Again!