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Collection 322 Papers of Oswald J. Smith

Identifier: CN 322

Scope and Contents

Correspondence, audio tapes, hymn and poem manuscripts, lantern slides, phonograph records, negatives, photographs, tracts, posters, audio tapes, clippings, scrapbooks, etc., related to Oswald J. Smith's career as an evangelist, pastor, author and editor, hymn writer and poet, colporteur, and promoter of missions involvement. Includes material on the Smith family; his evangelistic ministry, particularly in Canada; the North American hymn publishing industry, particularly correspondence with other composers and lyricists; and his pastoring the Dale Presbyterian Church, Toronto Alliance Tabernacle, and Gospel Tabernacle of Los Angeles, the Cosmopolitan Tabernacle (in Toronto), Toronto Gospel Tabernacle; Peoples Church of Toronto; promotion of missionary enterprises. Persons featured include B.D. Ackley, Charles Alexander, Merrill Dunlop, Stuart Hamblen, Homer Hammontree, Redd Harper, Louis Paul Lehman, Harry Dixon Loes, Paul Rader, R.A. Torrey and Smith's family members, including his wife, Daisy, and son, Paul.


  • Created: 1890-1986

Conditions Governing Access

There are no restrictions on the use of this collection.

Biographical Information

Oswald Jeffrey Smith was born to Benjamin (a railroad telegrapher) and Alice Smith in Odessa, Ontario, in 1889, the eldest of ten children (See partial Smith genealogy in Folder 11-1).

Smith's conversion occurred while attending an R.A. Torrey/Charles Alexander evangelistic meeting when he was sixteen. When eighteen, while working in Toronto, he enrolled in night classes at the Toronto Bible Training School (later renamed Toronto Bible College and then Ontario Bible College). Smith was prone to sickness throughout his childhood and not expected to survive his teenage years. This poor health directly affected his applications to the Foreign Missions Board of the Presbyterian Church, which were rejected. However, it was in 1908 while a theology student that Smith served with the Upper Canada Bible Society, selling Bibles and carrying the Gospel to the Indians and backwoods people of Canada. It was during this time that he preached his first sermon.

Smith held his first extended evangelistic campaign in Toronto in 1911. During that summer, he worked with the Pocket Testament League of Canada as its traveling secretary. While completing his final year at Toronto Bible College, he also served as pastor of two churches. In 1913, he preached for the summer months among mountain people of Kentucky. Later while studying at McCormick Theological Seminary, he pastored several Presbyterian churches in the Chicago area. He was ordained by one of those Presbyterian churches in 1915, following his graduation from McCormick. However, he soon returned to Toronto to serve as an associate pastor of Canada's second largest Presbyterian church, Dale Presbyterian, under the church's senior pastor, J.D. Morrow. There he met his wife, Daisy Billings, a deaconess, whom he married in 1916. Later that year Smith replaced Morrow, but himself resigned in 1918. In 1919, unable to find another pastorate, Smith left Toronto for British Columbia to preach to lumberjacks with the Shantymen's Christian Association. However, the tour was limited to six months as he and Daisy returned to Toronto for the birth of their second child.

Smith began holding services in Toronto in 1920 at the Gospel Tabernacle. Shortly after opening that work, he was invited by the relatively new Christian & Missionary Alliance to assume the pastorate of a struggling congregation. The Gospel Tabernacle merged with the Parkdale C & MA, of which he became the pastor; during Smith's year and a half pastorate there, the congregation grew from twenty-four to over 1800 members. A tent meeting in 1921 produced such an influx of people that a new church building was needed. Built in 1922 and dedicated by Paul Rader, the new church was called the Alliance Tabernacle. Smith featured various evangelists and singers from North America, enabling him to continue his continent-wide preaching ministry as well. One of these speakers, William Felter of the Russian Missionary Society, accompanied Smith in 1924 on his first ministry tour outside the continent, going to nine European countries and holding meetings in Latvia and Poland. Smith also established: the Wayside Mission to send workers into the Canadian northland; the King's Messengers to distribute tracts; a mission to the Jews with an ex-rabbi leading it; and the Canadian Bible Institute to train new missionaries. And Smith set up the Tabernacle Publishers to produce his new monthly, "People's Magazine."

Smiths' service with the C & MA concluded when he resigned in 1926 after being asked to assume a district superintendent's post. Wanting to concentrate his energy on evangelistic efforts, he accepted a call to serve as pastor of the Gospel Tabernacle of Los Angeles in early 1927. However, a year later (1928) he returned to Toronto to establish the Cosmopolitan Tabernacle in the rented Massey Hall. He left for his second international tour at the beginning of 1929, returning to Europe. In 1930 the church moved to a formerly Presbyterian church building on Gerrard Street East, calling itself the Toronto Gospel Tabernacle. It was at that point that Smith began radio broadcasts and hosting missionary conventions. By 1934, the church had outgrown its facilities and moved to the 1600-seat Central Methodist building on Bloor Street East, renaming the church the Peoples Church. Smith continued the church's radio broadcasts with the "Back Home Hour," aired following the Sunday evening services. The church's use of media also expanded, using not only radio, but also television, film and audio cassettes.

To share his vision for world missionary outreach, Smith inaugurated annual missions conferences featuring future and furloughing missionaries and messages challenging greater missions awareness and responsibility. The combination of Smith's sermons, his international tours, the annual conferences and his implementation of such innovations as the "faith promise offering" and slogans such as "Why should anyone hear the Gospel twice before everyone has heard it once?" and "I must go, or send a substitute" fueled the church's giving of personnel and finances to missions. The missionary conferences expanded, going for as long as a month, and yielding faith pledges, a concept developed by Smith, of $300,000 annually. As a result of the evangelistic and missionary emphasis of his preaching, he was in demand throughout the US and Canada.

In 1959, Smith transferred the pastorate of the Peoples Church to his son, Paul, while he retained such titles as founder, missionary pastor and pastor emeritus. In 1963, the church again relocated, building a new sanctuary in the Toronto suburb of Willowdale.

Smith's career extended beyond that of pastor and evangelist to include poet, hymn lyricist, and author. Beginning in 1906, he wrote over 1200 hymns lyrics and poems, and also composed music for some of his lyrics. Over 200 of Smith's hymns were set to music, published largely by the Rodeheaver Company of Winona Lake, Indiana. His meeting with Gospel music composer, B.D. Ackley, in 1930, led to over 70 hymns on which the two collaborated. Smith also authored thirty-five books, which were translated into over 128 languages. Many of his sermons were also printed in pamphlet form. Smith also presented messages in two films: Baptista Films' "Passion for Souls" and Wycliffe Bible Translators' "Go Ye."

Smith's commitment to missions and evangelism took him throughout the world, preaching the Gospel and visiting mission fields. He was an active traveler throughout the world, gathering information, visiting missionaries and raising funds to support worldwide missionary efforts. Throughout his career, Smith traveled to over 70 countries, outlined in the following chronology.

• 1924 Nine European countries, which resulted in a fund-raising drive to construct a church building for Russian evangelicals in Riga, Latvia.

• 1929 England, France, Belgium, Monaco, Italy, Austria, Germany, Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania, Spain, Poland, Switzerland and Belgium. During this trip he assisted in setting up another fund drive to establish Bible schools in Latvia and Spain, as well as support work being established among Russian refugees in France and Spain.

• 1932 England, France, Spain, Egypt, Palestine, India, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Indonesia, Ethiopia, and Somalia.

• 1936 England, France, Spain, Germany, Poland, Latvia, Sweden, Denmark, Czechoslovakia, Rumania, Bulgaria, Turkey, Greece, Yugoslavia, Hungary, Austria, Belgium and Scotland.

• 1938 Hawaii, Samoa, Fiji, Australia, the Solomon Islands and New Zealand.

• 1941 Jamaica.

• 1946 England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales.

• 1948 Ireland, England, Switzerland, Holland, Belgium, France, Italy, Germany, Iceland and Jamaica.

• 1949 Scotland, Ireland, England and Iceland.

• 1950 England, Belgium, Norway, Scotland, Germany and Denmark.

• 1955 Azores, Portugal, Senegal, Liberia, the Gold Coast, Congo, North and South Rhodesia, South Africa, Sudan, Egypt, Italy, France, England and Scotland. Smith turned the administration of his church over to his son, Paul, and began a more steady pace of overseas evangelism, preaching and visiting missionaries supported by the church.

• 1957 Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay, Argentina, Chile, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Panama and Costa Rica.

• 1959 Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Finland, England, Ireland, Scotland, Japan, Hong Kong and Hawaii.

• 1960 Alaska and Japan.

• 1961 Hawaii, Fiji, Australia, New Zealand, England, Germany, Italy, Kenya, Rhodesia, South Africa and Sudan.

• 1962 Iceland.

• 1963 England, Ireland, and Wales

• 1968 Hawaii, Fiji, and Australia.

• 1969 Scotland, Norway, Sweden, and Denmark.

• 1980 England and Sweden.

Smith was educated at the Toronto Bible College (1906-1908), Manitoba College (1909-1910), Toronto Bible College (1910-1912, graduated 1912), McCormick Theological Seminary (1912-1915, graduated 1915), and received honorary degrees of Divinity from Asbury College (1936), Literature from Bob Jones University (1940), Laws from Houghton College (1946), and Humanities from California Graduate School of Theology (1977).

Other award or special honors granted to Smith included: lifetime membership in the Royal Geographical Society of London (1939); Eugene Field Society of Authors, St. Louis, MO (1940); member of the Royal Society of Literature of the United Kingdom (1952); member of the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers, New York City (1953); Outstanding Community Service Award, Burough of North York, Toronto (1969); election to Music Hall of fame, Trinity College, Clearwater, FL (1976); and Key Person Award, Christian Booksellers Association, Canada (1978). His recreations included photography and ornithology.

Smith married Daisy Billings (daughter of George Billings) in 1916. The Smiths had three children: Glen Gilmour, Paul Brainerd and Hope Evangeline Smith Lowry. Daisy Smith died on November 1, 1972. Smith died in 1986.

The collection itself contains various biographical and autobiographical sketches of Smith. Among the published works about Smith researchers may also want to consult are Lois Neely's Fire in His Bones: The official biography of Oswald J. Smith, Ed Reese's The Life and Ministry of Oswald Smith, J. Edwin Orr's Always Abounding and Doug Hall's Not Made For Defeat.


4.40 Cubic Feet (12 Boxes (11 DC, 1 ODC), Audio Tapes, Negatives, Phonograph Records, Photographs, Slides)

Language of Materials


Arrangement of Materials

[NOTE: In the Arrangement section, the notation "folder 2-5" means box 2, folder 5.]

The collection consists principally of documents which relates to Smith's career as an evangelist, pastor and hymn writer. The materials were received with general divisions between these functions apparent in the records. However, the archivist provided the arrangement within each series. Duplicates were removed from the collection and returned to the donor. The lantern slides were sampled, with the remaining slides also returned to the donor.

Paper Records (Box List)

A wide variety of subjects are documented in the Smith papers. African Americans, for example, had a role in the evangelistic work that Smith was coordinating, and some record of this is preserved in the newspapers and promotional material found in the Publications Series. Smith's sermons and articles, as well as one of the collection's posters has material presenting a Christian opposition to communism. Smith addresses various topics in his sermons, many of which were later converted to articles or tracts. Among these are Christian giving, conversion, faith, the Holy Spirit, Christ's second coming, prayer, and many others. Smith also addressed current events in his writings, particularly focusing on conditions in Europe prior to and during World War 2.

While the collection's emphasis is almost entirely on Smith's ministry in Canada, there is a limited record of his international tours (See General Series, Sermon Series, audio tapes and photographs), consisting of the following:

1929 Europe 1932 Indonesia, Ethiopia 1936 Europe 1938 Solomon Islands 1957 South America 1962 Iceland

There are various biographical sketches in the collection, written by or about Smith (See especially Folders 1-9,10 and 11-3).

I. Family Series.

This series consists principally of correspondence to Smith from members of his family, including his mother and father, each of his children, a nephew, brother and grandchild. It also includes letters from Smith to his parents, transcripts of brief audio recorded recollections of his parents, and his mother's obituary. The files are arranged alphabetically by name.

II. General Series

Included in this series are a variety of materials. The materials are arranged alphabetically by document type, and while the folder titles on the Container list provide a detailed list of the documents included in the series, most being self-explanatory, the contents of several folders are worthy of highlighting or explanation. Newspaper and magazine clippings provide an extensive account of Smith's activities, ranging from his tours of Europe (Folder 1-23) to his extensive ministry in Toronto, temporary stay in Los Angeles (clippings: Folders 1-10 and 11-3, and copies of Herald of the Times, (Folder 8-14), and his speaking ministry throughout the world. Among the more well-known correspondents whose letters appear in Folder 1-12 are Billy Graham, T.W. Wilson for Billy Graham, Gypsey Smith, Henry Frost, R.A. Torrey, and various Canadian and British government officials. Folder 1-15 contains the letters through which Smith resigned as pastor of the Alliance Tabernacle in Toronto in 1926 and from his post as Minister of Missions from the Peoples Church in 1966. The promotional material in Folder 1-21 and 11-6 is a mixed collection of meetings at which Smith spoke, or which his church sponsored. The scrapbooks (Folders 1-24,25 and 11-7,8) largely convey the affection, respect, and influence Smith had through their letters and telegrams of congratulations sent to him, including those from evangelical leaders like Billy Graham, Charles Fuller, V. Raymond Edman, Clyde Taylor, Torrey Johnson, Jack McAlister, W. Cameron Townsend, J. Vernon McGee, J. Edwin Orr, mission leaders and friends, as well as Canadian government officials.

III. Organizations Series

This series is arranged alphabetically by organizational name, consisting largely of the churches with which Smith was affiliated, but also including several other institutions with which he was associated. A particularly interesting series of items in Folder 2-2 relates to a rather biting critique of the Peoples Church and its characterization as "undenominational".

IV. Sermons Series

Smith's writing and speaking are well recorded in this collection of his sermons, many of which are in the form of articles being prepared for publication.

V. Hymns, Lyrics and Poems Series

The most extensive series of the collection is that of Smith's hymn lyrics, including correspondence with composers and publishers, published hymns which resulted from Smith's collaborations with them, and recordings in audio tape and phonograph record format, which are noted on the appropriate Location Records of this guide. Included is what Smith identified as his first poem (Folder 8-4). Also included on audio tape are radio broadcasts in which Smith described the significance and history of some of his more well known or favorite hymns.

One valuable reference tool in the Hymns Series is a card index (Box 12-1), which alphabetically arranges all the titles (approximately 1000) of Smith's hymn lyrics. Each card in addition to the title includes some combination of the following information: copyright date, copyright holder, who the piece was sold to, the purchase price, the composer of the music, and when the lyrics were written.

Smith's writing was expressed not only in his sermons and hymn lyrics, but also through editing publications of the churches for which he was responsible. This series, arranged chronologically, while incomplete, spans the various serials for which he served as editor, in some cases illustrating the development and evolution of a publication.

Lantern Slides

Images cover, Smith, both the family he grew up in and the family he raised, his early ministry, the churches he pastored, and the world missionary tours he took. Many of these slides were used in the publications Smith edited and to encourage missionary enthusiasm among the churches' membership. The slides have in some cases been sampled, with the remaining slides returned to the donor.

Accruals and Additions

The materials for this collection were received by the Billy Graham Center Archives in November 1985 from Paul Smith, son of Oswald Smith and pastor of the Peoples Church.

Accession: 85-143

June 9, 1989

Paul A. Ericksen

K. Elwell

J. Nasgowitz

Related Materials

The following items are located in the BGC Museum: Extensive set of tracts and booklets authored by Smith. Although largely evangelistic, they touch on subjects including missions, Catholicism, Charles Darwin, Jehovah's Witnesses, giving, Christian leadership, prayer, the faith promise, personal devotions, smoking, premillenial theology, faith, and television. Undated.

Non-English versions of Smiths tracts and booklets, including those in Spanish, French, Greek, Norwegian, Yoruba, Russian, Portuguese, Thai, Malay, Italian, German, Indonesian, an Indian dialect, Cebuano, Yugoslavian, Polish, and an unidentified African language. Undated.

Evangelistic tracts written by Paul J. Levin. Undated.

Miscellaneous evangelistic tracts including several on the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. Undated.

Poster announcing: "Oswald Smith is Coming March 1 to 5." Printed dark green and fluorescent orange on white. 15" x 20". Undated.

Poster announcing a meeting at Chicago's Moody Memorial Church featuring Smith and Lt. General Sir Arthur Smith, Chairman of British Evangelical Alliance and President of World Evangelical Fellowship. The speakers were to address the topic "Christ: the Only Answer to Communism." The tour was sponsored by local evangelical churches and organizations and the Committee on International Relations of the National Association of Evangelicals. The Moody meeting was part of a two-month tour throughout the United States at the end of 1956 (?). Measures 17" x 22", printed black and red type on white.

The following items are located in the Evangelism & Missions Collection of the Buswell Library unless otherwise noted:

Christian Nationals Evangelism Commission of USA. Oswald J. Smith Meets August Marwieh. San Jose: CNEC, 1970.

Cleland, James. "What a Friend We Have in Jesus" and Other Hymns by Joseph Scriven. Port Hope: W. Williamson, 1895. In Buswell Library Special Collections

Collection 322 Papers of Oswald J. Smith
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Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
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Roman Script

Repository Details

Part of the Evangelism & Missions Archives Repository

501 College Avenue
Wheaton IL 60187 US