Collection 061 Papers of Billy and Helen Sunday
Scope and Contents
Microfilm edition of original documents held in Winona Lake, Indiana, including correspondence, sermons, reports, revival ephemera, and scrapbooks dealing mainly with the career of evangelist Billy Sunday from its beginning to his death and about the work of his wife Helen, who, besides acting as his general manager, was a fundamentalist leader in her own right, especially after his death. Persons featured include numerous fundamentalist figures and institutions; sermon topics cover a wide range of issues and biblical texts. The collection also contains information about the Prohibition movement in America and life on the home front during World War I.
Until 1977, the material in this collection was stored in various locations in the Billy Sunday Home in Winona Lake, Indiana. The original arrangement of the materials, if any existed, was no longer discernible so the processor divided the material into the following groups based on subject content. (Note: Through the collection are many items dated by the archivist by internal evidence. The date for these items usually appears in pencil in the upper right hand corner.) As described on page 24, boxes 29 and 30, were not included in collection list or the microfilm nor were the photographs files in boxes 24 through 28.
- Created: 1882-1974
Conditions Governing Access
The original documents of this microfilm collection are held in the library of Grace College and Theological Seminary in Winona Lake, Indiana. They were processed, organized, described and microfilmed in 1978 as part of a joint project between the Billy Grahaam Center Archives at Wheaton College, Wheaton, Illinois and Grace College and Theological Seminary, Winona Lake, Indiana, under the supervision of archivist, Robert Shuster. Anyone wishing to quote or publish from any of the documents in the collection must obtain permission from: The Librarian, Grace Schools, Winona Lake, IN 49590.
Biography of Billy Sunday:
Full Name: William Ashley Sunday, Sr.
Birth: November 19, 1862, Ames, Iowa
Death: November 5, 1935 , Chicago, Illinois. Buried in Forest Home Cemetery, Forest Park, Illinois
Parents: William and Mary Jane (Corey) Sunday
Siblings: Two older brothers: Albert Monroe and H. Edward Sunday and a half-brother, Leroy Heizer, and half-sister, Elizabeth Heizer
Marital Status: Married Helen Amelia Thompson, September 5, 1888
Children: Helen Edith (1890-1932), George Marquis (1892-1933), William Ashley, Jr. (1901), Paul Thompson (1907)
Conversion: At the Pacific Garden Mission in Chicago, 1886
Ordination: 1903 by the Presbyterian Church
1887-1888 Evanston Academy of Northwestern University (winter term)
ca. 1876-1883 Held various jobs including fireman, janitor, and undertaker's assistant
1883-1888 Played professional baseball for the Chicago White Stockings (1883-1888) and the Pittsburgh and Philadelphia clubs (1888-1891)
1891 Entered full-time Christian service as a worker at Chicago's YMCA
1893 Worked for evangelist J. Wilbur Chapman and Milan B. Williams
1896-1920s Began holding evangelistic campaigns starting in Garner, Iowa. These meetings gradually became large scale, city-wide evangelistic campaigns as Sunday's fame spread
1898 Licensed to preach by the Presbyterian Church
1917 Lengthy campaign in New York City
1920s-1935 Smaller Sunday campaign meetings
Other significant information:
1912 Received a Doctor of Laws degree from Westmont College
1917 Wrote, Love Stories of the Bible
1935 Received a Doctor of Divinity degree from Bob Jones College
Billy Sunday's style of preaching won him an enormous amount of newspaper exposure, as did the enthusiasm with which his campaigns were received. He used colorful, slangy language and entertained and instructed his audiences with mimicry, impersonations, as well as memorable epigrams and anecdotes. His messages laid great stress on every human being's need for personal salvation through Jesus Christ and on the authority and reliability of the Bible. He was also a strong critic of alcoholic beverages and favored their prohibition in his most famous sermon, Get on the Water Wagon. He was a popular speaker on the Chautauqua lecture circuit as well.
He was also deeply involved in support of the American war effort: helping to sell war bonds, speaking on the need to save food and fuel, and vigorously encouraging young men to enlist. Sunday, throughout his career, was a critic of American moral laxity and an unabashed admirer of American civilization.
For most of his ministry, Sunday had vocal critics as well as defenders. Like famous evangelists who preceded him, he was taken to task by liberal church leaders for being too simplistic in his theology, while others insisted that he placed too much emphasis on individual piety and salvation at the expense of social reform. Some ministers who participated in his campaigns complained that they received little benefit from the meetings because those who came forward already belonged to churches or had only a vague idea of what Sunday was asking them to commit themselves. Secular journalists, such as John Reed and George Creel, accused Sunday of being a tool used by the ruling elite to defuse lower class discontent. The suspicion was often expressed or inferred in newspapers that Sunday was little more than a grafter getting wealthy from his temporary congregations. Supporters, however, disagreed that Sunday's meetings did not produce results, denied any personal dishonesty on his part, and dismissed criticisms of his theology since the criticisms were based on a world view and understanding of Christ's gospel very different than Sunday's.
Large scale evangelistic campaigns received much less national attention after the first world war. However they continued to be an important of the life of fundamentalist and Pentecostal churches. Sunday was affected by a parallel decrease in his national exposure and influence, although until his death he never lacked invitations to speak and hold campaigns. Besides leading meetings, Sunday spent much of his time defending the constitutional amendment on the prohibition of alcoholic beverage and fighting its repeal. He was involved as well in the management of the Winona Bible Conference (later Winona Institutions and later the Winona Christian Assembly). Personal troubles such as the well publicized difficulties and divorces of his sons, George Marquis and William Ashley, added great sorrow and financial difficulties of his later years.
Biography of Helen Sunday
Full Name: Helen Amelia Thompson Sunday
Birth: June 25, 1868
Death: February 20, 1957, Arizona
Parents: William and Ellen (Binnie) Thompson
Siblings: Jennie, Ada, William, and ?
Marital Status: Married William Ashley Sunday, Sr., September 5, 1888
Children: Helen Edith (1890), George Marquis (1892), William Ashley, Jr. (1901), Paul Thompson (1907)
Other significant information:
From about 1908 on, Helen Sunday was in effect the general manager of the campaigns and had final control over almost all parts of the work, including finances and the hiring and firing of staff.
Mrs. Sunday began an active ministry shortly after her husband's death. She traveled extensively throughout the country helping to raise money for rescue missions and similar Christian institutions, addressing youth rallies, serving on the boards of the Winona Christian Assembly and Bob Jones University (from which she received an honorary LLD in 1938), and giving talks on her husband's career and influence. In the early fifties, she spoke at some of Billy Graham's crusades as well as those of other evangelists. She traveled out of the country on a pleasure trip to Europe in 1937 and again in 1952 on a trip to Quito, Ecuador, to attend the ceremonies celebrating the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Voice of the Andes radio station. As with her husband, family problems and sickness (she had a heart attack in 1948) added sorrow to the last decade of her life.
29 Reels of microfilm
1 Negative File
1 Photograph File
Language of Materials
Accruals and Additions
Virtually all the materials in the Sunday collection were found in the residence of Billy and Helen Sunday at 1111 Sunday Lane, Winona Lake, Indiana. Upon the death of Mrs. Sunday in 1957, the house and its contents were deeded to Winona Lake Christian Assembly. In 1972, a small portion of the materials were moved to the Administration Building of the Assembly was controlled Grace Schools; all the assets and liabilities of the W.L.C.A. were assumed by Grace Schools. As one result of the merger, the Sunday documents were moved in 1977 from the Sunday and the Administration Building to the Library of Grace Theological Seminary on permanent loan.
In the early months of 1978, through a joint cooperative effort between Grace Schools and the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College, Wheaton, Illinois, the Sunday records were arranged, described and microfilmed under the supervision of Robert Shuster, the Graham Center Director of Archives. Assisting were Robert Ibach (Grace Schools' Library Director), William Darr, Lois (Bea) Mayhue, and Linda Hearing of the Grace Schools' library staff; Clarence MacNeil; and Abraham Labiano, Jane Nelson, Shirley Short, Mary Schimmels of the Billy Graham Center staff. James Stambaugh, Director of the Museum, aided in almost every aspect of the project from transporting the records to designing the cover of the original guide to the microfilm edition.
Several boxes of material included in the items loaned to Grace Schools by the Assembly were not included in the Sunday collection because their connection to the Sundays was slight or because their identification was uncertain. These boxes include: newspaper clippings duplicate to those in the collection; a newspaper clipping containing recipes, dress patterns, anecdotes, epigrams, etc.; form letters and printed reports sent out by Christian institutions; birthday cards, Christmas cards, anniversary cards, etc.; unidentified photographs; and a set of Red Cross scrapbooks which may have been given to Sunday during or shortly after World War I.
No accession number
June 28, 1994
- Ackley, B. D. (Bentley DeForrest), 1872-1958.
- Asher, Virginia Healey, 1869-1937.
- Athletes -- United States
- Athletes -- United States -- Religious life.
- Atlanta (Ga.)
- Barrows, Cliff.
- Belief and doubt -- Sermons.
- Belief and doubt.
- Bible -- Sermons.
- Biederwolf, William E. (William Edward), 1867-1939.
- Bryan, William Jennings.
- Chicago (Ill.)
- Christian life -- Sermons.
- Christian life.
- Christianity and culture -- Sermons.
- Christianity and culture.
- Church and social problems -- Sermons.
- Church and social problems -- United States.
- Church and social problems.
- Church and state -- United States.
- Church and state.
- Church work with military personnel -- United States.
- Church work with military personnel.
- Church work with the working class
- Church work with the working class -- United States.
- Church work with women -- United States.
- Church work with women.
- Cities and towns -- United States.
- Cities and towns.
- City missions -- United States.
- City missions.
- Creation. -- Sermons.
- Evangelistic invitations.
- Evangelistic sermons.
- Evangelistic work -- Atlanta.
- Evangelistic work -- Boston.
- Evangelistic work -- Chicago.
- Evangelistic work -- Colorado.
- Evangelistic work -- Daytona Beach.
- Evangelistic work -- Detroit.
- Evangelistic work -- Duluth.
- Evangelistic work -- Fort Worth.
- Evangelistic work -- Illinois.
- Evangelistic work -- Indiana.
- Evangelistic work -- Iowa.
- Evangelistic work -- Kansas.
- Evangelistic work -- Kentucky.
- Evangelistic work -- Los Angeles.
- Evangelistic work -- Maryland.
- Evangelistic work -- Missouri.
- Evangelistic work -- New Jersey.
- Evangelistic work -- New York.
- Evangelistic work -- Ohio.
- Evangelistic work -- Oklahoma.
- Evangelistic work -- Pennsylvania.
- Evangelistic work -- Philadelphia.
- Evangelistic work -- Philosophy.
- Evangelistic work -- Rhode Island.
- Evangelistic work -- Tennessee.
- Evangelistic work -- United States.
- Evangelistic work -- Virginia.
- Evangelistic work -- Washington (D.C.)
- Evangelistic work -- Washington (State)
- Evangelistic work -- West Virginia.
- Evangelistic work.
- Family -- Sermons.
- Family -- United States.
- Graham, Billy, 1918-2018.
- Great Commission (Bible)
- Great Commission (Bible) -- Sermons.
- Hammontree, Homer A.
- Heaven -- Sermons.
- Interdenominational cooperation -- United States.
- Interdenominational cooperation.
- Jones, Bob, 1883-1968.
- Journalism, Religious -- United States.
- Journalism, Religious.
- Mass media in religion -- United States.
- Mass media in religion.
- Modernist-fundamentalist controversy.
- Mott, John R.
- New York (N.Y.)
- Patriotism -- Sermons.
- Prayer -- Sermons.
- Presbyterians -- United States.
- Prohibition -- United States.
- Prohibitionists -- United States.
- Race relations.
- Religion and science -- Sermons.
- Religion and science.
- Religious institutions.
- Repentance -- Sermons.
- Rockefeller, John D.
- Rodeheaver, Homer A. (Homer Alvan), 1880-1955.
- Salvation -- Sermons.
- Second Advent
- Second Advent -- Sermons.
- Sermons, American.
- Sex role
- Sex role -- Sermons.
- Sex role -- United States.
- Sin -- Sermons.
- Smith, Oswald J.
- Smith, Wilbur, M. (Wilbur Morehead), 1894-1976.
- Sunday, Billy, -- Sermons.
- Sunday, Billy, 1862-1935.
- Sunday, Helen Amelia Thompson, 1868-1957.
- Temperance -- Sermons.
- Torrey, R. A. (Reuben Archer), 1856-1928
- Trotter, Melvin E.
- Wanamaker, John, 1838-1922
- Winona Lake (Ind.)
- Women -- Religious life.
- Women in church work.
- World War, 1914-1918.
- Young Men's Christian Associations.
- Collection 061 Papers of Billy and Helen Sunday
- Bob Shuster
- Description rules
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
- Language of description
- Script of description
- Early Twentieth Century Handwriting
- Language of description note