Commissioner John Busby bolsters collection
Written By: Lt. Colonel Allen Satterlee
Photos By: Christopher Hall
The Commissioner Elsie Busby Memorial Collection was established in memory of her by her husband, Commissioner John Busby, in 2021. Displayed in the Powell Administration Building at the Evangeline Booth College in Atlanta, it features rare and treasured documents and artifacts from the earliest days of Salvation Army history, primarily centered around General Evangeline Booth.
Recently, Commissioner Busby made another substantial donation of documents and artifacts, mostly centered on the Army’s Founder, William Booth. The collection has spread to the Holz Educational Building in the foyer just outside the chapel. The museum quality items include some that are extremely rare, including ——
A pledge card for the Darkest England Scheme: William Booth wrote a landmark book outlining how The Salvation Army could not only reach people with the gospel but provide for their material needs and rehabilitation as well. Modelled after Dr. Stanley’s adventurous book, In Darkest Africa, Booth outlined how the streets of Victorian England were as vicious as any jungle in Africa. His proposed solution included three levels of redemption: the city colony, farm colony and overseas colony. Although not fully implemented because of a lack of funding, the scheme launched The Salvation Army into the world of social work and the effort hugely impacted not only England but many other parts of the world including the United States.
The pledge card was one of the means to find subscribers to support the effort. Busby found it stuck in an old Army book in one of the used bookstores in London. It is in mint condition, one of only a handful still in existence.
William Booth’s business card: The card is stark in its simplicity. It says simply, “General Booth.” No address. No first name. The plainest of type. We know it is his because both his son and daughter who succeeded him later as General, had to put their first names on any document to distinguish them from their father and each other.
Staff Officer’s Commission signed by William Booth: Although commissions of this sort are not all that rare, since there were many staff officers and people tended to treasure them because of the distinction as well as Booth’s signature, this one is of importance to the Busby family because it was given to Commissioner Busby’s grandfather.
Other interesting things in the collection include a teacup that, when hot water is poured in, causes an image of William Booth to appear in the bottom. There’s are a range of artifacts that were created as fund raisers for special Army events as well as in honor of William Booth.
“I wanted to make these donations to the Evangeline Booth College to encourage others to share their things as well. My first wife, Elsie, and I travelled all around putting these on display for special events but now I felt it was time to give them to the college, to share them with future generations and to encourage my fellow Salvationists to share their things as well,” Busby said.
Mr. Michael Nagy, director of the The Salvation Army Historical Center, shared, “If people would like to donate their items, they can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. If they would like to see any of these items or tour our museum, it is by appointment during the regular hours that the Evangeline Booth College is open. We would also like to share that our website is a great way to see what we have in our collection and to do research. It can be accessed here.