Printer Friendly

The quiet crusade: Moody Bible Institute's outreach to public schools and the mainstreaming of Appalachia, 1921-66.

In 1921, William Norton of the Moody Bible Institute of Chicago pushed, pulled, and dragged his Model T along the back roads of the southern Appalachians. He visited churches, schools, and private homes, talking with anyone and everyone he could find. His question was always the same: "Do you have enough Bibles?" The answers he received shocked him. As far as Norton could tell, many of the "mountaineers" were nominally Christian, but they had often never seen a Bible, much less read one of their own. As the head of the Moody Bible Institute's Bible Institute Colportage Association, he immediately put together a plan. "To reach these people quickly," he wrote in his report, "I am convinced that it can be done most efficiently ... through the public schools.... A great majority of the teachers are ready to cooperate." (1)

Thus began a decades-long mission to deliver Bibles and conservative evangelical Protestant religious literature to the public schools of Appalachia. Once it reached maturity in the mid-1930s, this program delivered roughly a quarter of a million books to individual public school students per year, as well as donating thousands of fifteen-book "Colportage libraries" to the targeted school libraries. In 1951, by which date the crusade had begun to shift from targeting Appalachian schools to targeting public schools nationwide, Ken Taylor and Peter Gunther, the new leaders of the campaign, decided to revisit the public schools of the region. They had often wondered, they reported, if the glowing letters they had received from teachers could possibly be accurate, and they were pleasantly surprised to find that, in the over fifty schools they surveyed, "about 95 percent" of them "were making good use of the literature." (2)

By 1966, when Peter Gunther and Bert Abuhl, now the leaders of the program, repeated this missionary survey of Appalachia, the cultural and physical landscape of the region had changed considerably. In some ways, their trip was far more comfortable, thanks to new networks of roads that made even the most obscure "hollers" more accessible. In addition, evangelical and fundamentalist Bible schools friendly to the Moody Bible Institute message had sprung up throughout the region, giving Gunther and Abuhl a hearty welcome. The public schools, however, had also changed radically. The missionary duo found only a single "one-room school with pot-bellied stove and all." Most of the schools had been consolidated, and the teaching staffs professionalized. Although many teachers and principals still showed a friendly interest, some new teachers no longer welcomed the free books from the Chicago evangelists. (3) Gunther had been warned that "many of the schools were no longer open to home missionary work." (4) However, by 1966, Gunther was not overly dismayed by this news. By that time, in spite of the unwelcoming environment in the Appalachian region, more students nationwide were taking part in the book program than ever before. Gunther and other leaders had expanded the mission outside of the public schools of Appalachia and the Ozarks to include public schools across the nation.

What happened? Why and how did this remarkably successful literature-distribution program grow so quickly and why did it change so dramatically after World War II? To answer these questions, this paper examines the archival records and published history of this literature mission. The bulging files of annual reports, fundraising brochures, correspondence, clippings, catalogs, and other miscellaneous material in the Moody Bible Institute Archive provide a window into the goals and scope of this mission. The monthly reports, published in the Moody Bible Institute's monthly magazine, include valuable statistics about numbers of books shipped and dollars spent. Taken together, the sources suggest the scope and nature of the mission, and offer some clues about the reasons for the eventual shift away from the rural schools of Appalachia to the public schools of the nation at large. In addition, the experience of the Moody book missionaries can inform our understanding of fundamentalism, of regional American missionary work, and of the intersection of religion and print culture in America.

This massive literature-distribution effort has not received the attention it deserves. This scholarly snub is part of a larger problem. As historian Joel A. Carpenter has pointed out, "historians of American religion and culture have almost totally ignored fundamentalism's career between the winding down of its antimodernist crusades in the 1920s and the emergence in the 1950s of what the Christian Century called 'neo-fundamentalism.'" (5) There have been some notable exceptions. Carpenter's Revive Us Again: The Reawakening of American Fundamentalism gives a thorough and insightful overview of the growth of the fundamentalist movement during its cultural exile in the 1930s and '40s. Other studies, such as William V. Trollinger's God's Empire: William Bell Riley and Midwestern Fundamentalism, Virginia L. Brereton's Training God's Army: Protestant Fundamentalist Bible Schools, 1880-1940, and George M. Marsden's Reforming Fundamentalism: Fuller Seminary and the New Evangelicalism provide invaluable glimpses into the operation of fundamentalist and neo-evangelical institutions during this intermediate period. (6)

Taken together, these studies reveal some broad similarities. After the controversies of the 1920s, many fundamentalists shifted their attention from public crusades to quieter, institution-building activities and missionary work. The intellectuals among them wrestled with the question of fundamentalism's identity, and with fundamentalism's relationship to American culture. Was fundamentalism merely a declining vestige of a lost "Christian America," as some of its critics charged? Or was it--as many fundamentalists hoped and believed--a saving "remnant" destined to revive a wayward culture?

William Norton at the Moody Bible Institute shared these concerns. His missionary-literature program succeeded handsomely during this period, a time in which many liberal Protestants assumed that the fundamentalist movement had withered away. This success, and the changing nature of both American culture and fundamentalism itself, caused the Moody Bible Institute's book missionaries to reevaluate their own identity and mission. In the 1920s, they had moved aggressively into the southern Appalachian region. In the heat of that decade's fundamentalist-modernist controversies, they targeted this region's public schools as a rare opportunity to distribute Gospels and other evangelical literature to an audience that was uniquely eager to receive this fundamentalist message. George M. Marsden, the leading historian of American fundamentalism, has identified a tension among fundamentalists between a self-image as part of the "establishment" or as one of the "outsiders." Marsden suggests that since 1925 fundamentalists have finessed this "paradoxical tendency" by building a "substantial subculture." (7) The book missionaries of MBI demonstrate one particular example of the way this played out between 1921 and 1966. In the early years, MBI book missionaries clung to their idea of themselves as part of the establishment. They delivered their message to isolated regions in which the overwhelming majority of the populace had remained committed to traditional evangelical Protestant culture. However, as America's culture became increasingly secular, the book missionaries came to see their role as that of a competitive subculture within mainstream American culture. The focus on Appalachia as a targeted community became less and less important to the success of their mission. The Moody missionaries brought their message, and their belief in the efficacy of evangelical print culture, to the public schools across the nation, instead of only to a group of particularly worthy "mountain" schools. By demonstrating the ways that these particular activists "not only survived but thrived" through this ambitious campaign, this paper will shed needed light on both their massive book mission, and on fundamentalism's progress during this intermediate period. (8)


For evangelical Protestants in 1921, 1966, or today, the Moody Bible Institute of Chicago (MBI) needs no introduction. But those outside its orbit may not be familiar with the name. In order for the mission to Appalachian schools to make sense, we must understand something of the history of the institution that sponsored the campaign. The peripatetic evangelist Dwight L. Moody founded "the Institute" in 1886. This fact alone lent the MBI some measure of prestige. At the time, Moody was at the peak of an influential evangelical career. His successful revivals in both the U.S. and U.K. had made him, in many ways, the face of the Third Great Awakening, a wave of revivalism that swept America and England during the closing decades of the nineteenth century. Moody originally hoped to establish a school that would train a body of what he called "gap-men," who would bridge the divide between overly intellectual divinity students and the rough-and-ready working classes. Moody constantly promoted the advantages of this midlevel training, arguing that it would produce trained evangelists more quickly than a full divinity school degree program, and that its open admission policy would churn out evangelists much closer in social background to the people they were trying to reach. Moody hoped to alert Chicagoans to what he saw as the imminent social and spiritual danger of a non-evangelized city. Spiritually, many of the souls on Chicago's mean streets were being lost every hour to the growing sin and vice of the massively expanding industrial metropolis. This desperate and deteriorating cityscape also fostered a social powder keg. As Moody put it in 1886, "Either these people are to be evangelized or the leaven of communism will assume such enormous proportions that it will break out in a reign of terror such as this country has never known." Coming in the wake of the Haymarket riot, Moody's call for a school to train effective evangelists attracted a great deal of support from prominent Chicago-area businessmen. On February 12, 1887, a group of businessmen and religious leaders founded the Chicago Evangelization Society, and, following the death of Moody in 1899, its board unanimously agreed to change the name to the Moody Bible Institute. (9)

The new school grew rapidly. In 1904, the institute claimed a total operating budget of just under $93,000. By 1931, this had increased to almost $1.5 million. In 1904, the MBI owned eight buildings in downtown Chicago, employed a total of 42 people, and enrolled 1,100 students. By 1931, this had jumped to thirty-four buildings, 280 employees, and 17,200 students. (10) This growth hints at some of the reasons why students of evangelical Protestantism have universally attributed such great influence to the MBI. Virginia Brereton, the leading historian of Bible institutes, heartily agreed with one of her informants who called the MBI "the 'bell cow' of the Bible school movement."(11)

The array of activities carried on at the MBI was remarkable. In addition to its central goal of providing students with a deep and spiritually meaningful understanding of the Bible, the MBI has, throughout its history, conducted a flurry of other evangelical and educational activities. From its earliest history the MBI published a monthly magazine, eventually known as the Moody Monthly. By 1923 the Monthly claimed readers in forty-seven states and fifty-one denominations. The paid subscription list grew steadily, from nearly 20,000 in 1921, to 60,000 in 1966. The MBI further established its leadership position by hosting a series of popular conferences. In 1928 alone, the MBI sponsored twenty-five conferences around the country, with a total attendance of almost a quarter million people. Furthermore, the MBI took an early interest in radio broadcasting. In 1926, the institute's radio station, WMBI, began broadcasting, and it is still on the air. Following World War II, the Moody Institute of Science was incorporated, mainly to produce educational films on science-related topics. (12) The MBI also devoted a good deal of effort to training Protestant missionaries. One author estimated that by 1938, 5 percent of all Protestant missionaries worldwide had graduated from the MBI. This meant that almost one in every seven evangelical Protestant missionaries from the United States was an alum. (13)

One of the MBI's earliest "ministries" was its publication and distribution of religious literature. Dwight L. Moody himself founded this department in 1894, not long after the MBI itself was incorporated. He enjoyed telling the story about the Bible Institute Colportage Association's founding. It all began, according to Moody, in Madison, Wisconsin, then a small college town and state capital of 15,000. Moody came to Madison to deliver the latest in his series of revival sermons. He reported much interest among students. He promised many of them some religious literature to read until he could visit again. To his chagrin, when he searched the many bookstores in town, he could not find any paperbacks that were inexpensive, readable, and "dependable." He found plenty of cheap adventure stories, some of them titillating, but none that were likely, in Moody's opinion, to lead young people closer to accepting Jesus as their Savior. Moody was not alone in his assumption. Other nineteenth-century evangelicals shared his worries. One evangelical educator lamented the "special danger" the new profusion of cheap books offered to unaware consumers. Popular publishers had recently begun to flood the market with cheap nickel thrillers, and contemporary social reformers such as New York's Anthony Comstock condemned mass-market publishers as "Satan's efficient agents to advance his kingdom by destroying the young." (14)

Comstock's solution was a legal ban on such salacious material. Moody chose a different approach. He decided to begin his own publishing house, modeled after earlier nineteenth-century "benevolent empire" organizations such as the American Bible Society (founded 1816) and the American Tract Society (1824). Those organizations had made significant progress during the nineteenth century toward meeting their ambitious goal of providing Bibles and tracts to every American. They had supplied and organized an army of colporteurs--men and women who would travel the country and the world selling this new library of evangelical literature--with the means to reach even the most isolated Americans. (15) Moody wanted to begin a similarly ambitious publishing venture. He convinced his brother-in-law, publisher Fleming Revell, to produce a series of inexpensive paperbacks that would bring "dependable, evangelical books" to a mass market. Moody appointed himself president of the new publishing venture. He named his son-in-law, A. P. Fitt, already acting secretary of the MBI Board of Trustees, to be vice president, and A. F. Gaylord, the MBI's business manager, as treasurer. He christened the new organization the Bible Institute Colportage Association (BICA). Technically, the BICA was never part of the Moody Bible Institute itself. It had a separate charter and its own incorporation. However, the leadership of the two was the same, and in 1941 this formal separation was abolished. (16)

Moody recruited the first real leader of the BICA, William Norton, from the Moody-founded Northfield School in 1897. Norton led the BICA for over fifty years, only relinquishing control upon his death in 1948. By that time, the BICA had split into two divisions, the Moody Press and the Colportage Department. Only in 1957 did the Colportage Department become the Moody Literature Mission, to reflect the long-standing change in emphasis from colportage to free book distribution. The BICA had always maintained Missionary Book Funds to distribute literature free of charge to as many as nineteen "spiritually neglected classes." (17) But this was not the only aim of the BICA. As the name implies, Moody's first intention was to create his own army of colporteurs. One Moody biographer claimed that Moody's primary motivation in founding the BICA was not to supply inexpensive religious literature to the bookstore-visiting public, but rather to give MBI students a way to earn a living while they were in school. (18)

Regardless of Moody's motivations, the BICA began its publishing work in 1894, bringing out a ten-cent paperback edition of British evangelist C. H. Spurgeon's All of Grace. Moody's Way to God soon followed. By the time BICA leader William Norton decided in 1921 to begin sending books from the Colportage Library catalog to public schools in Appalachia, he had a library of over one hundred titles to pull from. By 1950, the Colportage Library had expanded to two hundred titles. Like other evangelical libraries, each book in the series was set in uniform type, of roughly 125 pages each, and each was paperbound. (19)


The Bible Institute Colportage Association was not the first group, by any means, to attempt to deliver the Protestant gospel to the region. Even before the Civil War, colportage pioneer Hamilton Pierson struggled to sell or give away Bibles in the southern mountains. His story, In the Brush: or, Old-Time Social, Political and Religious Life in the Southwest, gave a colorful, good-natured account of his arduous wanderings in antebellum Kentucky, Tennessee, and North Carolina. Soon after, Congregational missionary Ellen Myers convinced the American Missionary Association to add the category of "Mountain White" to its other categories of home missions, which had included "Negro, Indian, Alaskan, Porto Rican, Chinese, Japanese, [and] Hawaiian." (20)

Starting in the early twentieth century, many denominations began educational outreach efforts to the southern mountains. The Home Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention started a system of "mountain" schools in 1901, reaching a peak of thirty-seven schools in 1921. (21) The publicity director of this effort, Victor I. Masters, tried to drum up support for the schools in a 1912 book, The Home Mission Task. "The religious problem waits upon the educational solution," he wrote. "The school must blaze the way and create the necessity for an improved religious and church life." (22) Other denominational schools soon joined Masters' Southern Baptist schools. By the time William Norton of the BICA visited the region in 1921, the Presbyterian Church of America had already established ten boarding schools. (23) As one ardent Presbyterian home missionary explained in 1922, the need was dire. Not only were children going without Bibles and religious literature, but Protestants were losing a battle to other religious groups. "The Catholic and the Jew have joined with the infidel and the atheist," he warned, "in the effort to keep the Bible out of the public schools." (24)

The plan with which the BICA joined this crowded missionary field was different. They did not attempt to start schools of their own, but rather to deliver Bibles and religious literature to public school students. Furthermore, they widened their definition of "mountain" schools to include schools in the Ozark Mountains of Missouri and Arkansas. The method was relatively simple and borrowed from a tried-and-true Sunday school approach. (25) Every three years, teachers would be contacted and offered a set of books. If they agreed, the Missionary Book Fund would send them a set of fifteen Colportage Library books. These were sometimes incorporated into the school library or kept in classrooms for class use. The Book Fund had three standard sets: the first for grades one and two, the second for grades three through eight, and the last for high schools. There is no complete listing of the books for these libraries, but the evidence that survives indicates that each set probably included some hortatory works, such as Moody's Way to God, as well as evangelically themed storybooks, such as Rosa's Quest, or adventure stories, such as The Robber's Cave and Tales of Adventure from the Old Book. In addition to this library, the Book Fund would deliver one specially edited version of the Gospel of John for each student. If any student memorized eleven Bible verses, she would receive a free Pocket Treasury, a short compendium of Bible passages and hymns. Students memorizing twenty-eight gospel verses were presented with a free New Testament. (26)

Using this method, the Book Fund delivered huge numbers of Bibles and religious literature to the public schools of Appalachia. It is impossible to calculate the total numbers of books sent from the existing records, but the program clearly experienced rapid growth. In 1921, the "Mountain" Book Fund delivered 19,101 books to the region. By 1924, the total reached 47,103, and leaped to 271,214 by 1929. In the early 1930s, the numbers of books delivered plummeted dramatically, likely due to the collapsing economy of the Great Depression. Despite the continuing economic downturn, the Mountain Book Fund climbed back to delivering approximately 250,000 books per year in 1935. Except for a dip in 1963, when the Supreme Court ruled that mandatory Bible reading was unacceptable in public schools, it maintained this remarkable average of books through 1966. Altogether, the BICA delivered between eight and ten million volumes to the southern Appalachian region between 1921 and 1966. (27)


For the Chicago print missionaries, the number of books was only important as a shorthand for the number of conversions those books could bring about. The power of literature to cause these conversions formed one of the central themes of the Missionary Book Fund's fundraising effort. This fascination with the evangelical power of print grew out of a rich tradition of nineteenth-century evangelical print culture. In the words of historian Candy Gunther Brown, this culture assumed that the "Holy Spirit used the Word to convey sanctifying influences across time, space, and language to permeate the world." (28) The twentieth-century book missionaries of the Moody Bible Institute continued this tradition of evangelical print culture. Other twentieth-century fundamentalists, too, recognized the power of print to bring converts and create fundamentalist community. Just as the Moody Bible Institute worked to deliver books and Bibles to mountain schools, fundamentalists such as Minneapolis pastor William Bell Riley used print to bring together his Midwestern "Empire" in the 1920s, '30s, and '40s. (29)

One of the common assumptions among evangelicals was that books, especially the Gospels, had a miraculous power to effect conversion. For the Moody book missionaries, the single most popular book-fund publication, the special-edition Gospel of John, was "the incomparable piece of English Literature," written with the supernatural power to convert souls to evangelical Protestantism. One missionary called the Gospel "the most unique, the most startling, the most compelling, and most unearthly message that has ever commanded God's attention." Countless MBI evangelists recounted variations of a standard story of instant conversion upon the merest glimpse of the printed Gospel. William Norton, the secretary and manager of the BICA, recounted a typical version of the tale: "A man was given a tract by the roadside; simply glancing at it, and coming to a hedge, he stuck the tract into the hedge; but it was too late; his eyes had caught a few words of the tract which led to his conversion." (30) BICA print missionaries also touted the pass-along power of the printed page. One typical story told of the schoolchild who brought his or her free BICA literature home, where it led to the conversion of the entire family. In a standard version of the tale, a "very wicked man" in "bloody" Breathitt County, Kentucky, picked up a Gospel of John that his younger sister had brought into the house. After a desultory reading, the man, who "had engaged in several fights and pistol duels," was suddenly converted, and he eventually started his own Sunday school to help spread the Word. (31)

One inherent danger of this supernatural power of the printed word, in the eyes of the Chicago missionaries, was that it could just as easily lead readers astray. A constant theme across the decades of the Chicago book missionaries' campaign was the threat from destructive literature. In 1896, just two years after the BICA's founding, one informational brochure explained that the BICA had been "FOUNDED ... to help stem the flood of vicious literature that is now in circulation." MBI missionaries repeated this theme endlessly as they promoted their print mission. Among the five goals of the BICA in 1921 was "to counteract the tide of unwholesome and evil books and papers which is flooding the country." (32) Many of the annual reports of the 1930s warned of a "rising tide" of "pernicious books" that was threatening to lead young souls astray. The Chicago missionaries, like other evangelicals, never lost their fascination with the potential for evil inherent in the power of print, even as they sought to use that power to lead souls to Christ. (33)

The twentieth-century book missionaries of the MBI also inherited another tension inherent in nineteenth-century evangelical print culture. For the Chicago book missionaries, as it was for their nineteenth-century predecessors, the Word was not only supernaturally powerful, but also miraculously marketable. In the nineteenth century, after all, it was evangelical publishers and distributors who had developed the mass market for printed material. As historian David Nord has suggested, the goal of organizations like the American Tract Society to get their message "to more individuals at less expense" became the motto of secular and commercial enterprise as well. (34) Unlike some earlier denominational publishers who worried about balancing "purity and presence" in the market, BICA book missionaries prided themselves on the power of desire created by their books. They often boasted of their books' power to create a lust for book and Bible ownership, and made no distinction between that craving for ownership and a craving for conversion. The short storybooks that came with every colportage library were furnished with typical dime-novel covers, featuring colorful cowboys, tattered orphans, and other dramatic scenes. The missionaries never bemoaned the need to resort to such tactics to attract potential converts, but rather bragged that students loved their "fiction stories, full of adventure and sometimes mystery." The missionaries hoped to capitalize on students' fascination with such stories rather than to teach students to curb their desires for such titillation. One public school teacher from Franklin, Georgia, thrilled the Chicago missionaries when she reported that, "The books and Bible memory work have created a desire in each child." The desire itself was the goal of the book mission, because the book missionaries assumed the desire for the book would lead to conversion from the miraculous power of the gospel in print. Another participating teacher boasted that her students "really scramble for your books." For the missionaries, the promise of the book distribution program came precisely from the fact that "Children are keen to earn Pocket Treasurys and New Testaments by memorizing Scripture. This is a marvelous opportunity to rescue youth before they are overpowered by the enemy of their souls." Kenneth Taylor, leader of the mission from 1948 to 1965, described this lust for book ownership as a salutary "gospel hunger," one that missionaries should seek to encourage in students. Like earlier nondenominational publishing houses, the MBI workers conflated the merchandise with the message. (35)

The Chicago missionaries also continued one other tradition of nineteenth-century evangelical print culture. (36) Like their predecessors, the print missionaries of the MBI used their medium as a weapon in the theological and cultural controversies of the time. Since the early 1920s, the MBI had built a reputation as one of the fortresses of the conservative wing of evangelical Protestantism, a home for fundamentalists and conservative neo-evangelicals alike. The books that they distributed in their libraries insisted on an unwaveringly conservative message. The closing pages of their special-edition Gospel of John, for instance, exhorted readers to accept the doctrines of the "Christian Fundamentals Association," a Los Angeles-based fundamentalist group. These beliefs included the inerrancy of the Bible, the deity of Jesus, Jesus' blood atonement for sin, Jesus' physical resurrection, and "His Personal, Bodily Return." In the 1920s, when the Horton edition was first published, these five doctrines were intensely controversial. In many denominations, and in many schools, conservative and liberal Protestants faced off as "Fundamentalists" and "Modernists." The Horton edition of the Gospel of John clearly hoped to win converts for the conservative side of this controversy. In its stirring conclusion, it even offered this "Royal Resolution for Every Real Believer":
 I am living in the era of the World's crisis
 I am living in the era of the Church's crisis


 ... I will stand, by God's grace, with unquestioned confidence in
 the whole Word of God, and with the unsheathed Sword of the
 Spirit, contend for the faith once for all delivered, against all
 deceivers in school and church.

By distributing this inflammatory book so widely among southern schoolchildren, the BICA sought to spread a specifically fundamentalist interpretation of Protestantism. (37)

Many of the novels and storybooks distributed by the BICA emphasized these same controversial positions. The popular Rosa's Quest, by Anna Potter Wright (1905), was one typical example. In this evangelical version of the "Little Orphan Annie" story, young, poor Rosa is told by her dying mother to come find her in the "beautiful land." Rosa, raised without the benefit of evangelical Protestantism, is puzzled by this dying wish, but she sets out to discover the meaning of the cryptic message. As she wanders in her threadbare rags throughout an unfeeling city, she is initially rebuffed by both unbelievers and liberal Protestants alike. In the happy ending, however, Rosa is rescued by a conservative evangelical preacher, who teaches her that the path to the "beautiful land" is only through conservative evangelical Protestantism. Rosa accepts this message, and, to make her happiness complete, she is even adopted into a family of wealthy modernist Protestants. This worldly and cynical family is then led by Rosa's example to recognize the error of their liberal ways and embrace conservative evangelical Protestantism. Many of the young readers of these books used the simple narratives to help build a conservative evangelical identity for themselves. One child from Madison County, Kentucky, reported that she felt "like little Rosa In Rosa's Quest. I have found the way to heaven." (38)

The same controversial themes ran through the rest of the literature as well. One short booklet, The Man in the Well, by Oswald J. Smith, told a story in parable fashion about a man who found himself stuck in a dark well. He was visited by representatives of many religions, including Greek Orthodoxy, Catholicism, Judaism, Christian Science, Mormonism, and even Confucianism and Buddhism. All of them offered him ways to get out of his predicament, but none of their suggestions worked. Finally, Jesus Christ Himself visited the man and saved him by converting him to conservative evangelical Protestantism. (39)

The Missionary Book Funds of the BICA also distributed a wide variety of nonfiction apologetic literature. Several of the works attacked the idea of evolution. These included several anti-evolution speeches of William Jennings Bryan, as well as such dry, scholarly expositions as James Edward Congdon's Why I Do Not Believe in the Organic Evolutionary Hypothesis. Another common subject was the danger of liberal, modernistic Protestantism. Such booklets as Is the Bible True? by William Jennings Bryan, Modern Education at the Cross-Roads by M. H. Duncan, and Method in Biblical Criticism by Charles A. Blanchard stressed the necessity of conservative evangelical interpretations of Scripture. (40) Although the focus of the book drive changed profoundly between the controversy-filled decades of the 1920s and the early 1960s, MBI missionaries continued to use these same books. New titles were occasionally added, especially to the fiction offerings, but the free libraries remained remarkably similar throughout the period.


Even while the books delivered to public schools remained very similar, the rest of the book crusade changed radically. In the early years, MBI book missionaries thought of themselves as conducting a mission to a unique class of neglected, poverty-stricken "mountain" schools, populated by the desperate children of a special class of American, the "mountaineer." In the imagination of the Chicago book missionaries, these Appalachian folk existed in an older America, one in which the truths of conservative evangelical Protestantism were still the building blocks of mainstream society. By the mid-1960s, the missionaries had changed their understanding of themselves and their mission. While still including rural Appalachian and Ozark public schools in their outreach program, they had expanded their mission to target public schools nationwide. They had also begun to view themselves as competitors with a secularizing culture for the souls and minds of American schoolchildren. They no longer sought out isolated pockets of conservative Protestantism. Rather, they fought for their place in the nation's "culture factories," the public schools.

In the first years of the program, however, the missionaries took a diffident attitude toward public schools. In a 1921 pamphlet, BICA writers used very careful language to guard against the charge of promoting religious instruction in public schools. Among the "many classes of people" who might want to buy BICA books were "school boys and girls to work after hours." They described other possible markets for BICA books as "school teachers, in vacation or at other times." As regards public schools, this was a very limited goal; school students were to use the religious literature only after school hours were done. Teachers were to use the books while they were not teaching, or only possibly while teaching. (41)

In the early years, MBI book missionaries always described the target schools as unique "mountain" schools. They also set the students apart from other public school students by describing them as "mountaineers," "Mountain boys and girls," or even "Neglected Souls." (42) The early publicity information distributed by the BICA program emphasized the isolation and poverty of the targeted public schools. One evangelical teacher wrote to the MBI lamenting her students' ignorance: "My school children are pitifully ignorant of the Saviour. The first day of school I asked who Jesus is and one little fellow said, 'Jesus is a curse word and you shouldn't say it.'" She asked for missionary support for her "poverty-stricken district." (43) According to the missionaries, students from this unique district appreciated the free literature and were much more likely to make good use of it. Most fundraising brochures contained many pictures of adorable but pitiful "mountain" schoolchildren, happily showing off the free Gospels and storybooks given to them by the mission (see Fig. 1).


In addition, early BICA missionaries viewed public school teachers in the isolated "Mountain" regions as more willing than urban teachers to use evangelical materials in class. One fundraising brochure trumpeted, "Thousands of mountain and pioneer school teachers are ready to use Scripture portions and Moody books as a means of bringing their pupils to Christ. What an opportunity!" Another brochure lamented that teachers were willing to "drill their pupils on the great salvation truths of the Bible, but they lack even the Gospel of John with which to begin." (44)

The benefit of this isolation, poverty, and ignorance, from the perspective of the MBI book missionaries, was exactly this eager reception of fundamentalist gospels and literature. The late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries brought a host of unprecedented new realities, including the Bolshevik victory in Russia, the spread of mass marketing, and mass communications. All of these dramatic cultural changes pointed to a secularization of mainstream American culture and a loss of the special prestige and prerogatives that had long been claimed by evangelical Protestantism. Many groups reacted to these new social, political, and spiritual conditions by rallying around representations of traditional values. By the 1920s, when the BICA mission to Appalachia took off, such antimodernism had reached new levels of influence and popularity. Groups such as the revived Ku Klux Klan and the American Legion achieved record membership levels by promoting "100 percent Americanism" and their vision of traditional American values. (45)

Conservative evangelical groups, including the fundamentalists at the MBI, shared this nervousness about modern American culture. Although the Chicago book missionaries viewed the "mountaineers" as lamentably ignorant about Christian culture and education, the missionaries also created a romantic vision of Appalachia as a region safe from uncomfortable cultural innovations. As historian Henry Shapiro has argued, many conservative Americans came to view the region as a "more American alternative to dominant and by implication discredited or at least unsatisfactory patterns of contemporary American life, an alternative to be preserved as such for its own sake or as a model to be emulated." (46) One Presbyterian missionary in the early 1920s hoped to earn some sympathy for the "mountaineers" among his audience of conservative evangelicals when he reported "that there is not an atheist or an infidel among them. For one hundred and fifty years one generation has taught the succeeding one to believe in one true God and to have faith in the Bible." Another leading missionary agreed; William Hutchins, in 1920 the president of the evangelical Berea College in Kentucky, wrote: "At a time when restlessness and the spirit of Bolshevism pervade the industrial centers of our Nation, it is reassuring to know that the Southern Mountains contain a population of three and a half million pure-blooded Americans, growing to manhood and womanhood, and needing only the advantages of a Christian education to become a source of strength to our national life." (47)

The Missionary Book Funds of the BICA shared this vision of the southern mountains as a particularly promising region for their outreach. Like other evangelical missionary groups, BICA missionaries viewed this region as a pocket of nineteenth-century values in an America crashing headlong into the twentieth century. They looked to the "intelligent, loyal Americans" in the mountains to stay true to conservative evangelical Protestant culture. Although the mountain families might know "little rest in this life," and although they huddled in "window-less cabins.., darkened with sin and ignorance," their isolation and fidelity provided "fertile soil" for the MBI's fundamentalist message. (48)

This understanding of the southern Appalachian and Ozark Mountain regions as particularly fitting targets for literature missionary work remained steady from the 1920s until the advent of World War II. At that point, however, the MBI book missionaries began to change their understanding of both the region and their own role as missionaries to public schools. There was never a simple, explicit corporate decision to expand out of the mountains and confront secularizing American culture head-on. However, during and after the war, the language in which the Colportage Department missionaries described their work began to change. Although missionary writers continued to discuss their work in "mountain schools," they often widened the scope to "rural schools." For example, one war-time brochure mentioned only "needy rural schools of the South and West." (49) A 1947 brochure continued to look to "mountain or pioneer" schools as particularly appropriate fields of mission work, but also encouraged missionaries to look "East ... West ... North ... South ... everywhere the eye turns there are souls ready for the Lord's harvesters." (50) One brochure from the late 1940s or early 1950s still mentioned "mountain people," but put more emphasis on "public schools.... in communities throughout the nation." (51) In an article from 1948, Kenneth Taylor, the new leader of the Colportage Association, worried about "the literary and gospel hunger of the backwoods areas," but Taylor was more concerned with "the pitiful inadequacy of public schools" in general. (52)

Although there was no firm decision to shift focus away from Appalachian public schools, by 1957, that shift was clearly apparent. In that year, the Colportage Department of the MBI changed its name to the Moody Literature Mission, in order to reflect the long-abandoned goal of profitable book sales. (53) By the time of that name change, MBI book missionaries had moved away from the idea of the Appalachian region as a unique area in which to evangelize public school students. Now they hoped to convert public school students across the nation. In these later years, MBI missionaries had given up any limited regional understanding of their work. Instead, they discussed their job in public schools nationwide as the "The Home Work," or "the Domestic Front," as opposed to mission work in foreign countries. (54) And, instead of writing about "mountain" schools, evangelists now described the work accomplished in "public schools," "public school classrooms," or "public schoolrooms." (55) Book missionaries no longer depicted the public school students themselves as particularly poor, isolated, or needy, but rather as middle-class urban or suburban public school students needing and enjoying the evangelical literature (see Fig. 2).


The missionaries' tone also became more combative. As the target audience shifted from an Appalachian pocket of evangelical culture to public school students within the newly secular mainstream culture, MBI missionaries began to speak in the language of an aggressive, self-conscious subculture. Already in the immediate postwar years, Moody Literature Mission writers worked to fight against the allegedly corrupt culture that had taken over public schools nationwide. They reached out to "Educators, alarmed over the morally destructive effect of the obscene literature which is being read by elementary school children." (56) Book missionaries hoped to create a wide subculture of missionaries, students, teachers, parents, and administrators to battle for fundamentalist values in a secular culture.

The single biggest spur to this new role as cultural competitor within mainstream American culture came in 1963, when the Supreme Court reached its verdict in the Schempp case. In this case from Abington Township, Pennsylvania, Unitarian parents sued a school district for creating an atmosphere in which their son felt pressured to participate in the reading of ten verses from the King James Version of the Bible. After many appeals (the case was first brought in 1956), the Supreme Court agreed. Henceforth, no public school could continue the policy of mandatory reading of the Bible, even if individual exemptions were granted. (57) Since a majority of school districts either allowed or mandated such reading, this Court decision signaled an enormous policy shift for America's schools. (58)

The book missionaries of the MBI at first reacted with horror to this decision. They lamented that their book requests from public schools fell by 50 percent in 1964, no doubt due to this new ruling. At first, the missionaries even imagined that this new ruling could push their literature mission outside of public schools. Leaders noted with regret that "as the opportunity in the schools dims," the same literature mission might be able to function only in private homes. Initially, MBI missionaries also took some solace from the fact that "The gospel story books we offer are not included in the recent Court decision." (59) But in the succeeding years, they came to reject the Court's decision. In the end, this ruling pushed the MBI book missionaries even further into their understanding of themselves as competitors within a hostile secular American culture.

By 1964 the MBI had published a pamphlet, which it made available to public school teachers and administrators, in which the author explained the details of the Court's decision. The ruling, the author argued, did not ban the Bible from public schools, but only compelled schools to allow students to opt out. The Chicago book missionaries also promised to "Continue to push forward in the placing of suitable Christian literature in public school classrooms." (60) In addition, the leadership of the Moody Literature Mission expanded. Bert Abuhl was brought on board in order to "strengthen the MLM program in the schools," and he did just that. (61) By aggressively reaching out to public school teachers and administrators nationwide, the MLM school program quickly recovered from its 1963 Schempp-provoked dip. Although the numbers of books requested that year dropped by almost 50 percent, they rebounded by 30 percent in 1964, and were back to their traditional levels by 1965. (62) As one leader wrote in 1965, "We are not certain, at the moment, how the recent Supreme Court decision will affect the placing of our library books in the schools, but we feel led of the Lord to offer the books to the schools as we have in the past." (63)

From the time of the Schempp decision, the book missionaries began watching news headlines more closely and nervously debated the meaning of Supreme Court decisions. (64) Most important, they had finally made explicit their understanding of themselves as a competitor for the souls of mainstream Americans. In 1966, unlike in 1921, they did not feel a need to search out pockets of traditional Protestant culture in order to conduct their mission work.

What caused this remarkable shift? For one thing, the nature of the Appalachian region itself had changed over the years. Many residents of the mountain regions, squeezed by FDR's agricultural policies, had headed north, or to expanding southern industrial centers. As these former "mountaineers" moved to cities and suburbs across the nation, the MBI's literature mission shifted to serve the new demographic. (65) Those who remained developed a new sense of the legitimacy of their own culture. As can be seen in the founding of homegrown local cultural institutions such as the Highlander Folk School in 1933, many Appalachian folk came to resent the well-intentioned but patronizing attempts of earnest missionaries such as those from the MBI to "rescue" mountaineers from mountain culture. (66)

The MBI book missionaries keenly felt this new atmosphere among the mountains. In 1963, MLM director Peter Gunther lamented this shift:
 It used to be that most of these schools were little one-room
 schoolhouses with one teacher for all the grades. These teachers
 were often local Christians willing to work for a low salary for
 the sake of the children. Now with the advent of the school bus and
 the consolidated school, teachers and administrators from the
 universities are moving in. This, no doubt, is an improvement in
 some ways so far as the education of the children is concerned. But
 it has meant, for one thing, that instead of placing Moody
 Colportage Libraries in 15,462 schools as in 1956, we were able to
 put them in only 12,434 schools in 1962.

Gunther also bemoaned the fact that the "stepped-up curriculum" and school consolidation had prompted some Appalachian public schools to join mainstream American culture, and that those schools were "no longer open to home missionary work." (67)

As Gunther looked out at the changing culture of the mountain region and of America itself, he might also have looked at the changing culture with the MBI book mission itself. This changing understanding of itself and its role vis-a-vis mainstream American culture can be seen through the changes of mission leadership. When William Norton founded the mission to Appalachian public schools in 1921, he was as much a product of his culture as the isolated schools he hoped to reach. Norton had led the Bible Institute Colportage Association since 1897, when his friend Dwight L. Moody personally invited Norton to take the reins. Until his death in 1948, Norton clung to much of Moody's nineteenth-century understanding of American culture. (68) Norton sought out the isolated "mountaineers" precisely because he imagined them to be a unique outpost of nineteenth-century evangelical culture. His hopes for success in the region's public schools were a product of his belief that those "Anglo-Saxon folk have adhered to the Christian beliefs of their forefathers." (69)

The generation of leaders that followed Norton personified, in many respects, the dramatic changes taking place in conservative evangelical Protestantism. In the years immediately following World War II, fundamentalist intellectuals wrestled with their identity. One hotbed of this intellectual ferment was the Fuller Theological Seminary in southern California. Carl Henry, a founding professor at Fuller Seminary, brought many of these issues to a wide audience with his Uneasy Conscience of Modern Fundamentalism (1947). Henry worried that the term fundamentalism had come to represent only one faction of the broad coalition of conservative evangelical Protestants that had traditionally considered themselves fundamentalists since the 1920s. Henry argued that one wing, the separatists, had arrogated the term to themselves. In other words, the loudest and most visible fundamentalists were those who advocated a strict separation from their denominations and from the wider culture. Their insistence on doctrinal purity led them to break away from any group or program that had any taint of nonfundamentalist culture. The danger of such a development was that fundamentalism would define itself out of all cultural relevance and become an intellectual backwater. Henry, and others like him, hoped to reinvigorate the wide coalition of conservative evangelical Protestants that had been known as "fundamentalism" in the 1920s and '30s. They hoped to bring fundamentalism back to a critical engagement with traditional conservative evangelical Protestant issues, including public morality, educational policy, and American foreign policy. Fuller seminary founder Harold Ockenga helped to popularize the new name for this public fundamentalism, "new evangelical" or "neo-evangelical." Ockenga wanted to help fundamentalism "Win America" by supporting the National Association of Evangelicals, an organization that would bring this revived brand of fundamentalism back into public discourse. The success of their mission came unmistakably with the barnstorming success of Billy Graham's new evangelical revival tours in the late 1940s. Suddenly, the message of conservative neo-evangelicalism reclaimed its role as mainstream American theology. (70)

Just as Billy Graham brought the new evangelical message to audiences across the United States, the leadership of the Moody Bible Institute's literature mission underwent a dramatic change. William Norton, leader of the mission since its inception in 1897, passed away in 1948. His successor, Kenneth Taylor, came to his mission deeply imbued with the spirit of the new evangelicalism. Before joining the Chicago missionaries, he had worked as the editor of His, the magazine of the Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship. Inter-Varsity, though relatively new, had rapidly become an important player in the movement to assert a new fundamentalist identity, and Taylor brought this new spirit to the Moody literature mission. (71)

Taylor was not alone. Other top leaders of the MBI and the literature mission had similarly embraced neo-evangelicalism. Like his colleague Ken Taylor, Peter Gunther received a thorough education in the values and ideas of postwar fundamentalism. He graduated from Biola University in 1942, and went on to receive bachelor's and master's degrees from Wheaton College. (72) Both Wheaton and Biola had been squarely in the fundamentalist camp since the public controversies of the 1920s, and both institutions joined Fuller Seminary in its mission to support a new generation of fundamentalist intellectuals who developed the idea of a new evangelicalism. (73) During the ten years (1953-63) that Gunther spent as the book mission's assistant director, and the years after 1963 in which he was the director, the book mission itself shifted from one of uncertain relationship to its traditional Appalachian public school mission, to its new, clear-eyed, aggressive competition within mainstream American culture.


Under the leadership of Peter Gunther, the MBI book mission clarified its new role as an active competitor within American culture. From its beginnings as a mission to uniquely needy Appalachian schools, made more attractive by the perceived adherence of the "mountaineers" to nineteenth-century evangelical culture, the book mission had become a mission to America itself, through the nation's public schools. This shift away from the mountains mirrored widespread changes in religious attitudes toward the southern Appalachian region. Many missionary groups had become fascinated with what they perceived to be an exotic and unique mountain culture in the late nineteenth century. By the mid-twentieth century, such condescending attitudes had become unacceptable to many of the "mountaineers" themselves, and religious missionaries had widened their approach from a regional one to a national one. (74)

In addition, the Moody Bible Institute literature mission provides an example of the firm belief in the power of the printed page among fundamentalists. Like other Protestant evangelical groups, such as the American Bible Society, the Moody book missionaries believed in the miraculous power of their sacred text. And, like other fundamentalists, they were so deeply entrenched in the culture of print that no line was ever drawn between evangelism and book marketing. (75)

The Chicago book mission also parallels the transformation of fundamentalism itself in many ways. For one thing, while many liberal critics of fundamentalism had assumed that fundamentalism died by the end of the controversy-ridden 1920s, it had instead flourished. The MBI program certainly did so. After a modest beginning in 1921, the book program to public schools delivered more than eight million books to public school students before 1966. During the 1930s and '40s, when many academics and liberal Protestants had assumed that fundamentalism had withered away as a vestige of nineteenth-century culture, the MBI book mission had provided the only reading material in thousands of rural schools. Like other fundamentalist enterprises during the period, the MBI book mission had quietly grown deep roots in the minds and souls of thousands of Americans.

During these "intermediate" years, the fundamentalist movement also wrestled with questions of identity. The MBI book mission shared this agonizing process of self-understanding as transformation. As historian George Marsden has explained, the fundamentalist movement in the 1920s, '30s, and '40s included a much broader spectrum of leaders and grass-roots activists. As long as an activist was "theologically traditional, a believer in the fundamentals of evangelical Christianity, and willing to take a militant stand against modernism," she could call herself a fundamentalist without undue definitional contortions. By the 1960s, however, the term fundamentalism had come to refer more exclusively to Protestants who adhered to a stricter, separatist understanding of their movement. Theological definitions had also become more demanding, and later fundamentalists only welcomed fellow believers in the theology of dispensational premillennialism into their shrunken ranks. By the 1970s, fundamentalism had become so infatuated with its own self-defined quest for purity that fundamentalist educator Bob Jones, Jr., could condemn fellow fundamentalist Jerry Falwell for Falwell's willingness to include conservative Catholics, Jews, and Mormons in his Moral Majority. (76)

The book missionaries at the Moody Bible Institute wrestled with similar questions of self-definition. Given their primary mission of reaching as many readers as possible with their evangelical literature, it should come as no surprise that the leadership tended to embrace the outward-looking tenets of neo-evangelicalism. Just as fundamentalist intellectuals such as Harold Ockenga and Carl Henry began to suggest the outlines of this new movement in the late 1940s, the leadership of the Moody literature mission was shifting from the nineteenth-century evangelicalism of William Norton to the late-twentieth-century new evangelicalism of Ken Taylor and Peter Gunther. The strict separatism and theological rigidity of later fundamentalism had little appeal to such leaders, and the book mission moved itself into the neo-evangelical camp.

The book mission crusade at MBI had some idiosyncrasies as well. Unlike other fundamentalists, for instance, the MBI leadership had to come to terms with its understanding of the Appalachian region. Other fundamentalists during the time did not spend much time pondering the changing cultural patterns of the region, nor did other fundamentalists seek out pockets of majority evangelical culture the way the Chicago book missionaries did. In addition, the personalities and interests of the MBI book mission leadership led the mission down an unusual path. During the 1950s, when many fundamentalist intellectuals were considering the domestic implications of the neo-evangelical movement, Kenneth Taylor's neo-evangelicalism took a different direction. His interest in international literature mission work initially moved the MBI program away from much consideration of domestic cultural issues. (77) It was only the 1963 Schempp decision that shocked the MBI book mission leadership into a new analysis of their role in American culture. In other words, only the Supreme Court's effort to lock the Bible out of public schools prompted the MBI to take on the same kind of political involvement in cultural issues that had stimulated the wider fundamentalist movement since the 1940s. (78)

From William Norton's bumpy ride through the southern mountains in 1921, to Peter Gunther's more comfortable survey of the region in 1966, much had certainly changed. Appalachia had become much more like the rest of America. That American culture itself had become much more complicated. Like other fundamentalists, the leaders of the MBI's quiet crusade had also changed. They had built an enormous publishing and distribution network, using public schools as their hubs. In the process, they had given up the hope of preaching only in pockets of culture in which their message was uncontroversial. They had changed their understanding of themselves from fundamentalists preaching the traditional message of Christianity to neo-evangelicals competing for cultural hegemony within a pluralistic America. The leaders of this quiet crusade, like other leaders of the fundamentalist movement, had accepted and prospered in their role as a competitor within a complex twentieth-century American culture.

(1.) Quoted in Kenneth Taylor, "Gold Behind the Ranges," Christian Life (June 1948): 26, clipping in the Moody Literature Mission (hereafter MLM) File, Moody Bible Institute (hereafter MBI) Archive.

(2.) "Taylor-Gunther Southern Trip," February 12-24, 1951, typewritten report, MLM File, MBI Archive.

(3.) Peter F. Gunther and Bert Abuhl, "MLM Southland Trip," March, 1966, typewritten memo, MLM File, MBI Archive.

(4.) Peter Gunther, "Evangelism in Depth for Appalachia," Moody Literature Mission News (hereafter MLM News), no. 6, 1964, MLM File, MBI Archive.

(5.) Joel A. Carpenter, Revive Us Again: The Reawakening of American Fundamentalism (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997), xi.

(6.) William Vance Trollinger, God's Empire: William Bell Riley and Midwestern Fundamentalism (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1990); Virginia Lieson Brereton, Training God's Army: Protestant Fundamentalist Bible Schools, 1880-1940 (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1990); George M. Marsden, Reforming Fundamentalism: Fuller Seminary and the New Evangelicalism (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1987).

(7.) George M. Marsden, Fundamentalism and American Culture: The Shaping of Twentieth-Century Evangelicalism: 1870-1925 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1980), 6.

(8.) Quote is from Carpenter, Revive Us Again, 3.

(9.) James F. Findlay, Jr., Dwight L. Moody: American Evangelist (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1969), 327; Gene A. Getz, MBI: The Story of Moody Bible Institute (Chicago: Moody, 1969), 37.

(10.) William M. Runyan, ed., Dr. Gray at Moody Bible Institute (New York: Oxford University Press, 1935), 131.

(11.) Brereton, Training God's Army, x. Even the historian Stewart Cole, usually a hostile critic of conservative evangelism, singled out the MBI as the leader of the Bible institute movement. Furthermore, he recognized that Bible institutes were the key to the promotion of conservative evangelical Protestantism: Stewart Cole, The History of Fundamentalism (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood, 1971), 249. The sympathetic historian Ernest Sandeen argued that the MBI was "certainly the most influential such school": Ernest R. Sandeen, The Roots of Fundamentalism: British and American Millenarianism 1800-1930 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1970), 242.

(12.) Getz, MBI, 262, 276, 281, 314. For the Moody Institute of Science, see James Gilbert, Redeeming Culture: American Religion in an Age of Science (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1997). As Gilbert argues, these technological achievements demonstrate the tension between the MBI's embrace of modern technology and its attack on theological modernism.

(13.) Getz, MBI, 175.

(14.) Noah Porter quoted in Candy Gunther Brown, The Word in the World: Evangelical Writing, Publishing, and Reading in America, 1789-1880 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2004), 115. Comstock quoted in Michael Denning, Mechanic Accents: Dime Novels and Working-Class Culture in America (New York: Verso, 1987), 51. For more on early pulp fiction, see Bill Blackbeard, "Pulps and Dime Novels," in Handbook of American Popular Literature, ed. M. Thomas Inge (New York: Greenwood, 1988), 217-50.

(15.) David Paul Nord, Faith in Reading: Religious Publishing and the Birth of Mass Media in America (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004), 83-85; Paul C. Gutjahr, An American Bible: A History of the Good Book in the United States, 1777-1880 (Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1999), 32-33; Nord, The Evangelical Origins of Mass Media in America, 1815-1835 (Columbia, S.C.: Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication, 1984), 18; and Peter J. Wosh, Spreading the Word: The Bible Business in Nineteenth-Century America (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1994).

(16.) Arline Harris, "Free Print for the Hungry," typewritten document, 1949, BICA file, MBI Archive. See also Harris's "Moody's Silent Missionaries," typewritten document, n.d., BICA file, MBI Archive. Harris worked for the publicity department of the MBI, so her story is obviously told from a sympathetic viewpoint. However, her source for this information was a series of interviews with the old guard of the MBI, some of who had worked directly with Moody. Many of them told Harris their memories of the foundation of the BICA. Some remnants of their correspondence are in the BICA file at the MBI Archive. The foundation story also appears repeatedly in BICA literature. See, for example, the version told in "These Forty-Two Years: Still Reaching the Multitudes," BICA annual report, 1937, BICA file, MBI Archive.

(17.) "29th Annual Report of the D. L. Moody Missionary Book Funds," 1924, BICA file, MBI Archive. These targeted groups varied with time, but some long-lasting categories included the "Hospital" fund, the "Prison" fund, the "Pioneer" fund, which delivered books to isolated westerners, the "Negro" fund, the "Lumbermen" hand, the "Spanish" fund, the "Alaskan" fired, and so on. With the advent of New Deal programs, the "CCC" fund was soon established, and when World War II broke out, the "Army and Navy" fund was established. Of all these funds, the "Mountain" fund, which targeted southern Appalachian and Ozark schoolchildren, was consistently one of the largest. The "Prison" and "Hospital" funds were the other two funds that consistently attracted the highest donations.

(18.) Findlay, Dwight L. Moody: American Evangelist, 1837-1899, 398.

(19.) Harris, "Free Print for the Hungry," 1949, and "Moody's Silent Missionaries," n.d., typewritten documents in the BICA file, MBI Archive. BICA also occasionally published a catalog, "Best Books for Bible Believers." These catalogs contain full listings of Colportage Library books, and several are extant in the BICA file, MBI Archive. For more about evangelical libraries, see Brown, The Word in the World, 86-88.

(20.) Deborah Vansau McCauley, Appalachian Mountain Religion: A History (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1995), 377 ff. (Pierson's story), 404 (Myers). McCauley suggests that the residents of the southern Appalachians had a much stronger tradition of religion than most missionaries gave them credit for. Historian Henry D. Shapiro argues that in roughly 1870-90, the home mission movement "discovered" the idea that the southern mountains constituted a distinct target region for missionary work, and that this work took off in the 1880s. See his Appalachia on Our Mind: The Southern Mountains and Mountaineers in the American Consciousness, 1870-1920 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1978).

(21.) Arthur B. Rutledge, Mission to America: A Century and a Quarter of Southern Baptist Home Missions (Nashville, Tenn.: Broadman, 1969), 45, 111.

(22.) Quoted in McCauley, Appalachian Mountain Religion, 434.

(23.) Fred Eastman, Unfinished Business of the Presbyterian Church in America (Philadelphia, Pa.: Westminster, 1921), 15.

(24.) Homer McMillan, "Unfinished Tasks" of the Southern Presbyterian Church (Richmond, Va.: Presbyterian Committee of Publication, 1922), 17.

(25.) Brown, The Word in the World, 60-65.

(26.) This plan is described in "Free Print for the Hungry" by Arline Harris, of the Publicity Department of the MBI, typewritten report, MLM File, MBI Archive, 1949, 9. It is also described as "The Plan of Working," in "Where Hungry Souls Await the Bread of Life," Colportage department fundraising brochure, MLM File, MBI Archive. The scheme is also described by Gene Getz, in MBI, 247.

(27.) My calculations are based on several sources. The most complete source was the monthly reports of Book Fund performance, published between 1921 and 1938 in the pages of the Moody Bible Institute Monthly. Even these reports, however, were incomplete, since the Book Fund reports were occasionally omitted from crowded issues of the magazine. Another useful source was the file of annual reports of the Book Funds. These contained yearly totals for cash donations and literature deliveries. The archival file of these reports, however, is incomplete.

One further problem with the computation of total numbers of books delivered to public schools is that there was no accurate record kept of school deliveries between 1921 and 1957. Although the vast majority of the "mountain" books went to public schools, not all of them did. The records contain occasional hints about the ratio between total book deliveries and those intended for schools, and I based my estimate on this ratio. For example, the August 1929 monthly report contained a note that 454 out of 479 deliveries were made to public school teachers.

In light of all these approximations and estimations, I always used the lowest possible number to calculate the totals of books received. By this reckoning, it seems very likely that public schools received at least 8,396,836 books between 1921 and 1966. This does not include the number of tracts delivered, but it does include all other categories of book.

(28.) Brown, The Word in the World, 1.

(29.) William V. Trollinger, "Creating Fundamentalist Community: The Pilot and Its Readers, 1925-1945" (paper presented at the conference for Religion and the Culture of Print in America: Authors, Publishers, Readers and More since 1876, Madison, Wisconsin, September 10-11, 2004).

(30.) T. C. Horton, ed., The Gospel of John (Chicago: Bible Institute Colportage Association, 1922), 2; James H. Weir, "The Power of God unto Salvation," Moody Bible Institute Monthly (May 1921): 423; William Norton, "The Gospel in Print," Moody Bible Institute Monthly (February 1921): 295.

(31.) William Norton, "The Gospel in Print," Moody Bible Institute Monthly (March 1921): 343.

(32.) "The Bible Institute Colportage Association" (Chicago: Bible Institute Colportage Association, 1896); "Preaching the Gospel in Print" (Chicago: Bible Institute Colportage Association, 1921).

(33.) Bible Institute Colportage Association's Annual Report, 1939, BICA File, MBI Archive. For a similar tension among earlier evangelicals, see Brown, The Word in the World, 48-78; see also Nord, Faith in Reading, 145.

(34.) Nord, The Evangelical Origins of Mass Media in America, 1815-1835, 22.

(35.) Brown, The Word in the World, 55 ("purity and presence"); MLM News, no. 2, 1968, MLM File, MBI Archive; "Share in the Spiritual Victory Too!," 194?, MLM File, MBI Archive; "'The Poor Have the Gospel Preached to Them'--By Means of the Printed Page: Forty-Fifth Annual Report of the D. L. Moody Missionary Book Funds for the Fiscal Year Ended February 29, 1940," MLM File, MBI Archive; "Arm Our Boys with the "Sword of the Spirit' for their 'Fight of Faith,'" 194?, MLM File, MBI Archive; Kenneth Taylor, "Gold Behind the Ranges," 27. For an analysis of the ways this conflation of conversion and marketing appeal functioned during the nineteenth-century formation of evangelical print culture, see Brown, The Word in the World, 27-33, 51-78.

(36.) Brown, The Word in the World, 33-41, 141-53.

(37.) Horton, ed., The Gospel of John, 69 (five fundamental doctrines), 79 ("Royal Resolution").

(38.) Anna Potter Wright, Rosa's Quest or, The Way to the Beautiful Land (Chicago: Bible Institute Colportage Association, 1905); William Norton, "The Gospel in Print," Moody Bible Institute Monthly (July 1921): 463.

(39.) Oswald J. Smith, The Man in the Well (Chicago: Bible Institute Colportage Association, 1934).

(40.) Unfortunately, the Book Funds kept no record of the titles of books distributed, except to single out the Gospels of John and the Pocket Treasuries. These other books were all lumped together into two categories: Evangel Booklets and the Colportage Library. The annual reports of the Missionary Book Funds indicate that Appalachian public schools received a mix of both tendentious fiction and hortatory nonfiction, but the ratio between the two was never made clear.

(41.) "Preaching the Gospel in Print," BICA instructional pamphlet, 1921, BICA File, MBI Archive.

(42.) See, for example, "Preaching the Gospel in Print," BICA instructional pamphlet, 1921, BICA File, MBI archive; "A Million Neglected Souls Given the Message of Life: The Annual Report for the D. L. Moody Missionary Book Funds from March 1, 1930, to February 28, 1931," 1931, BICA File, MBI Archive; "These Forty-Two Years: Still Reaching the Multitudes," BICA annual report, 1937, BICA File, MBI Archive.

(43.) "A Million Neglected Souls Given the Message of Life."

(44.) "Where Hungry Souls Await the Bread of Life," Colportage department fundraising brochure, n.d., MLM File, MBI Archive (emphasis in original). "'Holding Forth The Word of Life ... ' to THOUSANDS in Army Camps, Prisons, Hospitals, Mountain and Pioneer Districts ... through the PRINTED PAGE," Colportage department fundraising brochure, n.d., MLM File, MBI Archive.

(45.) For a good overview of the antimodernity campaigns of the 1920s, see Lynn Dumenil, The Modern Temper: American Culture and Society in the 1920s (New York: Hill and Wang, 1995). For a look at the way this antimodernism formed a part of American intellectual culture, see T. J. Jackson Lears, No Place of Grace: Antimodernism and the Transformation of American Culture, 1880-1920 (New York: Pantheon, 1981). For an in-depth look at the campaigns of the 1920s KKK in Indiana, see Leonard J. Moore, Citizen Klansmen: The Ku Klux Klan in Indiana, 1921-1928 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1991).

(46.) Shapiro, Appalachia on Our Mind, 134.

(47.) McMillan, "Unfinished Tasks" of the Southern Presbyterian Church, 98; Hutchins is quoted in Shapiro, Appalachia on Our Mind, 278, n. 14.

(48.) "'Without God and Without Hope,'" BICA fundraising brochure, 193?, MLM File, MBI Archive.

(49.) "Arm Our Boys with the 'Sword of the Spirit" for their "Fight of Faith,'" Colportage department fundraising brochure, 194?, MLM File, MBI Archive.

(50.) "Unto All ...," Colportage department fundraising brochure, 1947, MLM File, MBI Archive.

(51.) "An Encouraging Report," Colportage department fundraising brochure, 194?, MLM File, MBI Archive.

(52.) Taylor, "Gold Behind the Ranges," 27-28.

(53.) MLM News, no. 1, 1968.

(54.) Lowell Saunders, "D. L. Challenged, 'It Can't Be Done,'" The Moody Student 16 (November 30, 1951): 1; MLM News, no. 1, 1965.

(55.) See, for example, "and many Believed: A Report from Colportage Department of Moody Bible Institute," Colportage department fundraising brochure, 195?, MLM File, MBI Archive; MLM News, February 1960; MLM News, December 1961; MLM News, October, 1962; MLM News, no. 2, 1966.

(56.) "An Encouraging Report," Colportage department fundraising brochure, 194?, MLM File, MBI Archive.

(57.) Donald E. Boles, The Bible, Religion, and the Public Schools (Ames: Iowa State University Press, 1963), 131-44.

(58.) Boles, The Bible, Religion, and the Public Schools, 53; Lloyd P. Jorgenson. The State and the Non-Public School, 1825-1925 (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1987), 135.

(59.) MLM News, no. 4, 1963.

(60.) MLM News, no. 1, 1964.

(61.) MLM News, no. 3, 1965.

(62.) MLM News, no. 3, 1964.

(63.) MLM News, no. 5, 1965.

(64.) "Supreme Court Rejects Hearing on School Prayers," Chicago Sun-Times, 14 December 1965, clipping in MLM file, MBI Archive; MLM News, no. 1, 1966.

(65.) For the emigration from Appalachia, see Jacqueline Jones, "Southern Diaspora: Origins of the Northern 'Underclass,'" in The "Underclass" Debate: Views from History, ed. Michael Katz (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1993). Jones argues that up to one-third of the population of Kentucky migrated, white and African American, and about one-fourth of West Virginia. I am indebted to Bill Reese for this reference.

(66.) Shapiro, Appalachia on Our Mind, 240; McCauley, Appalachian Mountain Religion.

(67.) "Moody Bible Institute Quarterly Fellowship Letter," March 1963, MLM File, MBI Archive; Peter Gunther, "Evangelism in Depth for Appalachia."

(68.) "Moody's Oldest Employee Dies," typescript memorandum, BICA File, MBI Archive.

(69.) Norton's 1921 report quoted in Taylor, "Gold Behind the Ranges," 26.

(70.) Carpenter, Revive Us Again, 187-210, 217-29; Marsden, Reforming Fundamentalism, 3.

(71.) Taylor, "Gold Behind the Ranges," 27; Carpenter, Revive Us Again, 206-9.

(72.) "Moody Memo" 7 (January 2, 1953): 1, news release, MLM File, MBI Archive; News release, October 21, 1963, MLM File, MBI Archive.

(73.) Thomas A. Askew, Jr., The Liberal Arts College Encounters Intellectual Change: A Comparative Study of Education at Knox and Wheaton Colleges, 1837-1925 (Ph.D. diss., Northwestern University, 1969); Robert Williams, Chartered for His Glory: Biola University, 1908-1983 (La Mirada, Calif.: Associated Students of Biola University, 1983).

(74.) Shapiro, Appalachia on Our Mind, 5, 39, 240.

(75.) Wosh, Spreading the Word; Brown, The Word in the World, 27-33, 51-78.

(76.) Marsden, Reforming Fundamentalism, 10; Mark Taylor Dalhouse, An Island in the Lake of Fire: Bob Jones University, Fundamentalism, and the Separatist Movement (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1996), 114.

(77.) See, for example, Taylor, "Can We Win the War of Words?," Moody Monthly 55 (March 1955): 13, 16-18, 33.

(78.) Carpenter, Revive Us Again, esp. chap. 11-12.

Adam Laats is a doctorial candidate in History at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
COPYRIGHT 2006 American Society of Church History
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2006 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Author:Laats, Adam
Publication:Church History
Geographic Code:1U2NY
Date:Sep 1, 2006
Previous Article:Hesitant steps: acceptance of the Gregorian calendar in eighteenth-century Geneva.
Next Article:Editor's introduction.

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2020 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters