BOOTH, WILLIAM (1829- ), founder and "general" of the Salvation Army (q.v.), was born at Nottingham on the 10th of April 1829. At the age of fifteen his mind took a strongly religious turn, under the influence of the Wesleyan Methodists, in which body he became a local preacher. In 1849 he came to London, where, according to his own account, his passion for open-air preaching caused his severance from the Wesleyans. Joining the Methodist New Connexion, he was ordained a minister, but, not being employed as he wished in active "travelling evangelization," left that body also in 1861. Meanwhile he had (1855) married Miss Catherine Mumford, and had a family of four children. Both he and his wife occupied themselves with preaching, first in Cornwall and then in Cardiff and Walsall. At the last-named place was first organized a "Hallelujah band" of converted criminals and others, who testified in public of their conversion. In 1864 Booth went to London and continued his services in tents and in the open air, and founded a body which was successively known as the East London Revival Society, the East London Christian Mission, the Christian Mission and (in 1878) the Salvation Army. The Army operates (1) by outdoor meetings and processions; (2) by visiting public-houses, prisons, private houses; (3) by holding meetings in theatres, factories and other unusual buildings; (4) by using the most popular song-tunes and the language of everyday life, etc.; (5) by making every convert a daily witness for Christ, both in public and private. The army is a quasi-military organization, and Booth modelled its "Orders and Regulations" on those of the British army. Its early "campaigns" excited violent opposition, a "Skeleton Army" being organized to break up the meetings, and for many years Booth's followers were subjected to fine and imprisonment as breakers of the peace. Since 1889, however, these disorders have been little heard of. The operations of the army were extended in 1880 to the United States, in 1881 to Australia, and spread to the European continent, to India, Ceylon and elsewhere, "General" Booth himself being an indefatigable traveller, organizer and speaker. His wife (b. 1829) died in 1890. By her preaching at Gateshead, where her husband was circuit minister, in 1860, she began the women's ministry which is so prominent a feature of the army's work. A biography of her by Mr Booth Tucker appeared in 1892.
In 1890 "General" Booth attracted further public attention by the publication of a work entitled In Darkest England, and the Way Out, in which he proposed to remedy pauperism and vice by a series of ten expedients: (1) the city colony; (2) the farm colony; (3) the over-sea colony; (4) the household salvage brigade; (5) the rescue homes for fallen women; (6) deliverance for the drunkard; (7) the prison-gate brigade; (8) the poor man's bank; (9) the poor man's lawyer; (10) Whitechapel-by-the-Sea. Money was liberally subscribed and a large part of the scheme was carried out. The opposition and ridicule with which Booth's work was for many years received gave way, towards the end of the 19th century, to very widespread sympathy as his genius and its results were more fully realized.
The active encouragement of King Edward VII., at whose instance in 1902 he was invited officially to be present at the coronation ceremony, marked the completeness of the change; and when, in 1905, the "general" went on a progress through England, he was received in state by the mayors and corporations of many towns. In the United States also, and elsewhere, his work was cordially encouraged by the authorities.
See T.F. Coates, The Life Story of General Booth (2nd ed., London, 1906), and bibliography under Salvation Army.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)