• Print this page

Fact and fiction

Did The Salvation Army really invent the doughnut?

Fiction. The Salvation Army did not invent the doughnut. It was probably created in  North America by Dutch settlers.

When the USA entered World War I in 1917, The Salvation Army sent 11 officers to France as chaplains. Wanting to provide the soldiers with home cooking, but having access only to flour, sugar, lard, baking powder, cinnamon, and canned milk, Salvation Army ensigns Helen Purviance and Margaret Sheldon hit upon the idea of making doughnuts.

The first doughnuts were patted out by hand and cooked over a small wood fire. The fragrance drew soldiers to the hut, and they lined up in the rain, waiting for a taste. The word went around. "If you're hungry and broke, you can get something to eat at The Salvation Army."

After that, Purviance and Sheldon became known as the "Doughnut Girls". The doughnut wasn't the only thing the USA Salvation Army provided, of course, but it became a great symbol of The Salvation Army's service.

Click here for more information and an original recipe.

Was the founder of Arnott Biscuits really a Salvation Army officer?

Fiction. William Arnott founded a bakery in Newcastle, NSW, in 1865. He had five sons, one of whom was Arthur Arnott. Arthur left his father's employ to become a Salvation Army Officer. He worked at Territory Headquarters and wrote some wonderful songs.

Visit www.arnotts.com.au/history.aspx for an excellent feature on the history of this iconic Australian company.

Does the "SAO" biscuit really stand for Salvation Army Officer?

Arguably Fact. When William Arnott died in 1901, his 5 sons inherited the business. They introduced the SAO biscuit in 1906 and it is understood they named it in honour of their brother Arthur Arnott, a Salvation Army Officer.

In 2006, Arnott's Biscuits is commemorating the 100 year anniversary of SAO biscuits. Read about it at www.arnotts.com.au/products/Sao.aspx

Did The Salvation Army invent the safety match?

Fiction. "Strike anywhere" matches were invented and perfected by a number of chemists in Britain and France in the early 1800s. The most popular was made with white phosphorous, which caused necrosis or 'phossy jaw' in the match-makers, a disease which ate into the bone of the jaw causing severe pain and eventually death.

"Safety matches" were invented by Swedish chemists in 1855 using red phosphorous and a sandpaper striker on the box. They were "safe" because they eliminated the problem of phossy jaw and the match could only be lit off the special striking surface. However, their match was more expensive to make, so factories kept making white phosphorous matches.

Workers at the factories were making matches in appalling conditions for only two shillings per day, 16 hours a day, without lunch or tea breaks, and dying because of phossy jaw.

This led William Booth and The Salvation Army to open a clean, airy, well-lit factory in 1891 where harmless red phosphorus was used in the match making process. Booth called the matches 'Lights in Darkest England'. Tea making facilities were made available and the 100 workers received decent wages - more than one third above the rate in other factories.

The Salvation Army also campaigned to get grocers and shopkeepers to stock only safety matches. This forced other match factories to improve working conditions and use only the safe red phosphorous in their factories.

The Salvation Army closed their match factory in 1901, having achieved their purpose 'to raise the wages of the matchmakers, to fight against sweating, and to help the poor to help themselves by labour'.

Visit our London website to read more, or visit Wikipedia for the history of matches.

Was the world's first Salvation Army social programme in Melbourne?

Fact. In 1883, Major James Barker led the way to establish the first Salvation Army social institution anywhere in the world on a permanent basis, known as the "Prison Gate" programme.

Barker saw that prisoners being released from the Melbourne Gaol had nowhere to go and no work, so they inevitably re-offended and returned to gaol. Barker leased a small house in Lygon Street, Carlton, to provide accommodation for prisoners discharged from Melbourne's gaols. This led to the formation of the Prison-Gate Brigade, the members of which met discharged prisoners upon their release and offered them a home and the prospect of a job.

Click here to read more.

Was Australia's first employment service started by The Salvation Army?

Fact. Unemployment in the wake of the serious 1890s and 1930s depressions threatened the very survival of middle and working class Australians. The Salvation Army, along with other churches and civic groups, struggled valiantly to fill the gap that existed in this country before government benefits were available.

In 1889 the first Salvation Army "labour bureau" (indeed, the first such bureau in Australia) was opened in Melbourne. In a time of deep privation and stark hunger, men from the country entered the cities in droves to seek work. Their city counterparts scoured the goldfields in hope of the means to support their loved ones and themselves.

Soon there were Salvation Army labour bureaus in Sydney and Adelaide. As well as acting as job-finding agencies, the bureaus served thousands of meals to people out of work.

The Victorian Government, seeing the need for such a service, took over the running of the labour bureau in 1892. With the government's move into the labour market, The Salvation Army - while continuing to help in finding people jobs - concentrated on providing practical relief necessitated through unemployment. The Salvation Army's example here led to the first British employment program.

Did The Salvation Army really build Australia's first film studio in Melbourne?

Fact. Thomas Edison and his British assistant William Dickson invented the Kinetograph camera in 1890 and Kinetoscope projector in 1891. They opened the world's first film production studio, the Black Maria Kinetographic Theater, in 1893 at Edison's laboratories at New Jersey, USA, to make film strips for the Kinetoscope - a coin-operated peep-show cabinet which showed 60 or 90 seconds of film on a loop.

In 1898, The Salvation Army bought a French invention, a Cinematographe made by the Lumiere brothers in Paris, and built Australia's first film studio built at 69 Bourke Street, Melbourne, to produce a series of short movies about the social work of The Salvation Army.

Click here to read more, or visit www.filmsite.org/pre20sintro.html for a history of film before 1920.

Is the Beatles song "Strawberry Fields Forever" about a Salvation Army orphanage?

Fact. Strawberry Field Children's Home was founded in 1936 as a Salvation Army orphanage in Liverpool, England.

According to The London Telegraph (14 Jan 2005), John Lennon lived around the corner from Strawberry Field. As a child in the 1950s, he squeezed through the home's tall, wrought iron gates and played on the grounds with some of the orphans who lived there. He is believed to have felt a kinship with them after he was abandoned by his father and sent by his mother, Julia, to live with his Aunt.

Another source says Strawberry Field had had an annual fete , which John Lennon and his aunt Mimi regularly attended.

The name of the orphanage became world famous in 1967 with the release of The Beatles single "Strawberry Fields Forever".

The photo above was taken in the original Victorian building which no longer exists; it was demolished and a new structure, Lennon Court, was erected in 1979.

According to The Telegraph, Lennon left money to Strawberry Field in his will, and in 1984 his widow, Yoko Ono, gave more than £50,000 towards its upkeep.

But a change in the way orphans are cared for led to the closure in January 2005, with the preference now being to care for children within foster families or small group homes, rather than within large residential institutions.

Strawberry Field closed in January 2005 as a children's home and is now a Salvation Army prayer and mission centre. The famous gates marking its entrance still stand.