The Salvation Army was founded by William Booth, with the assistance of his wife, Catherine Booth. Booth, a Methodist minister, began independent evangelistic work in Cornwall, England, in 1861. In 1865 he began his movement by holding outdoor meetings and revivals in tents and theaters in London. The movement was originally known as the East London Revival Society, shortly renamed the Christian Mission, and finally in 1878 designated the Salvation Army. A military form of organization, with uniforms and other distinctive features, was adopted in the interest of a more effective "warfare against evil."
From its inception the organization sought to minister to physical as well as spiritual human needs. Soup kitchens were the first in a long line of widely varied projects designed to provide physical assistance to the destitute. Although the members often met opposition, the value of Salvation Army services had been generally acknowledged by 1890, when General Booth set forth his plan of procedure in his book In Darkest England and the Way Out.
On his death William Booth was succeeded by his son, Bramwell, as head of the organization; but in 1929 his removal was voted by the high council of the Army, and Edward J. Higgins was elected to that post. Salvation Army work in the United States dates from 1880, when Commissioner George Railton and seven women workers from England founded a branch in Pennsylvania. In 1904, Evangeline Booth, daughter of the founder, was put in command of the work in the United States; in 1934 she became general of the International Salvation Army.
See also Volunteers of America.