Into the Big Tent

By   •   September 24, 2009   •   Topics: ,

Titled, “Into the Big Tent: Billy Graham and the 1949 Christ for Greater Los Angeles Campaign”, the exhibit can be viewed here

“The Los Angeles campaign marked Graham’s introduction to the national consciousness as an important Christian spokesman, and it also was one of the first signs of the re-emergence of Protestant evangelicalism as a force in American life and culture,” says archivist Bob Shuster. “This exhibit will enlighten and engage the casual visitor, as well as the person who wants to study America in 1949 and the early days of Rev. Graham’s ministry.”

The exhibit showcases more than 100 items related to the groundbreaking campaign, including posters, photos, planning documents, and a film. It includes 55 audio files of Graham’s 1949 sermons, which were originally captured on wire recordings and have been digitized for the exhibit.

Almost every day between September 25 and November 20, the Archives staff will upload the sermon Graham preached that same day in 1949. The exhibit also includes testimonies and messages from other significant evangelical leaders, including W. Cameron Townsend, Charles Fuller, Peter Deyneka Sr., and J. Edwin Orr.

In addition to these materials, the exhibit includes tapes and transcripts of oral history interviews with 15 campaign participants, including some who later became prominent evangelists, such as Bill Bright, Jim Vaus, and Louis Zamperini.

The groundbreaking campaign, which was sponsored by the Christ for Greater Los Angeles Committee, was originally scheduled to last three weeks, but was extended to eight weeks due to overwhelming interest. Newspapers (some directed by newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst to “Puff Graham”) gave the event front-page coverage, the conversions of several prominent people drew enormous attention, and overflow crowds filled the huge canvas tent containing the nightly services.

“The reaction to the meetings was incredible, and we try to capture that by showing some of the media coverage around the country,” Shuster says.

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