One of the earliest collections opened by the Archives (in 1978) and one of the most heavily used (over 360 times at last count) is Collection 20, the papers of Chicago businessman and philanthropist Herbert John Taylor (1893-1978).
Taylor’s life was in many ways a typical American success story. He started out as a salesman in Oklahoma. After service with the YMCA in France, assisting servicemen during World War I and then a shore post in the Navy, he moved to Chicago and eventually became president of Club Aluminum Products, a near bankrupt company he rescued and made into a multi-million dollar enterprise.
“‘What are you doing? Can’t we do it here? How do you get started?” And we did everything we possibly could to help everybody we possibly could. And they came here, and we sent people out there, and we were busy” (CN 285, Tape 3).
“Busy” is how Torrey Maynard Johnson describes the explosion of interest in youth evangelism stemming from the runaway success of Youth for Christ evangelistic rallies in Chicago in 1944. In a 1984 oral history interview with Archives staff, Johnson recalls the rapid emergence of Youth for Christ during World War II, a movement that innovated evangelism practices—specifically targeting young people—launched the career of a young Billy Graham, and became an international phenomenon still ministering to young adults today.
This November, the Wheaton College Billy Graham Center Archives celebrates seventy-five years of Youth for Christ, and explores the origins and early rallies of Youth for Christ in Chicago prior to its formal establishment in November 1944.