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Odd Wisconsin Archive

To Help with Good Rocky's Revival

In late September 1898, two traveling salesmen shared a room in a Boscobel hotel. Being practicing Christians, the two strangers spent their evening reading the Bible aloud. When they crossed paths again a few months later in Beaver Dam, the pair decided to form an organization that would provide Christian support to salesmen spending long days on the road and boring nights in strange towns. Given the popularity of jokes about traveling salesmen and farmers’ daughters, maybe the nights were not always boring; one of their goals was to “surround the arch enemy of our souls and give him a black eye.” And so the organization known as the Gideons got their start right here in Wisconsin. Read their story at Wisconsin Local History & Biography Articles.

Before long, they had arranged for a Bible to be placed in every hotel room, with suggestions of which passages lonely people far from home might like to consult. Hotel staff reported that many were used simply to prop up windows on hot summer nights or to steady a wobbly bed frame. But after three decades, many of them exhibited well-thumbed pages and worn bindings and in one Milwaukee hotel a battered copy bore the simple pencil inscription, “God bless my mother, who is so far away. R.S.” By 1968, Gideons' Bibles had become ubiquitous in both hotel rooms and the popular mind, and found their way onto the Beatles’ White Album as a symbol of small-town American life.
:: Posted in Curiosities on May 29, 2005

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