This year marks the 70th anniversary of the Greater Los Angeles Billy Graham Crusade of 1949. The event, only initially planned to run for three weeks, ran for an amazing eight weeks. In our fourth part of the series, we are taking a look at the Canvas Cathedral.
Billy Graham’s journey to being “America’s pastor” to the public eye began in 1949 at the Greater Los Angeles Tent Revival. The early tent crusade impacted the West Coast, and eventually spread to the entire world. This was also the start of Billy Graham’s global ministry, which would open way for him to counsel presidents and delegate as an ambassador of heaven.
Today, Graham’s remarkable story, which lapsed through decades of historical periods, can be found at the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte, N.C. The Journey of Faith tour, one of the main attractions of the Library, features many galleries that travel back in time through replicated exhibits. The tour’s first gallery, The World Discovers Billy Graham, brings history to life as it references the 1949 Los Angeles Crusade.
Upon entering the first gallery, the street corners are painted with an array of people wearing their Sunday best, roaming Washington and Hill Street as they did in 1949. Tucked next to the mural is a newsstand with the time era’s latest magazine on popular topics such as culture icons and home gardening.
A bundle of newspapers, hot off the press, feature Billy Graham’s face with the title “Not for $1,000,000…Graham says ‘No’ to movies.” This scene captures the anticipation in the air during those eight long weeks in Los Angeles.
Just as in 1949, the street sign points to where the white-draped tent is set up. The original crusade tent was the size of two circus tents and held about 350,000 people over the course of two months. The gallery’s replicated tent holds about 30 people per presentation; however, the experience is richly the same with touches from the past.
Above the tent is a banner that reads a lineup of promotional and misspelled wording, kept true to the mistakes in the original banner. Inside the tent, antique-looking wooden chairs and benches are facing the stage where a podium holds the acronym YFC, as in Billy Graham’s first affiliated ministry, Youth For Christ.
Adjacent to the stage is George Beverly Shea’s personal home piano from which he composed the beloved song “I’d Rather Have Jesus”. The piano sits as an ode to the moving musical ministry of Billy’s life-long friend and music director, Cliff Barrows. Guests can sit in the tent area and watch a video clip about Billy Graham’s rise to ministry.