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Holy Roller: 1920

Holy Roller: 1920

1920. "William Downer Auto Home, Gospel Car No. 1." The Reverend hailed from Glassboro, New Jersey. National Photo Company glass negative. View full size.


On Shorpy:
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Gospel Wagon

Carrying the Gospel By Motor

(click for larger)

Popular Science Monthly, 1920

Reverend Downer

I love the sound of that. Could sermons on the torments of Hell have been a specialty? Maybe he was the grandfather of Debbie Downer on SNL.


Notice the sign on the building on the left. Probably was a horse hospital before turning into a garage.

I would hate to see

what would happen if you had a couple of big people in the back.

It's a Republic

Here's a photo of a 1920 Republic truck. Compare the wheels, tires, running boards and toolbox to the Gospel Car.

Gospel Car to Make Long Tour

Billings (Montana) Gazette. May 9, 1920.


Preacher Pays Tribute to Republic Truck.

One of the most unique uses to which a motor truck has been put is the gospel car of the Rev. W.A. Downer of Glassboro, N.J. The Rev. Mr. Downer recently purchased a 1½-ton Republic chassis and on it mounted a special body of his own design. The body is 7 feet wide, 22 feet long, and is the largest ever mounted on a 1½-ton Republic.

This truck serves two purposes. It is a traveling church and also the home of the evangelical party of four, the Reverend and Mrs. Downer, their daughter and an organist. Used as a home, there are sleeping accommodations for five persons, a complete cooking outfit, running water, electric lights and many other conveniences. Used in gospel work, there is a pulpit that opens up, organ and plenty of seating space.

The gospel car is the first of a fleet that will be equipped and put into service in cross-country evangelical work. Already this truck has covered considerable territory in the south and southeastern part of the country and is now en route across the continent. The Rev. Mr. Downer was led to buy a Republic truck to start the experiment, he says, because of the well known sturdiness of this make of truck and particularly because of the great number of Republic service stations scattered throughout the country which insure him against serious delays anywhere along the line.

Speaking of the gospel car, he says: "We are delighted with the Republic truck, the service it gives and the service of all the Republic agencies we have passed by. We are now on our return trip from southern Florida to New Jersey. About Aug. 1 we are planning to leave New Jersey for California for a five-year trip to every state in the union. We are expecting gospel car No. 2 to join us on our next trip, and it will be a Republic truck. The truck we are now using is of 1½-ton size. We are carrying a capacity load and have traveled more than 15,000 miles since Nov. 27, 1919.

"We have not spent any time or money for repairs excepting for a choke wire. We have not even changed a spark plug. We have been unauthorized boosters of Republic trucks."

Glorious Google!

WOW! stanton_square, that google map is so incredible! It's like the new Shorpy 3G! I nominate you to keep this up!

Thank you.

ChOG Mobile

The Church Of God East Website mentions Reverend Downer and a 'Gospel Car'.

Among those attending were Mrs. Barclow, Herbert and Florence Huntsinger who became first full time pastor, Ralph Faldon, David Gant, Reverend William Downer, who started a small congregation in Glassboro, New Jersey in 1904, Parker Faldon, Ethel Faldon, Mrs. Wood and Mrs. Peterson.

Rev. William Downer was very helpful in establishing them in the truth and would baptize members in the Delaware River. He served as spiritual leader in the early days.

In the same year of 1922 a truck chassis was given to Mr. Volbert for use in Gospel work. Through his ingenious ability, a unique Gospel Car was built, resembling a small chapel, from which he would preach and conduct open-air services. This Gospel Car was used for several years on Saturday nights for evangelistic meetings and on weekdays for church talks and illustrated sermons. On Sundays, it served as a Sunday School bus. Hundreds of tracts and other Gospel literature were given away, and many people were converted by the work of the Gospel Car.

Commercial Garage

Wow, what a funky vehicle. Certainly wouldn't pass crash-test ratings today.

This photo is in front of the Commercial Garage, 303-305-307 Sixth St N.W.

Incidentally, I have started a Google map with the locations of many of the Washington D.C. photos. Its located here. Its currently a work in progress.

Ken B. has done something similar for Shorpy photos in NYC.

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