The Gideons are an organization of laypeople dedicated to Christian evangelism through the distribution of scripture. They got their start through a chance encounter between two traveling salesmen at the Central Hotel in Boscobel, Wisconsin, in 1898. John H. Nicholson and Samuel Hill, who had stumbled into a raucous convention of lumberjacks, discovered that they shared a common love of the scriptures. The next year, along with W. J. Knights, they founded the Christian Commercial Travelers Association of America. Later the organization was named after Gideon who (according to Judg. 7) led Israel, armed only with torches and pitchers, to victory over the Midianites. The Gideons began distributing Bibles in 1908, with their first order for twenty‐five copies assigned to the Superior Hotel in Iron Mountain, Montana. Since then, they have put the Bible into hotels and motels in 140 countries. They have also distributed millions of New Testaments to school children and to men and women entering the military. Their Bibles have gone to prisons, inner‐city rescue missions, hospitals (in large print), and airplanes, ships, and trains. The ubiquitous presence of the Gideon Bible in hotel rooms has been the occasion of much humor, some of it risqué, but also of reassurance to countless travelers. The organization is active in at least seventy‐five countries. In 1990, the Gideons presented their 500 millionth Bible to President George Bush.
Mark A. Noll