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Christmas 2009
Christmas 2009

Pioneering Ventures

Soldiers of the Cross logo

The Salvation Army in Australia is credited with producing the world's first moving picture film, Soldiers of the Cross, in 1900.

The Salvation Army, particularly in its early days, has been characterised by a pioneering spirit that has resulted in some major achievements and fascinating early ventures...

1885 Raised age of consent

The Salvation Army successfully campaigned to have the age of consent in the UK raised from 13 years of age to 16 years during 1885.

1885 Missing Persons 'detectives'

The Salvation Army has been in the business of searching for missing persons since 1885! Established in London as the Inquiry Department, by the end of 1885 there were offices in overseas countries including Australia (Melbourne and Sydney). The ‘hallelujah detectives’, as they were called, searched for missing persons with a view to reuniting families. They also helped young women who were pregnant and unmarried to track down reluctant fathers and encourage them to support their children!

Missing persons work continues today, with the Family Tracing Service in Australia registering over 2,000 new searches each year.

1890 First Employment bureau

The Salvation Army opened the first known labour bureau in Australia to operate in a formal way. In 1890, Australia experienced the worst depression the country had known, with unemployment worsening each day. By winter 1890, the Army had opened a free labour bureau in Melbourne to help people find jobs. Soon there were also offices in Sydney and Adelaide. As well as acting as job-finding agencies, the bureaux served thousands of meals to people out of work.

1890s Invention of safety matches

children making matchesRed-tipped safety matches were introduced by The Salvation Army in England during the 1890s at a time when matches were still produced using poisonous yellow phosphorus, which caused the fatal disease ‘Phossy Jaw’ in poor factory workers. Read more at

1900 World’s first feature film

The Salvation Army is credited with producing the world's first moving picture film!

Operating from 1897 to 1910, The Salvation Army Limelight Department was Australia’s first film production company. Among its many achievements, The Limelight Department is credited with producing the world’s first multi-media presentation using the moving picture film technology of the day. The film, ‘Soldiers of the Cross’, was produced during 1900 and the Limelight Department also recorded the birth of the nation at Federation in 1901. Read more...

More information

Our information on the highlights of The Salvation Army's first 125 years in Australia contains more information about The Salvation Army's early days, as does the International Heritage Centre website,