The Salvation Army's pioneering multimedia work Soldiers of the Cross premiered at the Melbourne Town Hall on 13 September 1900.
Referred to by the organisation as a 'lecture’, and once thought to be the world's first feature film, it combined 13 short films, over 200 glass slides, hymns, music and the oration of Commandant Herbert Henry Booth, who was the son of Salvation Army founder General William Booth. The production was realised by Major Joseph Henry Perry, an enthusiastic supporter of the new film medium and head of the Salvation Army’s Limelight Department.
Soldiers of the Cross ran for two hours and related the stories of Christ and the early Christian martyrs. Herbert Booth did not intend the production to be used for fundraising or entertainment, and discouraged applause. He toured the lecture around Australia and New Zealand and later to the USA, Europe, South Africa and Canada. The final presentation was given at Melbourne Town Hall on 22 November 1920.
No motion picture film from Soldiers of the Cross is known to have survived, nor any text copies of the lecture’s narration. The National Library of Australia acquired glass slides of the production in 1953 and these are now held by the NFSA.