Charles L. Collison served as a colporteur in Louisiana and other southern states in the early 1900s. Below is his account of canvassing in Louisiana in 1908.
Camp Life in Canvassing
We have lived in a tent and wagon for about two years and a half, and find it a pleasant, healthful life. My wife often says that she would not trade her tent for any house, although she was raised in the city. The wagon is our bedroom, and it is long enough for a full-sized mattress for us at one end, and a shorter one for the children at the other. When we get the territory worked for five or ten miles around our camp, we pack our wagon and move to another location.
The two-wheeled cart in the picture is a very crude but practical affair. I do my canvassing and delivering with it. The box will hold a hundred pounds or more of books and is made waterproof by a covering of heavy black oilcloth. In canvassing it holds my helps, raincoat, etc., and when I cannot get the cash for books, I take trade, such as corn, butter, eggs, sirup, chickens, potatoes, and, in fact, anything we can use or sell. Often, I take in enough sirup and other supplies, while on a delivery, to pay for what feed and groceries we need for two weeks and make a very successful delivery by being able to take trade when, for lack of cash, the delivery would otherwise be a failure. Our tent is fourteen by fourteen feet, ten-ounce duck. A tent-fly is almost a necessity both in winter and summer, although we went without one for the first year.
We have as good a living and as much clothing as we ever had and are able to have a part in spreading the message in thinly settled territory, where the living preacher is never likely to go. When we were working for ourselves or others, we always had something that kept us away from camp-meeting; but now that we are working for the Lord, we can travel to camp-meeting, even if it is two hundred miles away. We can take orders going, and deliver coming back, and make our trip pay. Are there not many of our people who are hardly making a -living by farming or working for someone else, who will step out by faith, and get to work before it is too late, and the chance to work is gone forever?
We started out in the middle of winter, with a very poor outfit, and no experience with our large books, never having heard anyone give a canvass for any of our books. But I had sent for the Testimonies compiled in the ” Manual for Canvassers ” and had faith that the Lord would fulfill his promises, and he did. We started in the most thinly settled territory I have ever been in, and the Lord gave me good success. That first winter I often put five- and ten-dollars’ worth of books in a house, and one order of twenty-four dollars’ worth in one house. Now I do not often place more than from two dollars to three and one-half dollars’ worth of books in a house. We have a large amount of virgin territory here, and a good live State agent who is a worker himself. We have cities and towns that have not been worked, as well as country territory. Anyone wishing further information about this State can get it by writing to our State agent, I. T. Reynolds, at Pineville, LA. If anyone should think of fitting up for camp life, I could give some information that might be of value. My address is Manifest, LA (Collison, 1908).
Collison, Chas. L. (1908, Jun. 11). Review and Herald, p. 16.