Gideons International - a history
On the 14th of September 1898, two travelling salesmen met in a hotel in Boscobel, Wisconsin. These two, John H. Nicholson and Samuel E. Hill were obliged to share a room due to overcrowding. Upon discovering they were both Christians, they began to dicuss how best to evangelise. They did not come to any clear conclusions, except that they would like to form a Christian association for travelling workers. A chance meeting the following year rekindled the idea, and in July, along with William J. Knights, they formed the Gideons (after the Old Testament Judge Gideon, who was willing to carry out whatever task God set him, willingly).
Their primary role they stated to be that of "personal evangelization of business and professional men", a task they carried out with gusto. From 1900 onward, members took to leaving Bibles in hotels, but only after 1908 did they all agree to place them in all hotel rooms. So began their best-known activity - leaving the Gideons Bible in public facilities.
Today, their membership has risen to over 140,000 worldwide in over 170 countries, each dedicated to preaching "salvation through Christ" through a personal witness to all they meet. The placement of Bibles is only a small part of that work.