In 1941, Warner Sallman painted his famous Head of Christ. By that time, he had attracted the attention of Anthony Kriebel and Fred Bates, originally employees of the Gospel Trumpet Company. The two established a separate company in 1941 to become the exclusive publishers of Sallman’s art. As a result the Gospel Trumpet Company — later Warner Press — became the principal distributor of Sallman’s images. When Kriebel and Bates’ company folded, Anderson University and Warner Press took ownership of the collection. As it stands, the university owns the pieces while Warner Press owns the copyrights to Sallman’s work in the university’s hands.
Following Sallman’s death in 1968, his youngest son, Jim, donated the artist’s student work to the university.
Once the university became the owner of the collection, Jason Knapp, director of the gallery and professor of art at Anderson University, began soliciting written pieces from the public about what Sallman’s images have meant to them. These letters, both positive and negative, remain with the collection.
A selection of 16 of the most well-known works by Warner Sallman were exhibited in the Jessie C. Wilson Art Galleries at Anderson University for the first time during June of 1986, prior to their purchase, in conjunction with the annual North American Convention of the Church of God (Anderson, Indiana). An estimated 6,000 people viewed the works during that week-long meeting. Since then, the original art of Warner Sallman has been on continual display at AU and showcased each summer.