Chapter V

Development of the Publication Interests

"The pen is mightier than the sword."


We shall have to remind ourselves of our spacial limits and simply record the most salient events in our publishing interests following the founding of the society

A twofold danger had been averted by the wise action of the General Conference in 1865-of dividing our feeble forces in a very important branch of our general work, and of turning our publication needs over to private exploitation, and the latter danger was as imminent as was the former. That the denomination itself was to engage in a business venture was surely a wise decision. It had its drawbacks, it was all uphill work, it was severely criticized, often unjustly, by those who claimed they could show greater profits if they were given control, but the denomination at large was patient, the men in charge worked hard and faithfully, and their accomplishments were acknowledged as time sped on.

The Publication Society was the first of the three larger branches of our General Societies to effect a legal incorporation, obtaining its charter in 1870. After the headquarters had been removed to Cleveland, O., in 1871, the Society came into possession of a small printery on Forest Street where a book department was added and P. W. Bickel, who up to this time had been editor and business manager with the rather high sounding title of "Secretary," was given an assistant in the person of Herman Schulte who took charge of the business end of the corporation in 1872. Brother Schulte was a most patient, painstaking and conscientious man and served the denomination for twenty consecutive years in a period when the advance was greatest.

In 1874, the Publishing House was greatly damaged by fire, but it proved a blessing in disguise, for it rallied the old friends and brought many new ones, so that the loss by fire was more than compensated for by the collections which poured in and by the new interest which was being shown.

In 1877, the Cleveland Baptist Union gave the Society some lots on Payne Avenue and Dayton Street, and through the generosity of a few American brethren a new building was erected which was subsequently enlarged to its present size.

In 1878, Brother Bickel made the momentous decision, at the earnest solicitation of many American friends and after much prayer, to return to Germany and there build up the publishing interests of the German Baptists, and Julius C. Haselhuhn [Jugendfreund, October, 1922.] took his place and served very acceptably until his death in 1893, when he was succeeded by Julius C. Crimmel1 who in turn gave way to the present editor, Gottlob Fetzer, in 1901. The business end of the Society's activities, after Schulte's retirement in 1892, was taken care of by Peter Ritter who in turn was succeeded by Carl Bickel in 1904, after whose death in 1911, the present incumbent, Henry P. Donner, took charge of the business interests.

In putting down names and dates, the chronicler is always conscious of the fact that he is only erecting a scaffold behind which the building itself is reared The development of a structure like the Publication Society, is also a spiritual work and only through the gift of spiritual insight can the services of the good men who have been entrusted with the responsibilities of their positions be correctly estimated. They have been superior men, every one of them, and have given of their best to further the special interests to which the denomination had elected them.

To write with any degree of fullness of the various weekly and monthly periodicals (which have been added to the "Sendbote" and "Saemann"--our oldest standbys) to supply the needs of the Sunday schools and the Young People's Societies, would necessitate a volume of considerable size. And to point out the difficulties inherent in the special mission the German Baptist churches would naturally have to meet--small subscription lists, a very limited market for German books and tracts and the increasing inability of many of the younger element in the churches to read German--all this would be like repeating a worrisome story. Suffice it to say, that the denomination at large had the "patience of the Saints," and the Publication Society had the graceful wisdom to adapt itself, sometimes perhaps with too great conservatism, to the changing conditions in the life of the churches. The "Sendbote" is still the one church and family newspaper with a very commendable subscription list; the one-time popular and very serviceable monthlies for Young People, "Jugend - Herold," "Vereins - Herold,""Jugendfreund" and "Yokefellow," having had the services of men like Walter Rauschenbusch, F. W. C. Meyer and Frank Kaiser, "all have ceased to be," but in their stead has come the "Baptist Herald," full-fledged and vigorous under the editorial care of A. P. Mihm, rallying and unifying the Young People and the Sunday schools of our churches; and the "Wegweiser," a monthly tract, and the "Lektions-Blätter," the lesson helps of our Sunday schools, the latter for long years prepared by Otto Koenig, are each performing its own specific mission.

The Publication Society has kept up its interest in Colportage from the early days and is now supporting three colporters in the newer and more sparcely settled sections of the West.

The capital assets of the Society are placed at $110,000, which is surely a good showing when it is realized that the denomination has always made spiritual fruitage a conspicuous part of the Society's goal.