The Parish Press from 1915
These materials are appropriate for all Christians, particularly those who live their Christian lives in Liturgical Churches. Roman Catholics, Lutherans, Eastern Orthodox and Anglicans have availed themselves of these resources, and it is our hope that countless generations to come will benefit from the riches of the Parish Press' DoveTracts. “To God be the Glory.”
The History of The Parish Press
Updated June 2017
Parish Press was developed by the Rev. E.W. Averill in Fort Wayne, Indiana, around 1915. Fr. Averill became Dean of St. Paul's Cathedral in Fond du Lac, WI in 1923 and remained there until 1935. Having been a printer before becoming a priest, he continued with his previous vocation as a hobby.
At the time, music publishers did not want to handle the printing of liturgical music as there was little demand for it, so Fr. Averill began publishing it for his own use and for sale to other priests and parishes. Two of his early publications are Church Hymnal Services and A Missionary Service Book. These are now out of print.
While housed at Fond du Lac, Parish Press was located in the Haber Printing building at 18 Forest Avenue. The line of items was soon expanded from just liturgical music to included three-color calligraphic Christmas and Easter cards which were sent to parishioners inviting them to Mass. Dean Averill also wrote and published his own teaching pamphlets on church history, the Holy Eucharist, and Confirmation preparation.
When he retired as dean in 1935, Fr. Averill left Parish Press at the Cathedral. William Smithers, a parishioner, was employed as chief compositor and printer for both the Parish Press and the weekly, Cathedral News, a publication started by Dean Averill. Smithers was in high school when he began this position in 1934 and was listed as the official Cathedral printer from 1936 until his retirement in 1978.
According to an article in the Cathedral News of June 18, 1950, The contents of the print shop, type, presses, etc. has (sic) not been our (cathedral) property but that of William Smithers who has kindly permitted us to use it for some years. However, Fr. Averill's will of 1948 leaves all printed stock, music plates, linotype and any other property belonging to Parish Press, to the Bishop Chapter of the Cathedral of St. Paul. He recommended that the income of said business be used for the benefit of the Cathedral, especially for the upkeep and heating of the deanery located on the cathedral grounds at northeast corner of Division and Doty.
A plaque in the Cathedral porch reinforces the words of the will:
In Memory of the Very Reverend Edward Wilson Averill, D.D.
and his wife Caroline, Servants of God in
St. Paul's Cathedral 1923-1939 and Donors
of the Parish Press of Cathedral Endowment
Until 1950 the presses and business operations were located in St. Ambrose Hall. In 1950 the operation was moved to the basement of the Parish Hall so that its previous location could become the deanery, home for Deans Ringland (1953-1959) and Gulick (1960-1988). During these tenures, the business was expanded to include sacramental certificates, Bibles, hymnals, and religious education items, including the Fond du Lac Church School Series written and illustrated by various parishioners and the Sisters of the Holy Nativity.
The deans, assistant clergy, and volunteers spent many hours working in Parish Press. For years the women of St. Paul's Guild did much more of the counting, collating, stapling, and wrapping of the items before shipment. Custodians handled the stocking and mailing. Â
From the time Dean Averill, until 1989, the clergy were directly involved with the supervision and operation of the Parish Press. Printing was done on several large Platen presses (one of which, the Little Pearl, was donated to the Galloway House Print Shop in 1970). Most in-house printing was done at the parish house for minimal cost by William Smithers, custodians, and volunteers. Other printing was done commercially at the Sutter of Haber printing companies or by Badger Industries (correctional institutions) for little more than the cost of materials.
Dean Gulick (1960-1988) operated Parish Press until he became ill in the fall of 1988. Sue Burman volunteered to fill in on a temporary basis at that time. When Fr. Gulick died in November 1988, Sue was granted a small stipend to continue operations until other arrangements could be made.
Early in 1989 as advisory committee was formed to assist in operations. In 1990 the committee decided to move Parish Press, then located in the basement of the parish house, to serval rooms in St. Ambrose Hall (a building no longer used as the deanery). New lighting, shelving, carpeting, and office equipment were installed, which, along with a computer, printer, and necessary software met the physical needs of the business.
After 1988 the clergy remained as advisors, but were no longer directly involved with daily operations which were overseen by the Parish Press committee and managed by a full-time staff person with the help of volunteers. An expanded inventory included Sunday School material, baptismal certificates, first communion material, preparation for confirmation, tracts, books for clergy and lay ministry, hymnals, Bibles, prayer books, certificates for sacraments, jewelry, books for spiritual enrichment, children's books, holiday booklets and bulletins, and greeting and note cards.
Approximately 8,000 catalogs were mailed to Episcopal and Anglican churches. Although gross sales were about $60.000 a year, net income was not enough to warrant continued operation and the committee was unable to provide sufficient guidance or to solve staffing problems. In March 1991, a full report of concerns and problems was presented to the Cathedral Chapter. A new committee was appointed and charged with submitting its final report no later than July 1991. A report was finally made in October of that year, outlining the recommended options as based on sales, inventory, and needs. The preferred options were:
- Expand by hiring a manager with expertise in religious merchandising
- Continue "as is" with volunteer help
- Sell or close down
The Chapter moved to have a committee investigate the options and then make a recommendation.
No further action ensued until May 1992. After a thorough investigation of possible solutions, plus a conference with small business advisors, the Parish Press committee unanimously agreed that:
- Parish Press be revitalized and expanded by employing person(s) with marketing expertise and a theological background
- Parish Press should be sold or closed down completely
Continuing "as is" was not considered to be a viable option; however, the Press did indeed continue "as is" under Sue Burman's guidance while numerous unsuccessful attempts were made to find a suitable or acceptable buyer.
Finally, in late 1996 the decision to close down was made. Presses, type, and all other printing equipment were sold to Paul Aken, Zion, Illinois, owner of The Platen Press and collector of printing memorabilia. Preparations were made to sell all inventory and attain a complete close down by March 31, 1997. A final catalog including a going-out-of-business notice, closeout prices, and a swift reduction of stock was sent out to all on mailing list. Thus, after 80 years of service to the greater Episcopal and Anglican community, Parish Press of St. Paul's Cathedral, Fond du Lac, ceased to exist.
In 1997, the Rt. Rev. Keith L. Ackerman, VIIIth Bishop of Quincy, had heard that Parish Press was for sale, and contacted the Rt. Rev. Russell Jacobus, Bishop of Fond du Lac to inquire about purchasing. Bishop Jacobus referred the Ackermans to the Dean of the Cathedral Church of St. Paul, in Fond du Lac regarding the terms of the sale. In as much as, the Ackermans made the only offer and sent an earnest check through Canon H.W. Herrmann, the Ackermans assumed sale of the company was a done deal and began the process of the acquisition. On the eve of the sale, Bishop Ackerman was informed that another bid was forthcoming, and that the Fond du Lac Cathedral Chapter was now asking for sealed bids. A higher bid came from the Rev. and Mrs. Jerry Jones of Hays, Kansas, and the remaining equipment and inventory was moved to Kansas in 1998. Fr. Jones plan was to expand the Christian Education section. They moved the inventory to Christ Cathedral in Salina, Kansas where they resumed the printing and sale of the products from Fond du Lac.
At this time, the Ackermans founded and incorporated another company entitled DoveTracts, with the intent to provide religious tracts and books at a low cost to customers and churches. DoveTracts was formed as a Not for Profit entity to serve customers with traditional tracts, prints, certificates, and books among other products for use in teaching and preserving the traditional faith.
By 2011, Father and Mrs. Jones, owners of The New Parish Press (as it was then known) determined that it was an appropriate time to sell. Bishop Ackerman, having recently retired as VIIIth Bishop of Quincy, and his wife, Joann, purchased The New Parish Press. With the assistance of several priests, the remaining equipment and inventory was moved from Christ Church Cathedral, in Salina Kansas, to Keller Texas. The Parish Press was reincorporated in 2011 which included a merger with DoveTracts and the Company became known as The Parish Press/DoveTracts and has been in daily operation since its arrival.
Since the reincorporation of The Parish Press/DoveTracts, the rights to books written by five authors have been obtained. The Parish Press now continues to provide traditional devotional aids, sacristy and narthex cards, printed Books, Tracts on CDs, teaching DVDs, and text books on CD. Popular new items include books by Bishop Parsons and Fr. Homer Rogers, Bishop Bill Wantland, and Bishop Jack Iker.
The Parish Press/DoveTracts now has this on-line store; and the whole Ackerman family is now involved with this non-profit as well as many friends helping as lawyers, CPA, Board members, and Editors.
Earlier portions of this history were written as
A Brief History of the Parish Press
by Irvin H. Spoerri, researcher and complier.
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