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Our History

The story of Northwestern Publishing House (NPH) stretches back nearly 140 years, with our first roots in bookselling. Publishing began about 125 years ago.

On October 8, 1891, after 15 years as the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod bookstore, a new combined bookstore and printing operation moved to 310 North Third Street in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Operations began on two floors of a 25- by 70-foot brick building. Most of the publications produced in this period were published in German.

1800's Storefront

The fledgling business immediately took over the printing of church and school materials for the synod. Rapid growth and frequent changes marked the ensuing years. A catechism, a primer, reading books, a treasury of songs, a hymnbook, a theological quarterly, and a three-volume dogmatics soon filled the building. By 1897, success forced the first of two moves to another building on Third Street in Milwaukee.

Just after the turn of the century in 1902, NPH moved to a third location on Third Street, occupying a spacious three-story building that was to serve as our home for the next 12 years. The Lord laid the foundation for productive years to come.

Old store drawing

All of the Third Street buildings were rented, leading the Board of Directors to plan for building our own structure. In 1913 a lot was acquired on Fourth Street, and in 1914 a nearly 12,000-square-foot, three-story concrete structure was erected at a cost of $34,214.70.

1800's employees working

With room for expansion and ample production capability, NPH entered its second stage of growth. The Northwestern Lutheran appeared in 1914, and The Junior Northwestern, in 1918. New books were being printed as fast as the presses could produce them.

By our 50th anniversary in 1941, the Lord had turned the publishing house into a flourishing operation with over 30 employees, a modern printing and bindery operation, and an ever-expanding product line.

During the 1940s, change again confronted NPH. In 1946, due to a new arena in downtown Milwaukee, the stately old publishing house had to be razed. After a long search involving dozens of properties, the Board of Directors decided to relocate to an existing structure on West North Avenue. In 1949 operations were moved and a new publishing phase began.

1940s building

The 1950s marked a significant milestone in NPH's operation. Four-color printing became a dominant force, and new and different types of publications appeared. In 1956, NPH published Galatians, our first professional commentary. Meditations, a devotional periodical, was introduced in 1957. Increasing numbers of people in church were beginning to benefit from the publishing house’s products.

As our market expanded, it became apparent that our existing equipment would not economically meet all of our production needs. As a result, in 1983 the Board of Directors voted to end all printing and binding operations at the publishing house and to utilize outside sources instead. Then, in 1985, NPH moved to its present facility in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin.

Current Store

Today, Northwestern Publishing House continues to embrace the ongoing changes in the publishing industry. God’s Word is constant and unchanging, but the ways to reach people with his Word are always changing. While printed books and other materials remain important, Northwestern Publishing House will continue to explore new ways to reach and meet the needs of those we serve, in ways that are relevant to them. Whether through e-books, apps, downloadable content, or social media, NPH fulfills its mission of delivering biblically sound, Christ-centered resources within the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod and beyond.

This is our short story of nearly 140 years under God, publishing the materials that allow us to proclaim his salvation day after day. It is a story about God’s people doing God’s work and experiencing God’s blessings each and every day. The complete story points us to Jesus, who wants us to share his Word. We eagerly look forward to continuing in his service.