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Larry ten Harmsel’s engaging history, An Eerdmans Century, 1911–2011, tells readers just about everything they could possibly want to know about Eerdmans’s first hundred years. We highly recommend it.
Here at EerdWord, however, we’re all about bite-size portions (although, admittedly, even our bite-sized portions can be pretty substantial).
So, for all of you who may be unable to spare the few hours necessary to read a 214-page corporate history book (even a highly readable, amply illustrated one), here’s a condensed version: a brief timeline of major events from Eerdmans’s first century. Enjoy!
1882 William Bernard Eerdmans (Bill Sr.), seventh of eleven children, is born in Bolsward, The Netherlands.
1901 Bill Sr. immigrates to United States, landing in New Jersey.
1902 Bill Sr. moves to Grand Rapids, Michigan, and starts an import business. His main imports are cutlery, blankets, and vases.
1908 Returning from a buying trip in the Netherlands, Bill Sr. meets 18-year-old Paula Install, a native of Bunde, Germany, aboard the S.S. Noordam.
1911 William B. Eerdmans Sr. and Brant Sevensma sign a partnership agreement on August 8, 1911, and the Eerdmans-Sevensma Bookstore and Publishing Company is formed. It is located at 327 South East Avenue (which was later renamed Eastern Avenue). The first book published is a semi-popular biography of Martin Luther written by B. K. Kuiper. Another early Kuiper title, The Church in History, remains in print today.
1912 Bill Sr. writes and publishes his own book, De Ramp van de Titantic (“The Disaster of the Titanic”), a month after the sinking of the Titanic.
1914 World War I begins.
1917 William B. Eerdmans Sr. and Paula Install are married.
1922 Bill Sr. buys out Brant Sevensma. The company is now located at 207 Pearl Street, across from the Pantlind Hotel.
1923 William B. Eerdmans Jr. is born.
1928 Bill Sr. buys all copyrights, printing plates, and stock from Doubleday Brothers for their standard religious reference works.
1929 The stock market crashes. Bill Sr. abandons his import business and focuses on the publishing company. He manages to survive the Depression without laying off any workers.
1930 Bill Sr. places increasing responsibilities in the hands of his nephews, Pat and Bernie Zondervan.
1931 Pat and Bernie Zondervan leave Eerdmans and begin their own company.
Early 1930s Eerdmans publishes the popular Sugar Creek Gang series by Paul Hutchens. It also begins several large publishing projects: Robertson and Nicolls’s The Expositor’s Bible and The Expositor’s Greek New Testament; Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown’s A Commentary, Critical and Explanatory, on the Whole Bible; Smith’s Handfuls on Purpose; and Orr’s International Standard Bible Encyclopedia.
1934 Eerdmans publishes Catherine Vos’s The Child Story Bible, still in print today.
1939 World War II begins.
1940s Eerdmans publishes Harry Rimmer’s The Harmony of Science and Scripture and J. K. van Baalen’s Chaos of the Cults.
1944 Bill Sr. buys property at 231 Jefferson and opens up Eerdmans Printing Company.
1945 Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company moves to the 255 Jefferson Avenue SE location.
Late 1940s J. Gresham Machen leaves Princeton and founds Westminster Theological Seminary. At the time, Machen has six books on the Eerdmans list. One of his books, Christianity and Liberalism, is still in print today.
1948 Edward John Carnell’s book, Introduction to Christian Apologetics, wins the “Eerdmans Evangelical Book Award” competition and is awarded a $5000 prize.
1948 Argye Briggs wins the “Eerdmans Fiction Award” (also a $5000 prize) for Root Out of Dry Ground. Eerdmans prints 17,500 copies of this book and sells it out quickly.
Late 1940 – Early 1950s Eerdmans begins publishing Carl F. H. Henry, Everett Harrison, William LaSor, George Eldon Ladd, and Paul Jewett, all connected with Fuller Theological Seminary.
1950 Williams B. Eerdmans Publishing Company exhibits at the first annual Christian Bookseller’s Association convention held in Chicago, Illinois.
1950 Eerdmans becomes the American publisher for F. F. Bruce, who would go on to publish nearly 25 books with the company.
1951 The first issue of the Reformed Journal appears.
Mid 1950s Eerdmans becomes the first evangelical publisher to attend the Frankfurt Book Fair.
1955 The New Bible Commentary and New Bible Dictionary are announced.
1956 Bill Jr. becomes a partner in the firm and is named general manager.
1956 Eerdmans launches The New International Commentary on the New Testament.
1957 The list of books is now so large that the company publishes two announcement catalogs a year and one general catalog containing all Eerdmans books in print.
1959 The Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company is incorporated.
1961 Bill Sr. gives a $10,000 gift to Calvin College to begin the “Calvin Foundation,” today known as the Meeter Center.
1963 William B. Eerdmans Jr. is named president of the company.
1963 A disgruntled employee sets fire to the Eerdmans Printing Company. The Printing Company rebuilds.
1964 The company settles on the “stacked book logo” which is still in use today.
1966 William B. Eerdmans Sr. dies.
1967 Eerdmans publishes C. S. Lewis’ Letters to an American Lady and Christian Reflections. It also begins publishing books on a variety of social issues, including civil rights, school integration, apartheid, and the ordination of women. Among these are White Reflections on Black Power (Charles Fager), Dynamics of School Integration (Donald Bouma and James Hoffman), For Whites Only (Robert Terry), The Church Struggle in South Africa (John DeGruchy), and Man as Male and Female (Paul Jewett).
1982 Desmond Tutu’s Crying in the Wilderness is published.
1983 The Eerdmans Handbook to the Bible by David and Pat Alexander is published.
1984 The Naked Public Square by Richard John Neuhaus first appears.
1986 Eerdmans begins in-house computer typesetting.
1988 Eerdmans publishes a separate catalog for its children’s books. Two new children’s titles appear this year: Dangerous Journey (retold by Oliver Hunkin and illustrated by Alan Parry) and The Princess and the Goblin (George MacDonald).
1990s The Reformed Journal ceases publication.
1996 The Eerdmans Books for Young Readers imprint begins.
2004 The Eerdmans Printing Company closes.
2006 Eerdmans sells all of the Jefferson avenue property to Saint Mary’s Hospital and moves to its present location at 2140 Oak Industrial Drive.
2008 Eerdmans Books for Young Readers wins two prestigious awards from the American Library Association: A River of Words (written by Jen Bryant and illustrated by Melissa Sweet) is named a Caldecott Award Honor Book and Garmann’s Summer (written and illustrated by Stian Hole) is named a Batchelder Award Honor Book.
2011 Eerdmans celebrates its 100th anniversary, still an independent, family-owned company.
Interested to know even more about the history of the Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company?
Click here to order An Eerdmans Century, 1911–2011.