Tract and Missionary Societies
The organizations that promoted the distribution of Seventh-day Adventist publications, correspondence of an evangelistic nature, lay evangelism, and relief and welfare agencies were known as the Tract and Missionary Societies, often shortened to T. and M. Societies or Tract Societies. Within the church, publishing was “first and foremost a ministry and it will always be a priority to find the most effective way to spread the message” (Pacific Press, 2019). In 1870, New England was the first conference to organize a Tract Society. Other conferences began to add a local branch and the General Conference set up a denomination-wide Tract Society in 1874. These conference Tract Societies, as distributors of Adventist publications to local churches and colporteurs, later became Book and Bible Houses, and eventually Adventist Book Centers, while the General Conference society became the Publishing Department. “The promotion of lay evangelistic and welfare activities was assigned to a new organization — the Home Missionary Department”– now Church Ministries Department (Encyclopedia, 1996).
Arkansas Tract Society Locations
The Arkansas Tract Society, which was the conference headquarters, was often operated in someone’s home. However, because of conference debt to the publishing houses for the books and publications kept in stock at the headquarters, it was voted at the 1907 workers’ meeting to turn the tract society over to the Southern Publishing Association. This would save the conference some expense and allow them time to pay off old indebtedness by keeping more canvassers in the field. The contract for churches and isolated members to order directly from Southern Publishing Association began May 1, 1907. Southern Publishing Association gave the conference five percent of all subscription books sold in the conference, a forty per cent discount on subscription books for conferences and isolated members, and a fifty per cent discount to canvassers (Watts, 1907; Watts and Ford, 1907). In 1909 the conference was again able to operate the tract society and on October 11, 1909, it moved into its own quarters at the corner of Block and Meadow Streets in downtown Fayetteville (Record, 1909). In 1913, the Arkansas conference built a new headquarters building with four offices, which included space for the Arkansas Tract Society. It was located on the lot adjacent to the Fayetteville church at 424 Walnut Street (Smith, 1913). At the twenty-seventh Conference Session which was held in Hot Springs, it was resolved for the conference office to be moved from Fayetteville to Little Rock. In 1915, it was moved to the second floor of a three-story building in Rooms Two and Three of the Martin Building at 321 West Second Street, across from the post office ( Record, 1914; Haynes, 1915). On January 2, 1919, a fire broke out on the third floor of this building, with the entire floor swept away. The conference’s offices on the floor below sustained a severe loss, mainly from water damage to books, and all the fixtures in the main office were ruined. Valuable papers and books of records and accounts were all saved. The office was moved to the Donaghey Building on Seventh and Main Street, which was supposed to be fireproof (Taylor, 1919). The office and Arkansas Tract Society remained in Little Rock from 1915 until 1960.
Book and Bible House Name Adopted
In 1924, the name of the Tract Society was changed to Book and Bible House (Encyclopedia, 1996). Most conferences, including those in the Southwestern Union, adopted the new name, but Arkansas continued to use the name Arkansas Tract Society until mid-September 1927 (Record, 1927a; cf. Record, 1927b).
New Headquarters for the Book and Bible House
A house at 1215 Marshall Street in Little Rock, near the center of the city’s population, was purchased in the fall of 1921, and remodeled to serve as the conference office. This building served as the conference headquarters until the move to Shreveport in 1960. By 1942, the space for the Book and Bible House department was very cramped and it became impossible to keep adequate stock on hand to meet the demands. The Rock House Cafe, on the corner of 13th and Marshall Streets and adjacent to the conference office became available for rent. It had a stone veneer and was well-arranged to serve as a sales room for city trade. In the back part of the building there was sufficient space for general stock and other supplies. It was voted to rent this building for the Book and Bible House. Mr. R. E. McFarland, owner of the building, gave them a lease at thirty-five dollars per month (Minutes, 1942a). A reading room with table and chairs was included in the new building to encourage the public to visit the Book and Bible House and spend any available time reading Adventist books and magazines (Minutes, 1942b).
Book and Bible House Moves to Shreveport
In 1959, land was purchased in Shreveport, a more central location for the Arkansas-Louisiana conference office (Minutes, 1959). By January 22, 1960, a new 6,000 square-foot conference office building had been completed at 333 Southfield Road in Shreveport. This building also housed the Book and Bible House. In 1970, ten years after the conference office was built in Shreveport, the conference purchased the property next door at 339 Southfield Road (Minutes, n.d.). A forty-foot extension was added to the existing offices, and the Book and Bible House was moved into this new 1,000 square-foot area.
New Mobile Book Center
In 1972, the name Adventist Book Center (ABC) was adopted (Encyclopedia, 1996). In the early 1970s, ABC sales were averaging over $180,000 per year in our conference. Around 1975, a new mobile book center was purchased which greatly increased the fall book sales. It was now possible to set up sales at camp meetings and at churches throughout the conference (Elder, 1976).
New Adventist Book Center in 1981
Toward the end of the 1970s, the conference office building was hopelessly outgrown (Elder, 1982). On June 10, 1979, the conference executive committee approved the purchase of a twelve-and-a-half acre plot of ground on Interstate 20 in Shreveport as the site for the new Arkansas-Louisiana conference office building (May, 1979). While building the new conference office in 1980, the plan was to build a new ABC on the northeast corner of the same property. In August 1980, an artist’s rendition was published in the Southwestern Union Record (Robinson, 1980). The plans were redrawn, however, and the actual building was quite different. The ABC opened in 1981, becoming the newest ABC in the Southwestern Union at that time (Robinson, 1981).
Pacific Press Assumes Management
In 1996, the ABC manager, Ken Jameson, accepted a call to be President of Southern Publishing Association in South Africa. In spite of Ken’s hard work and dedication, the ABC was consistently losing money, as were all other ABCs in the Union except for Oklahoma. The conference executive committee chose a subcommittee to determine what the future of the ABC should be. Four management proposals were reviewed by the conference executive committee. One proposal was to have the Oklahoma conference assume management of the Shreveport ABC, maintain a store at that location, and provide displays at camp meetings (Gilley, 1996). Another proposal was for Pacific Press to manage our ABC, which they were doing for some other conferences (Kyte, 1996). It was voted to accept the Pacific Press proposal for management of the Arkansas-Louisiana ABC (Minutes, 1996). Retail walk-in business continued at the Shreveport store but Sabbath School materials and periodicals were ordered from a central service location for all ABCs operated by Pacific Press. In spite of operation of the ABC by Pacific Press, the ABC continued to struggle financially. In December 2002, Pacific Press announced they would be combining the Arkansas-Louisiana ABC and the Texas ABC into one operational base under the management of Mickey Johnson. The official date for the change was January 1, 2003. The retail store in Shreveport would stay open for walk-in retail business (Newsletter, 2002). By 2009, with mail-order, online sales, and ebooks becoming increasingly popular, it was no longer feasible to maintain the retail walk-in store in Shreveport. In September it was voted to close the store and find a renter for the ABC building (Minutes, 2009). The Arkansas-Louisiana conference now utilizes the Texas ABC for Adventist books and materials.
(1909, Oct. 10). Southwestern Union Record, p. 2.
(1914, Sep. 22). Ibid., p. 3.
(1927a, Sep. 13). Ibid., p. 3.
(1927b, Sep. 20). Ibid., p. 2.
(1942, Jun. 19). Executive Committee Minutes. Shreveport, LA: Arkansas-Louisiana Conference of SDA.
(1942, Aug. 13). Ibid.
(1957). The Flintonian. Gentry, AR: Ozark Academy.
(1959, Sep. 3). Minutes of the Board of Trustees of the Arkansas Conference Association. Shreveport, LA: Arkansas-Louisiana Conference of SDA.
(1996). Adventist Book Center (ABC). Seventh-day Adventist Encyclopedia. Washington D. C.: Review and Herald, p. 11.
(1996). Book and Bible House. Ibid., p. 147.
(1996). Tract and Missionary Societies. Ibid., pp. 786-788.
(1996, Jun. 6). Executive Committee Minutes. Shreveport, LA: Arkansas-Louisiana Conference of SDA.
(2002, Dec. 1). Newsletter, Arkansas-Louisiana Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, p. 9.
(2009, Sep. 10). Executive Committee Minutes. Shreveport, LA: Arkansas-Louisiana Conference of SDA.
(2019). Pacific Press History. Retrieved from pacificpress.com.
(No date). Minutes of the Board of Trustees of the Arkansas Conference Association. Shreveport, LA: Arkansas-Louisiana Conference of SDA.
Elder, W. H. (1976, Feb. 14). Southwestern Union Record, pp. 26, 27.
Gilley, James, W. (1996, Apr. 15). Letter to the Executive Committee.
Haynes, H. G. (1915, Jun. 29). Southwestern Union Record, pp. 8, 9.
Kyte, Bob. (1996, Apr. 24). Memo to Jim Gilley.
Robinson, W. B. (1980, Aug. 21). Southwestern Union Record, pp. 12A, B.
Ibid. (1981, Aug. 20). pp. 12A, B.
Smith, C. E. (1913, Apr. 8). Ibid., pp. 2, 6.
Taylor, J. I. (1919, Jan. 21). Ibid., pp. 3, 4.
Watts, V. B. (1907, Apr. 30). Ibid., p. 2.
Watts, V. B. and Ford, I. A. (1907, May 7). Ibid., pp. 2, 3.