Mr. and Mrs. Pell, Sr., bought a house in Grand Rapids, Michigan on May 1, 1900. 10 children—four boys and six girls were raised there. In the 1920’s, William J. Pell was a committed young Christian. Being a teenage son of a wallpaper hanger, he began to hand-letter gospel tracts on the back of scraps of wallpaper to distribute them in the surrounding communities. In 1922, a local businessman helped Will acquire a $25 hand press and he set it up in the parlor of his mother’s home. Soon after, Mr. Vanprooyen got a distressed phone call from Will, saying, “Where are the letters?” Mr. Vanprooyen explained that a printing press is much more than a glorified typewriter. He came over to show Will how to use it, arriving with a case of metal type. With these they set John 3:16, printing it on a small card—GFP’s first publication.
A second house had been previously built on the same property of the Pell residence, only a few feet away, by one of Mr. Pell’s brothers. After about a year of using his mother’s parlor as a workshop, Will moved the press into the hand-dug basement next door. Shortly after the new press was purchased, Leonard Sheldrake asked Will to print his monthly gospel paper, Words of Peace. With a regular publication, it was time to name the company. Will knew he would always use his press to print the gospel, and since he figured he would never print more than literature with one fold (a “folio” is a piece of paper folded once), he chose “Gospel Folio Press.” Many of the family members, as well as visitors and local volunteers were involved in the work.
Around 1925, GFP began printing Sunday School papers. Childhood Days was started in 1931. Today we have the Line Upon Line Modular Bible curriculum. A monthly ministry magazine, Look on the Fields, edited by Leonard Sheldrake and published by GFP, was begun in 1927. When Peter Pell became its editor a few years later, the name was changed to Uplook Magazine.
In 1939, Will became exercised about a daily devotional calendar. In spite of discouraging remarks from some who said it wasn’t feasible in North America, the calendar (initially named The Remembrancer but soon changed to Choice Gleanings) was launched in 1940. It was decided to print 800 the first year. Will figured he had that many friends. Eventually, they were printing 40,000 of them. There were books and tracts published and a bookstore to run in downtown Grand Rapids. On March 30, 1972, Will was called to be with the Lord and almost exactly nine years later, his brother Peter also passed away. Three sisters, Tillie, Lois, and Ruth (pictured below), took over the work at GFP.
In 1991, a Board of Directors was formed for the running of Gospel Folio Press and it was re-organized as a non-profit corporation. Gospel Folio Press was at that time the book publishing division of Uplook Ministries.
We have been blessed to benefit from the dedicated work, constant encouragement and Godly vision of very committed people in our history. Eternity will declare what God has done through the millions of printed pieces sent out from Gospel Folio Press.
“The lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places; yea, I have a goodly heritage.” Psalms 16:6
2001 saw the move of the GFP business to a new facility and the establishment of Gospel Folio Press Trust. Gospel Folio Press and Uplook Ministries continue to encourage each other in the work. Explore the rest of the website to see some of what’s going on now at GFP.