Forty years ago, on February 2, 1973, new presses were set up in Wallkill, New York, U.S.A., to produce Watchtower and Awake! magazines.
Ten years earlier, Jehovah’s Witnesses had purchased property there for farming to supply food for personnel at their headquarters in Brooklyn, New York. But now, the property would also be used to produce a different kind of food, spiritual food.
Philip Wilcox, who at the time was overseer of the pressroom, recalls about the first day of running the presses at Wallkill: “It had taken us about a month to assemble the high-speed rotary web presses. Now they were ready, and we began to test them. Soon we had a few thousand magazines. We sent them back to our Brooklyn printery, where they were shipped out to fill congregation orders. We were determined not to waste a single magazine.”
Jehovah’s Witnesses constructed this new printery to supplement their huge printing operation, then located in Brooklyn. By the early 1970’s, the demand for Bible literature had regularly been exceeding daytime production capacity, so the Brooklyn printery was running a night shift just to keep pace with requests.
When the first printery building in Wallkill was complete, it housed four printing presses, a shipping facility, and a Kingdom Hall. However, before it was in full production, construction began on a second, larger building adjoining the first one. Demand for Bible literature was so great that six additional presses were erected in the second building, even before it was completely finished.
Over the years, printing technology advanced and demand for our Bible literature increased. To accommodate those changes, we had to retool and expand the Wallkill printery several times. High-speed offset presses replaced aging letterpress equipment in the 1980’s.
In 2004, the Brooklyn printery was closed, and for the first time, books began to be produced at Wallkill. In 2010, magazine printing again migrated north, this time to the Canada branch office of Jehovah’s Witnesses. The new press there can print 200,000 magazines an hour.
Today, Wallkill’s printery is a highly automated, state-of-the-art facility staffed by some 280 willing men and women. Last year over 17 million books and Bibles were produced there. In addition to the Wallkill, Canada, and Mexico printeries in North America, Jehovah’s Witnesses have 12 other printeries