In 1855, the Southwestern Publishing House was established and the foundation was laid for a unique approach to publishing and selling books that has dramatically affected the lives of over 100,000 young people in the years that have followed. It all began with the Reverend James Robinson Graves in Nashville, Tennessee. Under the energetic religious and political fervor of Rev. Graves, an outspoken advocate of the southern cause, the company published The Tennessee Baptist, a Southern Baptist newspaper, and religious booklets which sold by mail for 20¢ and 30¢ each.
On April 12, 1861, the Civil War began. The South soon learned of its dependence on the industrial North for many types of supplies. In the summer of 1861, an unexpected shortage hit the South with great impact -- there were no Bibles. Soldiers could not carry the Word of God with them into battle. Families did not have the Bible to read in the lonesome and fearful days at home. And nowhere in the Confederacy was there a publishing house with the plates and printing materials needed to produce a Bible.
Rev, Graves ran the blockade and smuggled stereotype plates from the North to print the Bible. By August, 1861, pocket-sized Bibles bound in hard covers were being printed in Nashville. They sold for 50¢ each and were called "the little Bible." Though thousands rolled off the presses in those desperate days, "the little Bible" is a rare collector's item today.
A new concept.
After the Civil War ravaged the South, many young men simply could not afford a higher education. To meet the needs of their pockets and their souls, a new concept in sales was initiated. Rather than selling by mail order, Southwestern engaged young men as book agents to carry Southwestern Bibles and other books from door to door. Young Southern men were able to make money for college and to feel a sense of pride and accomplishment once again. Southwestern prospered under this new approach, and the tradition of building character in young people was born.
Today, Southwestern Advantage is still a leader in Nashville’s business community. Southwestern Advantage has always been locally-owned with the exception of a 13-year period in which the company was part of the Times Mirror Communications Group. In 1982, management and employees repurchased company stock, returning Southwestern Advantage to local hands.