In 1898, the Echo Publishing Company ‘the original name of Signs Publishing Company’ had an Australian bestseller with a recipe book called A Friend in the Kitchen. Today, Signs Publishing has published the “Best in the World” cookbook Food As Medicine, which follows in this great tradition.
Three Adventist preachers, Stephen Haskell, John Corliss and Mendel Israel, a printer, Henry Scott, and an experienced door-to-door literature salesperson, William Arnold, travelled from San Francisco to Sydney on June 6, 1885.
The Signs Publishing Company first began as the Echo Publishing Company, in North Fitzroy, a suburb of Melbourne. By 1889, the Echo Publishing Company employed 83 people and was the third largest Seventh-day Adventist publishing house in the world.
The management were committed to the printing and distribution of Seventh-day Adventist literature but were also commercially successful — so successful, in fact, that they soon became the unofficial government printers for Victoria. The church decided this was moving in the wrong direction, so decided on a move to Warburton in 1906, where the operation could return to its religious roots.
However the move deprived the company of the considerable income created by the outsourced work, thus funding for religious material was at a premium. Cheap hydro-electricity and abundant land for both factory premises and staff housing were the predominant reasons for the choice of location, and in fact the “Wonwondah” property that was bought had been owned by the husband of a local Adventist. The Signs Publishing Company was formed and remained on the original premises until 1934, when the Yarra River flooded the valley and ruined a large part of the machinery and building.
A new, brick factory was built on higher ground in 1935 for £23,000. Over the years the building has gone through a number of extensions, the last major extension in 1979 cost $625,000 — adding 21,000 square feet (2,000 m2). The Signs building along with the Sanitarium building next door are now heritage listed. The Signs Publishing Company currently employs around 50 staff in a variety of print/publishing/import-export positions.
In July 2006, Signs was amalgamated with the Adventist Media Centre and South Pacific Division into a single body. From 2010, Signs and Record magazines will be published from the church's headquarters in Wahroonga, New South Wales (a northern Sydney suburb), yet still printed and distributed from Warburton.
While the modern plant is far removed from the early publishing operation, the philosophy of the company remains the same — to produce and distribute Christian literature for the South Pacific region.
Where is Signs Publishing