A family of American Catholic publishers. William George, b. Milwaukee, Wis., March 17, 1856; d. there, Aug. 13, 1949. William George, the son of Augustus Bruce, a Great Lakes sailor, became a cigar maker at the age of 12 after childhood illness had limited his education to completion of the sixth grade. He later entered newspaper work and founded the American School Board Journal and Industrial Arts and Vocational Education. His firm was then incorporated as the Bruce Publishing Company. About 1927, William George turned over active management to his two sons and devoted the remainder of his life to civic activities. He was an early proponent of the St. Lawrence Seaway; for 39 years he headed the Milwaukee Harbor Commission, in addition to providing active leadership in other Milwaukee community affairs. He was named a Knight of St. Gregory and awarded the Vercelli and Laetare medals as an outstanding Catholic layman.
William C. and Frank M., sons of William George, joined the firm in 1902 and 1906, respectively, and established it as a major Catholic publishing house in the 1930s. Expansion continued with the founding of the magazine Hospital Progress in collaboration with the Catholic Hospital Association, and with the purchase of the Catholic School Journal. The firm's first Catholic books appeared in the 1920s and a program of Catholic publishing in both textbooks and trade books was set up in 1930. The Highway to Heaven series was a new approach to teaching religion on the elementary level. The Science and Culture series was a university in print. More than 300 titles, including works in biography, history, literature, education, natural science, Scripture, religion, and many other fields were published during the next 25 years. A Catholic book club, the Catholic Literary Foundation, began operation in 1943.
Frank M. was also a founder and first president of serra international and president of the National Association of Publishers and Church Goods Dealers. By the time of his death the firm had become one of the largest Catholic publishing houses in the U.S.
William C. was active in founding the National Catholic Educational Association and a pioneer in the field of modern school construction. He received an honorary LL.D. degree from Mt. Mary College, Milwaukee and an honorary Lit. D. degree from Marquette.