Who Invented Gift Wrap? And Why?

As was the way in the 1920s, packages were wrapped in brown paper to protect them from the elements–and perhaps wayward birds. But, gasp, one day the Hallmark store ran out of the sturdy stuff and turned to sheets of the fancy paper used to line envelopes. It was a hit! And designed giftwrap entered the marketplace.

Oh, happy accident.

Hallmark Visitors Center

Located next door to the company’s headquarters in Kansas City MO is a modest yet thorough tour of history and artistry. This is by no means a must-see destination, but if you’re in the area, you’ll enjoy the stop at Hallmark–plus, it’s free.

A 3D timeline gives context to the company’s growth with toys of the era and world events. A look at cards and products from the past was the best part–and truly, I wanted to buy those more than anything from today–they were charming.

J.C. Hall was an ambitious lad–he started a postcard business at age 17, and within 10 years had a greeting card company selling to 48 states. He also built a company that is incredibly conscientious, starting carpooling for employees decades before it was vogue, giving much to charity, and was incredibly concerned about workers comfort and compensation. Sure, I was drinking the Kool-Aid, but he seems to have been a genuine and generous man.

Art and Artistry

Old-timey photos show artists sitting in rows of desks facing each other–a combination of a factory and secretarial pool. From watercolor to calligraphy to collage to kittens, all kinds of artists are needed.

Artists who contributed pieces include Dali, Groucho Marx, Henry Fonda, Sir Winston Churchill, and Norman Rockwell. Shazzam.

The first licensing agreement was with Disney; which was also Disney’s first. We’ve come a long way, baby.

Even Presidents Do It

Every President since Eisenhower in 1953 has used Hallmark to print the Official White House Holiday Card. Eisenhower sent 2,500; George H. W. Bush sent 185,000. Which is better? 

Want to Cry?

You can watch the commercials.

Want to be Delighted?

You can watch a bow being made.

When You Care Enough to Send the Very Best

I worked at a Hallmark store during college summers. Not for a love a cards, simply for a paycheck. But it did foster a love a cards and I spent a good portion of my earnings on silly cards for things like Frog Day– which exist only in the land of Hallmark.

When the store was slow, I wrote letters (remember those?) on orphaned envelopes. And then put those envelopes into other envelopes to send to friends.

My organizational tendencies were quickly harnessed and I was assigned the messiest section: Shoebox Greetings. Those funny rascals. People would read and laugh and put the cards anywhere. It was my task to make everything nice and pretty for the next gaggle of people to muss up. Again.

When You Care Enough But Can’t Send the Very Best

You can’t always make it to a Hallmark store. Here’s my assessment of the options.

Walmart – feh.
Target – amazing.

***

What’s your favorite part of the Hallmark empire?
Cards, stationery, giftwrap, bows, ornaments, something else?

BTW, if you like stationery, read about my visit to Crane. It’s more about how they make money (yup money) than notecards, but they do both.

6 Responses

10.14.12

And let’s not forget the Hallmark Hall of Fame. Consistently high quality TV movies for the whole family. Aligns with when you care enough to send the very best.

10.14.12

I enjoy posts like this one where I learn something unexpected. Thanks!

10.14.12

This post was educational. I learned something today!

My one and only “Real Job” was at Hallmark. I started out in Design – and was told that my colors were too “garish”. Since I had a sculpture background, I was transferred to die making – making the little Fuzzy Bunnies in reverse in magnesium plates (which were transferred to printing plates). When I was in the design department, JC Hall would come by and give us pep talks.

It was a good factory to work at – they had an excellent health care plan which included maternity benefits for the spouse – so we decided to have a child. My daughter has thanked me several times! They gave her a little silver cup with the Hallmark Crown on it with her initials and date of birth.

Hallmark was an interesting factory. But I wanted to make art, and left to pursue a career in Art!

I just met you today in Lovely Downtown Lucas and hope you are enjoying Kansas!!!

Eric – thanks for stopping by the blog and for sharing this perspective on the business and community of Hallmark. It was a treat to meet you, see your Art, which is far from Hallmark land, and to laugh and brainstorm with you.

10.14.12

I could read & watch this forever! It’s my happy place. Everything about it. Thank you for living my dream :).

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