Sunday, August 12, 2007

Hallmark's Beginnings

Today, Hallmark is a mainstay of every day life with greeting cards, wrapping paper, and gifts for every milestone. Hallmark accounts for half of the billions of greeting cards given each year. It's hard to imagine the Goliath of the greeting card industry came from rather humble beginnings almost a century ago.

Eighteen year old J.C. Hall began with two shoe boxes of post cards in 1910. He only received payment for a third of what he distributed, but apparently that was enough to start what would eventually become a monumental empire.

The company was named Hall brothers in 1915 after Rollie Hall joined his brother and became instrumental in creating cards and gift wrap as we know it. Postcard sales were on the delcine and Rollie felt there were possibilities for higher quality Valentine's and Christmas cards mailed in envelopes. Two years later, shortly before Christmas, Hall Brothers ran out of the colored tissue they used for wrapping gifts. Unwilling to disappoint their customers, Rollie searched the product plant for a suitable substitute where he found beautifully decorated envelope linings from France. Shoppers enthusiastically snapped up the envelope linings that year and the next. After selling out of the linings two years in a row, the brothers took it upon themselves to design and print their own gift wrap.

In 1928, the newly christened Hallmark, (though the name wouldn't be officially changed until 1954), became the first greeting card company to advertise nationally, running an advertisement in Ladies' Home Journal written by J.C. Hall.

The year 1932 saw Hallmark's first licensing agreement with none other than Walt Disney. Charles Schultz's beloved Peanuts characters appeared on Hallmark cards in 1960. To date, Hallmark has agreements with 7 of the top 10 leading licenses for characters and entertainment properties.

Hallmark changed Christmas decorating for the better with the introduction of their Keepsake Ornaments in 1973. Hallmark's first Keepsake Ornament Collection consisted of six glass ball ornaments and twelve yarn figures. This year Hallmark introduces scores of new ornaments including traditional icons such as Santas and angels; favorite childhood toys and dolls; and pop culture characters from Barbie to Peanuts to Disney to Harry Potter and of course The Wizard of Oz.

The Wizard of Oz ornaments started as a set of four in 1994 with the collection growing by leaps and bounds as time goes on. This year Hallmark added 5 new introductions; Dorothy Gale, King of the Forest, The Wicked Witch of the West, Toto's Great Escape, and Trick or Treating in Oz.

As Hallmark's centenary swiftly approaches, we can surely expect greater innovations and hopefully among those, more Oz!!

****Thanks to Karen Owens, Jim Whitcomb, and Robyn Bodine for contributing into and photos used in the following entries****