History of Hallmark

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You’ve got mail. | Photo by KCtoday

City Editor Krit here. One of my favorite love languages is giving and receiving cards from loved ones. Bonus points if they include aesthetic prints on the front. Luckily, KC is home to one of the best cardmakers in the business. Let’s open the envelope and read the history on how Hallmark started here in Kansas City over 100 years ago.

In 1910, Joyce Clyde (J.C.) Hall traveled to Kansas City from Nebraska with a dream to sell postcards. With two card-filled shoeboxes, Hall visited small towns to sell his products. He eventually teamed up with his brother Rollie Hall and opened a storefront in downtown Kansas City.

After only a few years, the shop was destroyed by a fire in 1915. With $17,000 in debt, the brothers had to think of a way to elevate + improve the business. They ultimately decided to create more greeting cards paired with envelopes to add a layer of privacy. The company bought its own printing press and began its production of greeting cards.

Greeting cards gained popularity around 1917, especially when the United States entered World War I. J.C mentioned in Hallmark: A Century of Caring that the boom in the greeting card industry was because of “people [who] sought closer contact with one another and especially with their relatives and friends in the service.”

The brothers were not just successful when it came to greeting cards. They are also credited with the invention of decorative wrapping paper. The creation came about when the brothers ran out of solid-colored gift dressing and had to use fancy decorated French envelope linings instead. With the linings selling out quickly, the Hall brothers then started to print their own gift wrap.

But wait, there’s more. The company also invented the patented “Eye-Vision” greeting card displays, which are card display racks that allow people to easily view designs. The invention changed the way greeting cards were displayed in stores and is used even today.

In 1928, the company was renamed to Hallmark. J.C. liked the name as it was often used by goldsmiths as a mark of quality + had his family name in it. It would take a while before the company would have its current slogan “When You Care Enough to Send the Very Best” associated with the brand, with the advertisement coming out in 1944.

Hallmark also played a huge role in the development of Kansas City, with J.C. and Donald Hall (his son) developing Crown Center on the land surrounding Hallmark’s headquarters in the 1960s. Crown Center still stands today as an entertainment complex.

Hallmark Keepsake Ornaments were launched in the 1970s, sparking the public interest in ornament collecting. To meet the needs of a diverse audience, Hallmark rolled out Mahogany cards for African American consumers — with cards for Jewish and Hispanic audiences printed soon after.

Today, the company publishes in 30 languages, with its products available in more than 100 countries around the globe. It is safe to say that Hallmark has truly left its mark on the greeting card industry.

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