Saturday, December 8, 2012

The Accidental Advent of Wrapping Paper

Who the heck started this mess anyway?

Looking up a moment from wrestling gaily printed paper around an odd-shaped toy, I beheld the unbelievable paper carnage littering the dining room table, chairs, floor, and as far as the eye could see. Good grief. Why, back in my day (WWII) you had white tissue paper. That was it – unless you could get all the way to Indianapolis for the red and green stuff.  You just drew a sheet from a neat pile, wrapped the gift, and went on to the next. Ribbon was just a spool of narrow ridged stripping you curled on the edge of blunt Sunday School scissors.
Now one selects from a minimum of 5 rolls, cuts a piece to fit the package (which adds to a pile of unusable scraps), and then sorts through bags of bows for a proper, color-themed match. Gift bags would be a blessed option if only they came in suitable sizes and designs – and you didn’t have to mail its contents clear across the country.

So…how did it all start? The Cliff Claven answer would be with the invention of paper in China, 105 A.D. But America’s gift wrap industry started with three poor brothers from Nebraska. In the early 1900s, Joyce (a man), Rollie and William Hall pooled their money to form The Norfolk Post Card Company, a wholesale business that operated out of an older brother’s book store. By 1911 the three opened a shop in downtown Kansas City selling greeting cards and assorted novelties.
Joyce C Hall

One day before Christmas 1917, the store sold out of tissue paper. To keep from disappointing customers, decorative envelope lining papers from France were brought out and offered for 10¢ a sheet. They sold quickly. They tried it again the next year at 25¢ with the same result.  Gift wrap quickly became their leading item, followed by Hall Sheen ribbon in the 1930s.

What’s the rest of the story? The man named Joyce happens to be the founder of Hallmark Cards Inc. Did you see that one coming?
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to get back to wrapping…


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