“Gift wrap, or gift dressing, as it was called in the early 20th century, was very simple,” said Samantha Bradbeer, historian at Hallmark Cards. “People often used brown packaging paper or newspaper to wrap their gifts. Retailers, like Hallmark, sold green, red or white tissue paper, and if there were designs, they were typical holiday icons such as holly or wreaths.”
At Christmastime 1917, Hallmark sold out of the traditional tissue paper at its Halls store in Kansas City. Rollie B. Hall, brother of company founder J.C. Hall, searched Hallmark’s manufacturing plant and found recently imported French envelope liners that were brightly colored and highly stylized. The company sold the liners as gift wrap for 10 cents a piece, and quickly sold out. The following year, Halls stocked up heavily and sold out once again.
“The brothers knew they had a hit on their hands, so they began designing and manufacturing their own gift wrap shortly thereafter,” said Bradbeer. “Gift wrap is the first product Hallmark made that was a departure from greeting cards.”
Hallmark continued to innovate new products to help people wrap their gifts. In the 1930s, Hallmark tested Hall Sheen ribbon, a ribbon that stuck to itself and gift wrap when moistened, making it easier than ever to add a ribbon to a gift.
In subsequent decades, Hallmark introduced accessories such as ribbon reels, bright yarn ties, pom-pom bows, super-wide ribbon and gift bags.
More recent innovations include curl cascade ribbons, ribbons that are curled and gathered together, which were invented in 1994. In the mid-to-late 2000s, Hallmark began including sound and fiber-optic light technology in bags and gift card boxes.
The newest innovation from Hallmark was introduced earlier this year – the card pocket. This sleeve lines the inside of most gift bags and provides a space to place the greeting card so it no longer falls to the bottom of a gift bag or gets lost in the tissue paper.
“It’s exciting to look at our history and see popular trends in gift wrap over the last 100 years,” said Mary Emanuel, creative director of gift wrap at Hallmark Cards. “Gift wrap is very much a fashion-based category. People want the gift to be a reflection of their personal style or the recipient’s style. Our colors and patterns are rooted in trends. For example, we saw a lot of bright non-traditional holiday colors in the 60s and 70s.”
In addition to product innovation, Hallmark also changed the way gift wrap was marketed to retailers and customers.
In the 1930s-1940s, Hallmark began advertising gift wrap on Tony Wons’ radio program, “Tony’s Scrapbook” and in Hallmark’s “Handy Book” for retailers. Between 1956 and 1969, Hallmark began promoting gift wrap by hosting workshops across the country. A gift stylist affectionately known as Kaye King — represented by several different women —toured the United States giving demonstrations in stores, on television and to women’s groups and conventions. An estimated 200,000 viewers saw King perform “pretty miracles” with paper and ribbon in “The Art of Gift Wrapping,” a 23-minute film in 1958 and “Your Flair for Gift Wrapping,” a 15-minute film released in 1968.
Today, Hallmark showcases its newest collections of gift wrap through social media, utilizing platforms such Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and YouTube to inspire people with creative gift wrapping ideas. Hallmark’s Ideas & Inspiration section features a video series called Giftology that includes easy-to-follow how-to videos demonstrating simple gift wrapping techniques. Think.Make.Share, a blog from the creative studios at Hallmark, regularly hosts workshops where Hallmark artists and designers develop new and innovative ways to use gift wrap for a variety of occasions.
“Hallmark is committed to helping people emotionally connect with one another,” said Emanuel. “Our cards and gifts help people build stronger relationships with the people they love. It’s incredibly special to know that our gift wrap has been a part of so many meaningful moments over the last 100 years.”
To commemorate this anniversary, Hallmark artists drew inspiration from four original gift wrap prints from nearly 100 years ago, reimagined them and created four new wrapping paper designs that are sold together this holiday in a special edition four-pack.