By Ken Zurski
In the early 1900’s, an enterprising high school drop from Norfolk, Nebraska named Joyce C. Hall began selling perfume door-to–door. Soon he expanded the business to include postcards, specifically the importing, printing and selling of foreign postcards, a popular item at the time.
The possibilities were endless, but not in Norfolk, Nebraska. So Hall boarded a train to Kansas City, Mo. He was armed with boxes full of postcards.
A Hall biographer continues the story this way: “As business picked up, he [Joyce] ventured to the towns served by the railroads running in all directions from the Midwestern rail center. Soon brother Rollie joined him, and they opened a specialty store in downtown Kansas City, dealing in post cards, gifts, books and stationery.”
Then tragedy struck. In 1915, the store was decimated by fire and all was lost, the entire inventory wiped out by the devastating blaze.
The Halls were determined however. With help form a third brother, William, who ran a bookstore back in Norfolk, Nebraska, the three siblings pooled their resources, bought a small engraving firm in Kansas City and began making and marketing their own postcards.
The holiday season was especially busy and the Halls would sell Christmas postcards and tissue paper out of the store. When the tissue paper sold out, they searched the supply room and found a replacement in a stack of “fancy French paper” meant for display only.
They sold it for 10 cents a sheet.
And it too sold out.
So the next year the brothers offered a similar lining paper as a choice. And once again, the more decorative sheets were a big hit. So in 1919, Hall and his brothers began producing and selling their own printed paper for gift wrapping. The paper carried their brand name: Hall Brothers.
That same year they experimenting with cards that had no distinctive purpose other just to say hello or wish someone good luck. They called them “everyday cards.” The cards sold well, but were especially popular for special celebrations like birthdays, anniversaries, and Valentine’s Day.
The company took off and Joyce Hall made most of the business decisions. He offered a change that others, including his brothers, thought was ill-advised. He wanted to change the name. “Hall often went against conventional wisdom. In the 1920’s, he wanted to replace ‘Hall Brothers Company’ on the back of greeting cards with the phrase, ‘A Hallmark Card.’ Everybody in the place was against it, he said, but he made the change.”
Also while others said he was wasting money, Hall began to create and run ads. and soon, Hallmark, the brand, became “the most recognizable in the industry.”
Joyce Hall ran Hallmark for 56 years, eventually giving the president and COO title to his son in 1966. He continued as chairman of the board until his death in 1982.
Today, the date of February 14 or Valentine’s Day is considered to be a Hallmark holiday. That’s because in 2010 the U.S. Greeting Card Association estimated that approximately 190 million Valentine’s Day cards were sent each year in the United States alone.
Even more impressive…the total number of cards produced every year likely tops a billion or more if you count the number of valentines exchanged by schoolchildren.
Happy Hallmark Day!