It was 1917, the doughboys were fighting the kaiser and in Kansas City a holiday tradition was born: wrapping paper.
KC-based Hallmark Cards Inc. takes credit for inventing gift wrap 100 years ago.
“Gift wrap, or gift dressing as it was called, in the early 20th century was very simple,” Hallmark historian Samantha Bradbeer said on the company’s website. “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.”
But Hallmark ran out of tissue paper as Christmas approached. Rollie Hall, the older brother of Hallmark founder Joyce Hall, hit on the idea of selling colored envelope liners for a dime each, and they sold out.
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Hallmark soon began manufacturing its own gift wrap — its first product outside its greeting card line.
In the ’30s came wrapping ribbon and later on, yarn ties and bows.
Gift bags debuted in 1987, but the card to the recipient would often get lost. So this year Hallmark introduced a little pocket inside the gift bag for the card.
Hallmark began holding gift wrapping workshops in the 1950s and ’60s and also produced instructional films. Today it promotes gift wrap on social media.
Mary Emanuel, creative director of gift wrap at Hallmark, said the story of gift wrapping is exciting.
“Our colors and patterns are rooted in trends,” she said. “For example, we saw a lot of bright non-traditional holiday colors in the ’60s and ’70s.”