“The Spirit of Kansas City”: Where the Greeting Card Industry Got Started

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It was my joy to be visiting a friend and for a business trip in Kansas City and there… I stumbled upon the story of the founder of Hallmark cards. Joyce Clyde Hall grew up in Nebraska, his two older brothers opened up a post card store, which were then very much in vogue. He worked for them for awhile and then thought perhaps he would move and open up distribution and send bulk postcards to retailers. A friend, who later became a top salesman for him, deterred him from going to Omaha and said, “You should go to Kansas City! There you will find such spirit and receptivity!”

At the age of 18, Joyce Hall moved there to begin his enterprise but he soon found that it wasn’t a good situation, instead he slightly altered course. Inspired by quotes he used to carry with him, he decided to print some in cards. He found a printer downstairs from him, and the women there would put the quotes in the cards as well as provide a variety of designs…

That’s when Mr. Hall took an even deeper risk, the printer downstairs was going out of business due to too much debt. Hall assumed the debt and hired the women to produce the gift cards full time and there Hallmark industries was born, through entrepreneurship, spirit, courage, and an incredible sense of dedication and hope.

You can see where this is headed, the birth of the gift card nation, where we now give cards for not only birthdays, anniversaries, weddings… But graduations, promotions, soccer club wins, I Hope you Feel Better, My Condolences, Happy Bar Mitzvah, Happy New Baby, Happy Wedding, Happy Anniversary… and the like! At the age of 23, his company had taken off!

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Now it’s interesting to note there were greeting cards before, but most of them were high end, what Joyce C. Hall did was allow people to give them at any time of year and with inspiration. The cards were approachable, unique, creative, and custom tailored. Oh the artists he collected over the years at his company!

I went into the museum and they showed all of these old beautiful, vintage cards … Such stunning Christmas pictorials with warm winters and beautiful cursive, almost now never seen, and a pure joy that rang through every message. They’ve also enterprised into good-natured family films, which have won Emmy’s.

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Mr. Hall was deeply beloved by his company and interestingly he was quite a pioneer in CSR, there were more than 70 Hallmark vans that provide ride shares for employees to and from work. There’s also the “25 year club,” which honors people who have been with the company for 25 years, when it was first started there were only 8, now there are 1000. That’s a true testament to people loving the company and the culture there!

Hallmark began recycling paper in the 1940s and launched an employee transportation pool in the 1970s. Since 1998 the Enfield, Conn., distribution center has been a zero-waste-to-landfill facility. Sawdust that’s a byproduct of producing store displays in our Center, Texas, fixture plant has been recycled for years – some 3 million pounds annually.

This company has blessed so many people, not only by their products, which have brought joy, kindness, and relief to so many people but also the employees who have had the joy of working there, who bright so much joy, kindness, and relief to people all over the world.

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Joyce C. Hall, founder of Hallmark Cards, Inc., lived the American dream. Born Aug. 29, 1891, in tiny David City, Neb., Hall overcame both poverty and a lack of a formal education to become the architect of an industry, friend of two presidents and a prime minister, patron of the arts, and recipient of high honors from three nations.

Though J.C. Hall became a wealthy man, profit was never foremost in his thoughts.  In his autobiography, When You Care Enough, Hall wrote:  “If a man goes into business with only the idea of making a lot of money, chances are he won’t.  But if he puts service and quality first, the money will take care of itself.  Producing a first-class product that is a real need is a much stronger motivation for success than getting rich.”

Hall never lost his plain-spoken, common sense, man-of-the-plains touch, despite being:  Commander of the Order of the British Empire; holder of the French Legion of Honor; winner of the Eisenhower Medallion; first-name intimate of Winston Churchill, Dwight Eisenhower and Harry Truman; winner of the first Emmy ever awarded to a television sponsor; recipient of plaques, scrolls and honorary degrees, and the Horatio Alger Award. (Source)

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