Sunday, April 11, 2021

Hallmark: More Than Cards by Martha Rogers

 Hallmark has always been a favorite of mine. I love their cards and I have no trouble finding just what I need to fit any and every occasion. Most of us have watched their Christmas movies and other seasonal movies as well. A few of our authors have had their novels transcribed into screenplays that have appeared on the channel. Their Gold Crown logo is well known and know it means a quality product.

When I decided to look into their history, I found some very interesting facts. One of them being how two brothers started out with a few cards and built an empire that spans generations of card buyers and movie viewers.

It all began in 1910 with eighteen-year-old J.C. Hall when he stepped off a train in Kansas City, Missouri. He held his only possession, two shoeboxes filled with
picture postcards, under his arm. With very little money, not even enough for a
 ride to the YMCA, he had an entrepreneurial spirit and determination of a pioneer.


After a year of selling on his own, J.C.'s older brother Rollie Hall joined in the business and named it Hall Brothers. They had success selling to stores around Kansas City, and even expanded to included other towns served by the railroad.

Then tragedy struck on January 11, 1915. A fire destroyed their office and all of their inventory. The only thing saved was the safe filled with invoices. With that, and a $17,000 debt, they set up shop again and pressed onward.

Post card sales had declined before the fire, and J.C. recognized the need for more personal and private means of communication. This resulted in high-quality Christmas cards and Valentine cards mailed in envelopes. The fire served as a catalyst to take a risk and buy a printing press. This venture transformed Hall Brothers from a dealer to a manufacturer. 

Example of an early Christmas Card

This led to a need for writers and illustrators for the cards. Since neither of the Hall brothers considered them writers or artists, they turned to their employees. J.C. quickly developed a good eye for quality and an ear for saleable verse and prose. There were very few full-time artists, and no staff writers, in those early

days, so J.C. was open to all sources and if an employee showed a fair for composing sentiment they were encouraged to contribute, no matter their position. Those employees are hard at work in the picture above.

Their first foray into other product lines came in 1917 when they “invented” modern gift wrap. During the peak Christmas season, their retail store, eventually known as Halls, on the fashionable Petticoat Lane ran out of solid-colored gift dressing, and, with no time to reorder, Rollie improvised by selling decorative French envelope liners. The elaborate designs – featuring bright florals, geometric shapes, and Christmas motifs - sold out so quickly that the brothers decided to begin printing their own gift wrap. Consumers could now purchase coordinating greeting cards, gift wrap, and trim. This would lead to even more products in the years ahead.

J.C.'s creativity and imagination led to several new products as well as innovations in marketing and connecting with consumers. Some of those included cellophane wrapped cards for servicemen in 1917, friendship cards in 1919, flat, laminated cards and framed mottos in 1924, and sound cards or "Greetaphones", in 1924. Even when some of the innovations were flops, J.C. continued to encourage employees to come up with new ideas. He then concentrated on new ways to market the company and its products.

J.C. believed their name, Hall Brothers, sounded old fashioned. One name had been on his mind since the early 1920's. The word "hallmark" intrigued him as it was used by goldsmiths as a mark of quality. He liked it because it incorporated the family name and said quality in an authoritative way. In 1928 the company began marking its brand in earnest and used the Hallmark name on the back of every card. They also began to advertise nationally, and they were the first company of its kind to have an ad in a magazine, Ladies Home Journal. Then he turned to radio sponsorship.

Ed Goodman - who was head of adverting and sales and worked on the revolutionary Eye-Vision fixture - began brainstorming and tinkering with past slogans on the 3 x 5 cards that were so ubiquitous at Hallmark. After seeing Ed idly play with the cards, J.C. picked them up and one line jumped out – “you cared enough to send the very best.” The company began using the slogan immediately, and sponsored radio programs included it within their Hallmark ads in 1944. 

Merchandising had become a problem because most stores had no organized way to display and sell greeting cards. Cards in most stores were displayed wherever space allowed or were simply kept out of consumers’ sight and reach in cardboard shipping boxes and in drawers behind the cash register. J.C.’s solution was to develop a fixture specifically for displaying greeting cards at eye level. The design, known as the Eye-Vision, was patented in 1935 and transformed the consumer’s card-purchasing experience.

Just a few years later, in 1951, J.C. saw what he thought was a rare opportunity. He learned from his advertising partner, Fairfax Cone, that NBC was looking for a sponsor for an original opera written for television. Although the planned Christmas Eve airdate of Amahl and the Night Visitors would be too late to help as a holiday promotion, J.C. decided to sponsor it to thank all the people who bought Hallmark cards. It was Hallmark’s first sponsored television special and the first of hundreds of movies that would be presented under the name Hallmark Hall of Fame (It also helped pave the way for original programming on Hallmark’s television channels).

Today, millions watch movies on Hallmark's television channels. They sponsor clean. wholesome romance, dramas, and mysteries. Their Christmas ornaments become wonderful family keepsakes, and my grandchildren have been recipients of many of those ornaments. Individual Hallmark stores sell the greeting cards along with gifts, wrapping papers, ornaments, and other items for the home. 

Below is a picture of their corporate headquarters. 

With only a box full of post-cards, J.C. and Rollie built their company into one that is respected and known by millions. When one sees the Crown Logo on the back of a card, they know  "You Cared Enough to Send the Very Best."

All information:  Courtesy of the Hallmark Archives,  Hallmark Cards, Inc., Kansas City, Missouri, USA and used with permission.


Fifteen years ago, Elena Boucher, known as Vonda Mason, dropped out of the spotlight of show business after a car accident killed her husband and left her critically wounded. Now, with a teenage daughter, she joins a trip with her daughter and other youth from her church on a mission trip to Nashville. There she discovers the pastor of the host church is Jonathan Wilbanks, an old classmate from high school. Seeing him and being in the city that brought her fame and fortune brings back memories and secrets she buried the day she left town and disappeared. Now, all of that is being threatened as she is recognized and hounded for information about her disappearance. As friends rally around her, Elena learns that trusting in the Lord can overcome everything threatening her present and give her future she had never dreamed possible. 

Martha Rogers is a free-lance writer and multi-published best-selling author from Realms Fiction of Charisma Media and Winged Publications. She was named Writer of the Year at the Texas Christian Writers Conference in 2009. She is a member of ACFW and writes the weekly Verse of the Week for the ACFW Loop. ACFW awarded her the Volunteer of the Year in 2014. Her first electronic series from Winged Publications, Love in the Bayou City of Texas, debuted in the spring of 2015.  Martha is a frequent speaker for writing workshops and the Texas Christian Writers Conference of which she is a director. She is a retired teacher and lives in Houston with her husband, Rex. Their favorite pastime is spending time with their twelve grandchildren and six great-grandchildren. 


  1. Thanks for sharing this fascinating post. I didn't know the history of the company.

    1. I didn't either until I started searching for information about greeting cards. Thanks for stopping by.

  2. Martha, that was so interesting! I had no idea of their beginnings. Thank you!

    1. Curiosity leads to a lot of great discoveries and interesting tidbits of history. Thank you for stopping by.

  3. What a great post! Thank you for sharing!!!

    1. You're welcome, Melanie. Thank you for stopping by.

  4. I love Hallmark movies and cards. On November 22, 2020, Hallmark released The Christmas House, featuring a same-sex couple as the lead characters. Hallmark released a statement during the summer of 2020 saying diversity and inclusion was a top priority for the company where everyone should feel welcome.

    1. Yes, and many complained. I don't approve of the concept, but I have the choice of not watching those particular movies. That will not stop me from watching the channel or buying their cards. Thank you for your input, Karen.

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  6. Thank you for the post! How very interesting! JC and Rollie were certainly very thoughtful men with an eye for their market, and very intelligent with all of their innovations for their business. And I love that they weren't afraid to approach their employees to find the creative talent they needed.