Business Advice

Unwrapping the History of Gift Wrapping

A neatly wrapped box, from the ribbons to the wrapping paper, is a gift in and of itself. When we think of joyous events such as holidays, birthdays, and anniversaries, we automatically think of gift-wrapped presents. But why do we wrap gifts in the first place? Why, of course, is it to heighten anticipation and create a sense of mystery to the surprise that awaits within the package? A neatly wrapped gift communicates the message to the receiver that you are thinking about them.

The Pursuit of Paper

The exterior skin of a wrapped gift, which is often made of paper, is the most significant component. The word paper comes from the Greek word papyrus, which refers to a substance made from an aquatic grass that grew along the banks of the Nile in ancient Egypt. In China, during the Eastern Han Dynasty, the paper that we are better familiar with was developed later on (202-220 AD). Initially used in the Arab East, it eventually made its way to Medieval Europe, where the first water-powered paper mills were established. White paper was the most popular choice, but by the 17th century, affluent Europeans were wrapping their gifts in sheets of patterned wallpaper to make them look more elegant. Learn more on this at customisable tissue paper.

During the Victorian era, the custom of gift-wrapping blossomed. The upper class favoured beautiful tissue papers and imported Florentine and French-marbled sheets, which were used for formal occasions. Crepe paper, stockings, paper baskets, and cornucopias were also popular items to use as present wrapping materials. Gift-wrapping paper from the era was decorated with pictures of St. Nicholas, cherubs, animals, flowers, and birds, all of which were quite appealing. Since scotch tape wasn’t created until 1930, ribbons, lace, sealing wax, and gummed paper labels were used to keep presents closed and safe.

Christmas cards from the Victorian era served as a stimulus for the invention of gift-wrapping paper in the United States. In the early twentieth century, the post card business of Hall Brothers, Inc. in Kansas City popularized the term’s use. J.C. and Rollie Hall, two entrepreneurial siblings, founded the firm that is today known as Hallmark Cards, Inc., a leader in the industry. The card inventory of the young firm was destroyed by fire in 1915. The brothers were able to retrieve the company safely and restarted their business. With the drop in post card sales, they understood the consumer’s demand for greater privacy and began pairing cards with envelopes to accommodate this want. Rollie Hall had to substitute elegant French envelope linings for tissue paper during the 1917 Christmas season because the store’s supply of tissue paper had run out. Each sheet of fancy French envelope linings cost 10 cents. They were a big hit, and the demand for bespoke wrapping paper prompted the invention of custom wrapping paper. Norman Rockwell and amateur painters Winston Churchill and Jackie Kennedy created artwork for the successful enterprise, which was founded in 1908. Beautiful gift-wrapping products from Hallmark, which include more than 1,000 paper styles, are now cherished just as much as the items they contain.

Carma Gatson
the authorCarma Gatson