Joyce C. Hall 1891-1982
Joyce C. Hall was a youthful picture-postcard peddler who became the biggest name in the history of greeting cards. One of three sons, the youngest, born to George Nelson Hall and Nancy Dudley Houston on August 29, 1891 in David City, Nebraska where he lived most of his long and productive life.
George and Nancy were religious. As Hall describes in his autobiography, "I was born the day a Methodist bishop named Isaac W. Joyce happened to be in David City", (the reason that led to the unlikely first name of Joyce). The name "Joyce" annoyed him into adulthood. But, he admitted, he never seriously considered using his middle name instead. "Clyde," as he pointed out, "wasn't any great shakes of a name either." Later, in business, he was always known simply "Mr. J.C."
His father left home when Hall was just nine. He was raised by his mother living in poverty and lacking any formal education. To help his mother he began selling perfume door-to-door at age nine.
At the age of 18, he was a lanky six-footer. In 1910, Hall
dropped out of high school, jumped a train and headed to Kansas City to seek his
fortune and make his mark in the business world. He arrived in Kansas City
with two shoeboxes full
of scenic picture postcards he hoped to sell to dealers throughout the Midwest. And he prospered.
He was a quiet, serious, highly sensitive young man. He went from jobbing postcards as a teenager to manufacturing and selling his own line in six years. A small room at the YMCA was where he lived and was what he used as his office. He had so little cash he couldn't afford to pay a horse-drawn cab to get him there. But, he had his dream and he had plans to make them happen. His plan...launching a mail-order program using the samples he stored under his bed at the Y. He printed invoices, and started mailing packages of a hundred postcards to dealers throughout the Midwest. Some dealers kept the cards and never paid. Some sent back the unsolicited cards with angry notes. But, about a third of the dealers mailed him a check. In just a few short months, the 18-year-old Hall had earned $200, enough to open a checking account for his promising new business.
In a matter of a few years, his postcard business had
grown large enough that he asked his older brothers Rollie and Willliam to join him and open a specialty store,
the Norfolk Post Card Company, selling both postcards and
stationery. Although they were doing well, he worried that postcards were
losing there appeal and thought that selling higher end greeting cards,
Valentines and Christmas cards with envelopes might be more
profitable. He decided to call the company Hallmark, a play on his name and the word for
quality which dated back to the 1300's, where gold and silver were
"marked" for quality at Goldsmith's Hall in London. Coins and
other items of high quality received a "Hall mark."
In 1912 Hall added greeting cards and as business grew moved to larger facilities. In 1915, a fire destroyed the Hall Brothers' offices and all their cards. The company was left in debt. This did not stop Halls dreams. With a new engraving press, the Hall Brothers opened a new shop just down the street and began printing their own cards with the Hall Brothers insignia.
The first Hallmark card appeared in 1916. It featured the greeting "I'd like to be the kind of friend you are to me."
In 1923, Joyce C., and brothers Bill and Rollie Hall, along with their 120 employees, moved from tiny offices and rental space in four separate buildings into a brand new six-story plant. In 1936, Hall introduced display cases that allowed rows of cards to be displayed, that customers could easily browse on their own. Previously, cards were bought by asking a store clerk to choose an appropriate card for you.
The rest is history.
Joyce C. Hall died at age 91 on October 29, 1982 leaving Kansas City a legacy of high quality. It is an old-fashioned success story. When Hall died, his company was worth $1.5 billion. Today, more than 10 million Hallmark cards are sold every year! They coined the phrase "when you care enough to send the very best" in greeting cards. They founded a quality television series know as the "Hallmark Hall of Fame."
"All I was trying to do was make a living," Hall once said. "In those days, if you didn't work, you didn't eat. And I like to eat."
Joyce C. Hall
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 yes, even the Horatio Alger Award.
Hall and his wife, Elizabeth, who were married in 1921, had three children: Elizabeth Ann Reid, Denton, Texas; Barbara Louise Marshall, Kansas City, Mo.; and Donald Joyce Hall, Mission Hills, Kan.
1966, Joyce C. Hall stepped aside as chief executive officer in favor of his son, Donald J. Hall
Rollie B. Hall, vice president and director of national sales, died in 1968 at age 86.
William F. Hall, vice president and treasurer, died in 1971 at 87.
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