Norcross Greeting Cards
The Norcross Greeting Card Company
by Earl Ruiter
The Norcross Greeting Card Company was formed by Arthur Norcross in the mid-1920s. For many years it was located at 244 Madison Avenue, New York City. In the early years, the company name on its letterhead was simply Norcross, and its areas of business listed as Publishing and Advertising. Mr. Norcross, his wife June, and apparently at least one child, a daughter, were active not only in the management of the company, but also in the design and selection of its cards. Among its many other distinctions, Norcross is noted as the first commercial card company to produce Valentine’s Day cards. In addition to the design work of its own employees, Norcross used the work of free-lance designers. One of the free-lancers was Miss Mildred Urban of Westminster, MA, who began working with the Norcrosses in the late 1920s. One of her enduring designs was ‘Red Sails in the Sunset’, used for many types of cards and wrapping papers well into the 1960s. Early records show that her fees were in the range of $25 for suggestions which found their way into parts of four cards, and $32 for the ideas which became parts of six cards!
Mr. Norcross was very loyal to all of his associates, treating everyone as members of an extended family. For example, even though Miss Urban was not employed fulltime, her saved business-related correspondence from the Norcrosses includes a memo from Miss Norcross which begins “The Christmas suggestions are swell…” A note from Mrs. Norcross ends with “Please remember me to your Mother. Yours with love, June Norcross”.
During World War II his employees that went to serve in the armed forces were replaced by members of their families -- wives, mothers, and sisters. He kept track of all the servicemen and corresponded with them. He put out the ‘Norcross News Letter’ keeping everyone up to date about what was going on -- baseball scores, company news, etc. He also published a roster of where the members of the Norcross sales team were living so that if someone from Norcross was close by they could look them up.
Mr. Norcross died in 1969 and Mary Calvo, his long time assistant, assumed the job of President. In 1974 the Company was sold to William Mannion, son-in law of John Dorance, the CEO of Campbell's Soup. The Company floundered and Mr. Dorance took over the operation until he could find a buyer. He sold Norcross to Ziff, a magazine publishing and communications firm, which owned it a short time before selling Norcross again to a Mr. Smith, who purchased both Norcross and the Rust Craft Company the same day. He moved Rust Craft from Massachusetts to Norcross' new West Chester, PA location. It was downhill for both companies after that. What was left of Norcross was sold at auction in 1981. Norcross under the direction of Arthur Norcross was a great company but it seems that he and his ‘family’ way of operation was required to keep it going.
In his later years, Arthur Norcross became a philanthropist, donating a wildlife sanctuary to Monson, MA, the town of his birth. He also created the Norcross Wildlife Foundation, which remains active in funding wildlife preservation projects all over the world.
(Much of the material presented above was provided by James Gray, who began as a Norcross salesperson in Denver in the early 1960s. In 1971, he moved to the Baltimore area where he continued his involvement in sales management.)
Copyright ©Earl Ruiter 2003
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