During Christmastime 1917, Hallmark became the first company to make and sell designed wrapping paper. Since then, we’ve come ups dozens of ways to make wrapping gifts more fun, creative, and innovative. (See the latest.) In the 1950s and ’60s, Hallmark went all in: Gift stylist Kaye King made short films and traveled the country giving workshops and judging contests. Who was this Kaye King? What is “The Art of Gift Wrapping”? We asked Hallmark Historian Samantha B. for a gift wrap history lesson.
Beginning in 1956, Hallmark promoted its gift wrap line by sending several gift stylists—all affectionately known as “Kaye King”—around the country to give gift wrap demonstrations and advertise Hallmark’s decorative papers.
Shown above: King poses with her pop-up Hallmark Gift Wraps booth, c. 1956, and teaches shoppers how to create a “smart topping” for a variety of gifts…the knotless bow!
Our team of Kaye Kings also judged countless gift wrapping contests—traveling up to six months a year for about five years. Contestants were judged on styling ability, originality of subject matter, overall effect, color scheme, materials used, neatness, and preparation and speed. Categories included most beautiful, most clever or unusual, and most difficult.
Shown above: Hundreds of participants competed in each gift wrap contest, as countless newspapers advertised and co-sponsored the events. Kaye helps a gift wrap contestant finish her submission, c. 1956.
In addition to hosting gift wrap contests, Hallmark shared our gift wrap knowledge in The Art of Gift Wrapping, a 23-minute Hallmark film made in 1958, and Your Flair for Gift Wrapping, a 15-minute Hallmark film created in 1968. An estimated 200,000 viewers saw King perform her “pretty miracles” with paper and ribbon on television.
Shown above: The Art of Gift Wrapping how-to manuals explained in easy to follow directions how to wrap gifts for every holiday and occasion, c. 1956.
Hallmark’s demonstrations, films and how-to manuals truly showcased that “a special flair or a third hand is not needed” to wrap your gifts. There’s no magic, no tricks. “It’s not what you give, but how you give. Attractive and exciting gifts are doubling appealing, doubly appreciated.”
We continue to be influenced by our gift wrap history and completely obsessed with these vintage manuals and videos. You can find fresh takes from our modern day Kaye Kings here and here. And our friends at Hallmark.com have even more ideas. We’ll share more as they come in on Instagram and Facebook.