Hall, J.C.

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Hall, J.C.

Hallmark Cards, Inc.


In 1910, at the age of 18, Hallmark cards founder Joyce Clyde "J.C." Hall packed two shoeboxes with imported postcards and headed to Kansas City, Missouri. He soon realized the increasing popularity of quality greeting cards and with brother Rollie began selling Christmas cards with the Hallmark label in 1913. Hall Brothers Inc., as Hallmark was known until 1954, was born.

J.C. Hall personally selected and approved thousands of greeting card messages as Hallmark President. Reportedly, his personal favorite was, "I'd like to be the kind of friend that you've been to me." Always emphasizing quality, Hall also picked the timeless Hallmark slogan, "When you care enough to send the very best," back in the 1940s.

Personal Life

Joyce Hall was born in David City, Nebraska in 1891. His father, George Nelson Hall, a preacher, died when Joyce was a child. Joyce and his siblings—older brothers Rollie and William and younger sister Marie—were raised by their semi-invalid mother, Nancy Dudley Houston Hall.

As a child, Joyce was given the middle name Clyde by his oldest brother Rollie. He was usually referred to as J.C. after that. Even his Hallmark employees affectionately called him "Mr. J.C."

J.C. Hall began working at the age of eight. A year later, his entrepreneurial talent already showed. At age nine, he sold cosmetics and soap door to door for the California Perfume Company, which later became Avon. When J.C. was ten, the family moved to Norfolk, Nebraska, where Rollie and William had purchased a book and stationery store. In 1905, a Chicago salesman visited the store and convinced J.C. that there was money to be made in wholesaling postcards. J.C. invested his life savings of about $170 and convinced Rollie and William each to match his investment. Together, they founded the Norfolk Post Card Company, importing foreign postcards and selling them to local merchants. During school, J.C. was the company's order filler and card sorter. During vacations, however, he took to the streets, selling both the postcards and a sawdust sweeping compound.

J.C. Hall's hard work earned him over $3500 by the time he graduated from high school in 1910. He had decided by then that Norfolk, Nebraska was too small for the enterprise he was building. He packed his postcards into two shoeboxes—hence the name of Hallmark's Shoebox Greetings line—and headed to Kansas City. He continued selling postcards while he studied commercial law and penmanship at night at Spalding's Commercial College. There, J.C. adopted the school director's slogan, "Time is money—save time," as his own, with a meaningful change: "Time is everything—save time."

Joyce Clyde Hall married family friend Elizabeth Ann Didlay on March 25, 1922. They had three children, Elizabeth Ann, Barbara Louise, and Donald Joyce. Hall was a member of the Christian Church and a regular churchgoer. He was a Mason (Shriner) and a Rotarian. J.C.'s wife, Elizabeth, died in 1976. At the time of Joyce Hall's death in 1982, he had 11 grandchildren and many great-grandchildren.

Career Details

By 1913, J.C. Hall's mail-order postcard business had expanded tremendously. He hired an employee and Rollie, Marie, and his mother moved to Kansas City to join him. Rollie and J.C. went into another partnership and formed Hall Brothers. In addition to the postcards, they began selling greeting cards with their own label in 1913. Rollie and J.C. expanded their product line to include Valentine greetings that year.

Topping off a year of financial difficulties, a 1915 fire destroyed the Hall Brothers' inventory, plunging them $17,000 into debt. Then, J.C. and Rollie's largest supplier of greeting cards terminated their contract just before the 1915 Christmas season, forcing the brothers to supply their own greeting cards. This led them to realize that there was demand in the market for more attractive, personalized greeting cards than those sold at that time. In 1916, J.C. and Rollie purchased a small engraving plant. They began manufacturing greeting cards using the name Hall Brothers Paper Craft and a new American industry was born: sentiment for all occasions.

The business grew and received an immense boost from World War I, as Midwesterners eagerly purchased "missing you" and other greetings to send to soldiers overseas. By the early twenties, Hall Brothers had opened specialty shops in Kansas City and Chicago and William had rejoined J.C. and Rollie in the family business. In 1922, Hall Brothers had a staff of 120 people and created their first logo, a torch and shield. That year, they marketed Rollie's idea of using fancy wrappings on gift packages. This brought the growing business many large retail store accounts, paving the way for their next expansion. Hall Brothers Company Inc. was incorporated on June 11, 1923 as the company entered the national greeting card market. Just one year later, the company's "Hallmark" cards had earned it a national reputation.

As Hall Brothers continued its national expansion, Joyce Hall continued his visionary product development. After noticing that store greeting card displays were often concealed, unattractive, and unorganized, J.C. developed the Eye-Vision Display Fixture. This greeting card display, which has evolved into today's greeting card display with some modification, boosted sales of the Hallmark cards tremendously. J.C. began a large advertising campaign in the late 1920s, heightening name recognition and sales of Hallmark cards.

The Great Depression impacted Hall Brothers in much the same way as it did the rest of the country. Despite dwindling sales and fiscal losses, J.C. resisted implementing layoffs. Twice, Hall Brothers' employees voted for 10 percent pay cuts to avoid any layoffs. As economic prosperity returned to the company and the country, full pay was restored. Even during the Depression, J.C. Hall worked to expand Hall Brothers' market and product line. In 1931, Hall Brothers developed an international foothold, taking on the W.E. Coutts Company of Canada as an affiliate. Hall Brothers was the first company to use Walt Disney characters on greeting cards. In 1933, the Three Little Pigs were featured on a Hallmark card.

Growth continued through the 1930s. In 1936, Hall Brothers moved to a six-story, million-dollar facility in Kansas City and by 1937, the firm employed over 950 workers. Determined to continue his company's constant expansion, Joyce Hall pioneered using radio advertising for greeting cards. At his insistence, Hall Brothers sponsored many radio programs, beginning with the popular "Tony Won's Radio Show" in the late 1930s. The firm sponsored many other programs, including the wartime "Meet Your Navy," the Hallmark Radio Readers' Digest, and the Hallmark Playhouse.

In the 1940s, World War II provided additional growth for the Hall Brothers, as a nationwide market rushed to purchase greeting cards for soldiers. Hall Brothers even avoided rationing, to which other businesses were subject during the war. J.C. Hall convinced the government that greeting cards boosted national morale. It was during the 1940s that Joyce Hall selected "When you care enough to send the very best" as the company's slogan and the five-point crown replaced the torch and shield as Hallmark's emblem. Hall Brothers introduced the first greeting cards featuring the work of Grandma Moses and Norman Rockwell, as well as Christmas cards with the works of great masters. The 1940s included further expansion as three new facilities opened and the company approached production of one million greeting cards per day.

By 1953, Hall Brothers Inc. had long surpassed the one million card milestone, producing about 1.5 million greeting cards daily. It added Sir Winston Churchill to its list of notable card artists and employed about 150 in-house artists. In 1954, Hall Brothers Company, Inc. became Hallmark Cards, Inc. During the 1950s, J.C. Hall implemented many programs to benefit his predominantly female workforce, including low-cost nutritional lunches, group discussions, income tax counseling, and a personal service department. Hall also extended his media advertising during the 1950s, building on the success of his radio advertising. In 1951, the first Hallmark Hall of Fame television program was aired, Ahmal and the Night Visitors. It was the first network-sponsored program to be aired in color and the first opera written for television.

In 1956, J.C. Hall came up with yet another visionary idea—an employee profit-sharing plan. To encourage Hallmarkers (as company employees are called) in their work, he decided to share the company's profits with them. The profit sharing plan has been a significant employee benefit ever since. In the late 1970s, the plan began buying Hallmark stock. Joyce Hall never offered shares of Hallmark for sale to the public, despite advice to do so. Today, Hallmark is one of the largest privately held companies in the United States. The employee profit-sharing plan owns one-third of Hallmark; that share was estimated in 1993 to be worth $960 million.

Joyce Hall's career began to wind down in the 1960s, but not before he tackled another enterprise—retail stores. As Hallmark's product line expanded, Hall decided to open a showcase store in New York City. The Halls store opening on Country Club Plaza in 1965. Joyce Clyde Hall retired as Hallmark president and chief executive in 1966, turning the reins over to his only son, Donald Joyce Hall. He retained his position as Chairman of the Board until his death in 1982.

Chronology: J. C. Hall

1891: Born.

1905: Invested in Norfolk Postcard Company.

1910: Moved to Kansas City, Missouri to find bigger postcard market.

1913: Distributed greeting cards with the Hall Bros. Logo.

1930: Developed Joyce Hall Prosperity Plan during the Great Depression.

1931: Expanded business to international markets.

1954: Hall Bros. became Hallmark.

1965: Opened Halls, Hallmark's first showcase store in New York City.

1966: Retired and stepped down as Hallmark President and Chief Executive Officer.

1982: Died.

In retirement, Hall stayed active. His prize project was the Crown Center Redevelopment Corporation, a $400-million city-within-a-city development in Kansas City. J.C. Hall hoped the project would add economic and cultural energy to the downtown area. It was yet another successful enterprise for J.C. Hall and the ground was broken on the project in 1968. The office complex opened in 1971 and the retail shops opened in 1973. On a more tragic note, the Crown Center Redevelopment Corporation owns the Kansas City Hyatt Regency Hotel, the site of one of the worst American construction failures. Two suspended walkways in the hotel fell in July 1981, killing 114 and injuring nearly 200 others.

At the time of Joyce Clyde Hall's death in October, 1982, Hallmark was the country's leading greeting card producer, manufacturing over 8 million greeting cards per day and amassing sales of over $750 million a year. Hallmark also owned Ambassador Greetings, the country's number three greeting card company. Hallmark's 20,000 card shops sold those cards, plus other Hallmark wares: gift-wrap, stuffed animals, birthday candles, many collectibles, and other products. By 1993, Hallmark employed a creative staff of over 700 employees—a staff that generates over 24,000 new cards per year. Hallmark has maintained its industry-leading position with estimated sales of $2.9 billion in 1992.

Social and Economic Impact

During the Great Depression, Joyce Hall worked hard to develop a plan that would save the jobs of his employees. He also worked to help the nation return to prosperity. The 1930 Joyce Hall Prosperity Plan was embraced and promoted by Rotary Clubs throughout the country. Some newspapers credited Hall and his plan with aiding the country's eventual economic recovery. The plan encouraged suppliers and customers to buy materials in advance, providing working capital for companies. According to Hall, his plan allowed people to keep working and earning wages and to keep the spending cycle going.

J.C. Hall used his greeting cards and his successful business to further the fine arts. The Hallmark Gallery Artists Christmas cards featured works by great masters, such as Michaelangelo, da Vinci, and Rembrandt. Hall hoped these cards would bring the art of these celebrated painters to people who would not ordinarily see them. In 1949, Hall created the International Hallmark Art Awards, providing funds to artists worldwide and acquiring works for the Hallmark Fine Arts Collection. J.C. Hall also maintained 38 scholarships for students at the Kansas City Art Institute.

In 1956, President Dwight David Eisenhower invited Hall and other prominent American businessmen to the White House for an important discussion. The meeting concerned establishing an organization to promote world peace. The resulting organization was called People-to-People. It was an effort involving American citizens dedicated to implementing mutual understanding, respect, and friendship in the pursuit of peace. J.C. Hall served on the group's board of directors and was chairman of People-to-People's executive committee.

Joyce Hall was honored with many citations and awards during his life. In 1961, he was the first sponsor to receive an Emmy from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. Queen Elizabeth II named him Honorary Commander of the Order of the British Empire that same year. The Kansas City Chamber of Commerce named him 1961's "Mr. Kansas City." He served on the Boards of Directors of the Eisenhower Foundation and People-to-People. In 1971, he was awarded the Eisenhower medal for international understanding. He was granted a citation from the Midwest Research Institute and the Distinguished Service Award from the University of Kansas. The National Association of Greeting Card Publishers recognized his immense contributions to the industry in 1974. He was elected to Fortune's Hall of Fame for Business Leadership in 1977. J.C. Hall held honorary degrees from Kansas State University, the University of Missouri, the University of Nebraska and William Jewel College.

Sources of Information

Contact at: Hallmark Cards, Inc.
2501 McGee St.
Kansas City, MO 64108
Business Phone: (816)274-5111
URL: http://www.hallmark.com


Candee, Marjorie Dent, ed. Current Biography Yearbook. New York: H.W. Wilson Co., 1953.

A Centennial Tribute to the Memory of Joyce C. Hall. 1991.

Flynn, Gillian. "Hallmark Benefits its Employees (aka: Owners). Personnel Journal, March 1996.

Moritz, Charles, ed. Current Biography Yearbook. New York: H.W. Wilson Co., 1983.

Page, Eric. "J.C. Hall, Hallmark Founder, is Dead."The New York Times, 30 October 1982.

"Summary: Donald Joyce Hall, Barbara Hall Marshall, Elizabeth Ann Reid" Forbes, 18 October 1993.

Who Was Who in America. Chicago: Marquis Who's Who, 1985.