The Accidental Birth of Wrapping Paper

Ethan Trex

Stationery purveyors J.C. and Rollie Hall ran into a problem during the 1917 holiday season: Business had been too good at their Kansas City, Mo., shop, and they’d run out of the white, red, and green tissue papers that were the era’s standard gift dressing.

Poking around the shop, Rollie realized they still had a stack of fancy French paper meant for lining envelopes. On a lark, he placed the lining paper in a showcase and priced it at 10 cents a sheet. The paper sold out instantly. The next year, the Hall brothers pressed their luck, offering the fancy paper again during the holiday season. Again, it flew off shelves.

By 1919, the brothers had decided to print their own special paper for concealing presents, and the gift wrap business was born. Today, wrapping paper is a $3.2 billion industry, and you can buy it by the roll at the Halls’ store, Hallmark.