Founded in 1910, the Hallmark greeting card company—named after the “hallmark” term used by goldsmiths to indicate quality, and after the Hall family that started it—has been synonymous with warm wishes and platitudes for every conceivable occasion.
Unfortunately, some of their sentiments have not been as carefully thought out as others. Take a look at a few instances where Hallmark missed the mark entirely.
1. SUGGESTING 13-YEAR-OLDS NEED LARGE BREASTS TO GET A BOYFRIEND
As a cardboard titan in the greeting-card industry, it’s not unusual for Hallmark to acquire smaller companies. (Or large ones: They own Crayola.) In 1998, Hallmark purchased the British-based Creative Publishing and took over their library of well-wishing birthday acknowledgements. Lost in the shuffle was a card Creative designed intended for pre-adolescent girls that read:
“You’re 13 today! If you had a rich boyfriend he’d give you diamonds and rubies. Well maybe next year you will—when you’ve bigger boobies!”
According to Fox 31 in Denver, a customer in the UK plucked the card off a shelf in 2012 and Tweeted its contents out. A “surprised and horrified” Hallmark offered an apology and recalled the remaining inventory.
2. DALI'S CHRISTMAS CARD
Hallmark founder Joyce Clyde Hall had ambitions beyond holiday greetings: He felt his millions of mass-produced cards would be an effective way of introducing fine art to Americans. In 1959, Hallmark agreed to pay expressionist artist Salvador Dali $15,000 to produce 10 paintings they could use on Christmas cards. After Dali had finished, Hallmark believed only two would be of interest to the public at large: Dali’s abstract renditions of the Nativity and the Madonna. Both were released in 1960—and both caused significant public outcry for using the Christmas season to market weirdly ethereal illustrations of religious imagery. Hallmark recalled most of the cards; those that remained in circulation became collector’s items.
3. THE GIFT WRAP THAT LOOKED LIKE A SWASTIKA PARTY
A Walgreen’s customer in Northridge, California was looking for Hanukkah gift paper in late 2014 when she spotted something unusual: Hallmark wrap that appeared to be decorated with swastikas. According to CNN, the woman alerted Walgreen’s, who contacted Hallmark. The company offered a public apology and said the pattern was taken from the company’s reference material archive and was intended to evoke an old Chinese vase design. “It was an oversight on our part to not notice the intersecting lines that could be seen as a swastika pattern,” Hallmark spokesperson Julie Elliott told the Kansas City Star.
4. GRADS: DON’T FORGET TO GET STINKING DRUNK
Hallmark ran into some angry mothers in 1988 after issuing college graduation cards that appeared to conclude a finished education is best topped off by getting heavily intoxicated. A California chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) argued the company was promoting irresponsible behavior by marketing cards depicting a refrigerator full of beer and an egg that read:
“Don’t go to graduation without a good breakfast first.”
Hallmark pulled the cards and declared it would stop mentioning alcohol when designing graduation greetings. Some retail outlets took the cards down voluntarily.
5. DON WE NOW OUR HIGHLY DEBATABLE APPAREL
Hallmark has cut out a sizable slice of market share in a variety of holiday goods, including ornaments. In 2013, the company offered an (intentionally) ugly Christmas sweater tree decoration that was emblazoned with the phrase “Don we now our fun apparel.” The wording substituted “fun” for “gay” as the line originally appears in “Deck the Halls.” According to CNN, Hallmark argued the change was due to the fact “gay” had “multiple meanings” today versus when the song was written in the 1800s. After the company was accused of fearing the word “gay,” it issued an apology via Twitter.
6. SNOOPY’S LACK OF CLASS
What could be more harmless than a Hallmark-issued poster of Charlie Brown’s adorable dog, Snoopy? Lots of things: In 1983, Hallmark endured criticism for a wall decoration that featured Charles Schulz’s creation indicating he’d much rather “party” than “study.” The item was customizable, with area high schools able to order copies with their name printed as part of Snoopy’s thought balloon. School boards and parent-teacher associations complained the artwork was dismissive of education. Schulz told the Associated Press that he didn’t recall ever seeing the concept for approval.