Wednesday, December 24

Be did't know that

Tomorrow is Christmas so I thought it would be fun to take a look at the evolution of an age old product invention that by this time we're glad to have, but sick of using- Wrapping Paper.

I for one was interested to see where the tradition of this tool of temporary secrecy came from, and how it evolved from its earliest forms into the rolls of brightly decorated paper we see today. 

So - using a timeline first compiled by my good friend Eric Hart we can see the unlikely path this age old tradition took to end up here in 2014.

1509 – Earliest-known sample of wallpaper. It was used only briefly as gift-wrap because it cracked and tore too easily when it was folded.

1745 – We have a mention of “brown or wrapping paper” used “to wrap up Goods, therefore called Shop-Paper”

19th Century – Gifts were sometimes presented in decorated cornucopias or paper baskets

1804 – First advertising for Christmas gifts in America

1823 – First publication of “A Visit from St. Nicholas“, aka “‘Twas the Night before Christmas”. St. Nicholas fills stockings hung by the chimney with toys. There is no mention of presents under the tree, or whether anything is wrapped.

1837-1901 - The Victorian Period– Wrapping paper is decorated similar to the Christmas cards of this era. Flowers, cherubs, and birds are among the more popular patterns “Christmas papers were intricately printed and ornamented with lace and ribbon. Decorated boxes, loose bags, and coronets bore cutout illustrations of Father Christmas, robins, angels, holly boughs and other seasonal decorations”

1881 – Stockings hung either by the fireplace or bed and filled with presents were in common usage in England at this time

1843 – Sir Henry Cole of London commissions the first commercial Christmas cards from John Callcott Horsley

1857 – Joseph Gayetty introduces toilet tissue to the world. Tissue paper springs from this invention. 

1863, Ebenezer Butterick chooses tissue paper for his newly-invented graded sewing patterns, implying that it was somewhat widely available by that time. The use of tissue paper for gift-wrapping soon follows.

1874 – Louis Prang, the “father of the American Christmas card,” becomes the first printer to offer Christmas cards in America.

1890 – Flexography, a printing process using a flexible relief plate, is patented. It makes possible the mass production of a foldable, stiff paper which could be printed with colored inks

1900 – According to the Hallmark press room, gifts are wrapped in tissue or plain brown paper during this time

1912 – Cellophane paper is used to wrap Whitman’s candy. Sales of cellophane triple between 1928-1930 following the introduction of moisture-proof cellophane. It is used as wrapping paper, either alone or in conjunction with regular paper.

1917 – According to the Hallmark site, Joyce Clyde Hall and his brother, Rollie, invented modern gift-wrap in their Kansas City, MO, store. When they ran out of their solid-colored gift dressing during the peak of the Christmas season, they began substituting the thicker French envelope liners for wrapping presents. It sold so well they began printing their own. Previous to this, they sold white, red and green tissue and one holly pattern for gift-wrapping.

1930 – “Scotch” tape is invented. Check out the Tape Innovation Timeline at the Scotch website for more milestones in transparent tape, as well as pictures of vintage tape dispensers and packaging. Before this, gifts were tied up with string and sealing wax.

1930s-40s – Wrapping paper patterns become more stylized due to influences from Art Deco. Some more popular patterns include ice skaters, snowflakes, Christmas trees, and candles.

1939-1945 – During World War II, gift wrap was not rationed to keep morale up.

1950s-60s – Wrapping paper patterns become more realistic.

2014 - The gift wrap industry now accounts for over 3 billion dollars annually in retail sales.

Well there you have it, a chronological look at wrapping paper. A simple invention, but one that brings wonder to the process of gift giving and just one of many inventions we take for granted each holiday season.

To the over 20,000 people a month that read the Daily Inventor Education Blog - Thank You - and have a Blessed, Joyful, and Safe Holiday season - Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah from my family to yours!

Mark Reyland     

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