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Joyce C. HallJ.C. Hall

founder of Hallmark Cards

Joyce Clyde Hall was born in David City, Nebraska, on August 29, 1891, the youngest son of Methodist minister George Nelson Hall and Nancy Dudley Houston Hall (he had two older brothers and one younger sister). He got his first name by being born on the same day that a Methodist bishop named Isaac W. Joyce happened to be David City. The family moved to Norfolk, Nebraska, sometime in the late-1890's.

At the age of 16, J.C. and his two brothers, Roland "Rollie" and William, pooled their money and opened the Norfolk Post Card Company, which specialized in selling European-made picture postcards. But the market for imported postcards in Norfolk was limited, so, in January of 1910, Hall took shoeboxes full of postcards to Kansas City, Missouri, where he had success selling them to drugstores, bookstores, and gift shops. Before long he was selling postcards in towns served by the railroad. The success of Hall's venture lured brother Rollie to Kansas City, and the two opened a specialty store in downtown Kansas City dealing in post cards, gifts, books, and stationery.

On January 11, 1915, the Hall Brothers' entire inventory was destroyed by fire. Undeterred, they secured a loan, bought an existing engraving firm, and began producing their own cards. J.C. and Rollie were joined by William in 1921, and Hall Brothers, Inc., was formed in 1923. By the end of the decade the company was the largest producer of postcards and greeting cards in the country (if not the world). "Hall Brothers Company" was replaced by the phrase "A Hallmark Card" on the back of the cards in 1928, despite the objections of Rollie and William, and the company name was officially changed to Hallmark Cards in 1954.

Christmas, birthday, and Valentine's Day cards were early best-sellers, but Hall wanted to manufacture cards that expressed virtually every sentiment for any occasion and to that end he hired professional writers, including Ogden Nash and Norman Vincent Peale, as well as professional artists, including Grandma Moses and Andrew Wyeth. His other major innovation was the installation of long card racks in stores, allowing customers to browse through hundreds of different cards -- previously, the cards had been stored behind the counter in most stores, with customers unable to see them without asking the clerk.

J.C. Hall's card business made him a millionaire many times over, but rather than flaunting his wealth he used it to fund a number of business and charitable projects. One of the most notable of these projects was a series of television productions known as the "Hallmark Hall of Fame," which began with the Hallmark-sponsored live-action presentation of "Amahl and the Night Visitors" on Christmas Eve of 1951. The most visible result of Hall's philanthropic efforts is Crown Center, an 85-acre office-entertainment-shopping district in downtown Kansas City that was built by Hall in order to revitalize the neighborhoods around his company's headquarters.

Hall stepped down as CEO of Hallmark Cards in 1966, leaving day-to-day ooperations in the hands of son Donald J. He stayed on as company president, however, and continued to personally approve every card design produced by Hallmark until shortly before his death, which came on October 29, 1982. He was survived by his wife, Ellizabeth Ann Dilday Hall (whom he had married in 1921), daughters Elizabeth Ann and Barbara Louise, and son Donald Joyce.

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This page was last updated on August 29, 2017.