Through the decades: milestones and moments
Making the world a more thoughtful and caring places has been at the heart of the American Greetings mission for more than 100 years. The story begins in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1906, when Jacob Sapirstein, a determined young Polish immigrant armed with big dreams and a $50 bank loan, began importing elegant postcards from Germany and selling them to local merchants from his family’s horse-drawn cart.
That one-horse-cart operation has blossomed into today’s American Greetings Corporation, one of the world’s largest creators and retailers of greeting cards and other social expressions products that enable countless consumers around the globe to make meaningful connections.
The company was the first to commercialize greeting cards with the advent of self-serve store displays in 1929. Throughout the Great Depression, Sapirstein’s affordable greeting cards helped to lift the spirits of an ailing nation.
During World War II, families were separated and patriotic red, white and blue greeting cards helped them keep in touch with loved ones. The company changed its name to American Greetings.
The postwar ‘50s were economic boom times. In 1952, the first public offering of stock was issued at $12 per share. In 1956 American Greetings expanded internationally - into Canada – with the purchase of Carlton Cards, the country’s # 1 social expressions brand today.
Always striving to make the greeting card business turnkey for retailers, American Greetings hired the first merchandiser to stock the greeting card department at the Fort Bragg Military Base store in North Carolina, today, more than 15,000 merchandisers provide excellent service to stores across the United States.
American Greetings debuted one of its most beloved characters, Holly Hobbie.
1970s – 1980s
The ‘70s and ‘80s brought about rapid expansion with the purchase of competitors Plus Mark and Drawing Board Cards, as well as starting operations in Mexico. In 1986, and the age of 101, Jacob Sapirstein saw his company’s sales soar to more than $1 billion. In the following year, the company started producing and selling greeting cards in Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.
American Greetings introduced the first card line printed on recycled paper. As mass retailing grew by leaps and bounds, so did technology. In an effort to take cards everywhere consumers shop, the company launched AmericanGreetings.com in 1996.
The first decade of the new century started with the Gibson greeting card brand joining the American Greetings family.
American Greetings was the first social expressions company to recognize and address Gen Y’s unique social expressions needs. In 2012, justWink, the industry’s first comprehensive greeting card paper and digital brand created by Gen Y for Gen Y, was introduced.
American Greetings reinvented category marketing with the release of the acclaimed World’s Toughest Job viral video in the spring of 2014. Who has that job? Moms do, of course. The video went on to win the 2015 North American Grand Effie award and drew more than 26 million views.
The inauguration of the American Greetings Creative Studios world headquarters on September 28, 2016, was a transformational moment in the company’s history. Rising on a 13.5 acre site on the south end of the Crocker Park development in the Cleveland suburb of Westlake, Ohio, the five-story building was designed as a vibrant expression of the creative culture and character of American Greetings.
On April 6, 2018, Clayton, Dubilier & Rice and American Greetings Corporation completed the transaction in which CD&R-managed funds acquired a 60% ownership stake in American Greetings. The Weiss Family, descendants of Jacob Sapirstein, who founded the company, retained a 40% stake in the business.