Inside the Archives of Hallmark's Greeting Card History

Hallmark headquarters keeps a temperature-controlled vault

December 22, 2016, 4:38 AM

— -- Deep within Hallmark’s headquarters in Kansas City, Missouri, behind key-coded doors, is the company's most prized collection: its historical archives.

Only a select number of employees have access to the trove of historical documents and products from the greeting card maker's history.

Samantha Bradbeer, Hallmark’s historian, is one of them. She sits feet from the archive doors and has become its unofficial gatekeeper.

"I’m definitely in awe of our collection, just the immense amount of product and documentation that we have over the years," Bradbeer told ABC News.

The archives were founded in the 1950’s to serve two purposes. They chronicles the company history and product, but also include a complete record of the evolution of the greeting card.

Hallmark’s founder, Joyce C. Hall, saw the archives as a source of inspiration for his employees. In the early days, card designers would sift through design books, original pieces of art and rare printed works to help spark an idea for their latest projects. Now, employees access the collection digitally and can schedule an appointment to view the original pieces in person.

Inside the temperature-controlled room are rows upon rows of shelving that holds product large and small.

    "Each box can contain hundreds of cards," Bradbeer said. "The archive has over a million pieces of product."

    Filed away are original pieces produced by Norman Rockwell, Salvador Dali and Winston Churchill. There is also a section specifically for Presidential holiday cards; Hallmark has been commissioned by past administrations to produce the official White House holiday card. These commissions date back to President Eisenhower.

    "I’ve been with Hallmark for a little over five years now," Bradbeer said. "What really drew me to the collection was the fact that it wasn’t just Hallmark’s history. It’s also Kansas City’s history and American history. We have these rich and famous collaborations over the past hundred years and these are people I grew up reading about."

    PHOTO: Historian Samantha Bradbeer looking through company archive.
    Historian Samantha Bradbeer looking through company archive.

    Born into an Army family, Bradbeer has traveled around the world for most of her childhood, but considers her home to be in Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas. She expects this holiday season to be similar to past ones--cards shared between family and friends.

    "I do get sentimental about greeting card," Bradbeer said. "We have a great collection in my family. My father wrote letters to my mother while he was in the Army. My grandfather wrote letters back to his family while he was in the Navy during World War II. Those personal family connections have always been tied to my heart. It’s a priceless piece."

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