The History of Gift Packaging

November 30, 2017


Tis the season for giving, and giving has come a long way over the years! Did you know that children were the only ones who received Christmas presents? Or that wrapping paper comes from royal beginnings? Kick back with a mug of eggnog and learn the history of gift giving, and the packaging we use for it!


The practice of giving gifts is as old as humanity itself. Today it’s hard to imagine not buying gifts for everyone from your grandmother to your best friend, but historically children were the only ones who received presents around the holidays. Even through the 1880s, these were mostly small homemade gifts that were stuffed into socks.

One heck of a good gift from the 1880s

As manufacturing advanced so did packaging. America manufactured its first cardboard box in 1895, and gifts began to grow in size to fill them. American shoppers were now giving cheap gifts just for the sake of giving, a practice which would soon draw public backlash.

In 1911, an organization called the Society for the Prevention of Useless Giving was born. The movement denounced frivolous gifts and urged shoppers to give gifts that held true meaning to those who received them. Dues from the thousands of members purchased America’s first-ever Christmas Tree ceremony in Madison Square Park!


The creation of wrapping paper goes back to 100 years BC in ancient China. This early wrapping paper was woven with rice straws, bamboo fiber or hemp, so it was much thicker and tougher than the wrapping paper we know today.

Modern-day wrapping paper says: “Grandpa, is that you?”

During the Victorian period in England, wrapping paper began to evolve. While it was still thick, aristocrats used fancier, ornate paper to flaunt their wealth. Eventually, these papers were replaced with tissue paper, until a fortunate accident brought wrapping paper as we know it into the public eye.

A particularly busy holiday season left the Hall brothers, and their first Hallmark store, out of tissue paper in 1917. The brothers pulled some patterned paper from storage, and it was a huge hit! Wrapping paper as we knew it was born, and would eventually become a $3.2 billion industry. It just goes to show that packaging is just as important as the gift it contains!

Still have some holiday shopping to do? Read our white paper to see how unboxing a gift can bring joy — even if you’re not on the receiving end!