Roses are red,
Violets are blue.
My farts stink,
And so do you.
Joyce Clyde Hall
Given the ubiquity of Hallmark cards in modern American society, it’s hard to even imagine a time before one could walk into any corner drugstore and buy a message of love, best wishes, or apologies for sleeping with a sibling. Before Hallmark, people actually had to write their own feelings and express them to a loved one. The results weren’t always pretty:
I love you. Mostly. I wish you weren’t so weird sometimes. Also, your dog smells bad. But it doesn’t matter because we’re both about the same level of ugly. Let’s get married.
But as soon as billionaire industrialist Alexander Carnegie saw the card above by Joyce Claude Hall, he realized the business potential of having someone even moderately creative write everyone’s cards for them. So he gave him $12,000 (roughly 11 Trillion Dollars in 2012 terms), locked him in a windowless room, and told him to write a birthday card for every age from 1 all the way up to 38.
Not only did they sell, they sold fast. Realizing his true gift, Hall escaped from Carnegie’s fortress and started his own company, Mark Hall Cards (he assumed that people would think he was a woman and thus, be skeptical of his ability to write words). Overnight, his cards were a sensation. He wrote cards for every event from graduation from mining work to condolences for losing another child to consumption. He even wrote a card to Fred Merkle after his infamous boner during the 1912 World Series:
My condolences for dropping a ball a lady could have caught and ruining the winters of thousands of people. I hope in your darkest moments you remember I’ll be there, possibly with a knife because oh my gosh I had so much money on the Giants to win.
After Hall died, one of his idiot sons screwed up the incorporation paperwork, which is how the company ended up with the name “Hallmark.” Today, the legacy of Joyce Claude Hall, writer, businessman, and angry baseball fan, lives on. Next time you’re looking for that perfect card for your two-year old nephew’s birthday, just remember his first birthday card:
When you’re devoured by a large gearwheel at work next week, I’ll always remember your smile. You’ll go so far, perhaps as far as Chicago. At least pieces of you will. Happy second birthday.