Wednesday, July 10, 2013

From Gift Wrap to Outer Space

The colorful gift wrap with the freesia floral motif on a black background was inside a box with a bunch of other wrapping paper at the estate sale.

No one had ever used this paper.

In fact, the tag was still on it.

The tag read:
Hy-Sil Mfg. Co. 
Revere, Mass.

I'd heard of gift wrap makers like Hallmark and Norcross before, but not Hy-Sil.  So I went online and discovered that the company had a 100-year history.   

A Revere, Massachusetts local newspaper article claimed that Hy-Sil popularized gift wrapping paper before the start of World War I.

Three families, who comprised the Hy-Sil owners, began manufacturing leather post cards in Boston in 1903, and soon after introduced the world to gift-wrapping paper. When their business took off, they opened their Revere factory in 1912....

The Atlantic magazine claims, however, that Hallmark was responsible for making gift wrap available in America:

Regardless of which company introduced gift wrapping paper to gift-givers in the 20th century, Hy-Sil had a powerful impact, locally and globally.  Beyond globally, really.  The local paper continues:

The company employed thousands of Revere and Chelsea residents, both full and part time. They made paper products and even invented some groundbreaking materials. Richard Silverman (the ‘Sil’ in Hy-Sil) actually invented Mylar – the silvery material that many character balloons are made of. That material was not only used for balloons, but also was used by NASA astronauts in space. It is used in countless products today.

Among the other innovations developed at the Revere factory were tinsel ribbon, metalized ribbons and wrapping foil. It also was the first American manufacturer to develop a process for depositing metal under vacuum conditions onto plastic films – a process that was used in the making of gift wrap but soon realized its own worth for use in solar window films.

Hy-Sil eventually became part of American Greetings, but the name stayed on as a party supply store until a few months ago, when the doors finally closed.

From leather postcards to lovely gift wrapping paper to tinted windows to outer space. That's a good long legacy.  

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