Collections consists of the records of both the Norcross Greeting Card Company founded in New York City in the 1920s and The Rust Craft Greeting Card Company, founded in Kansas City, Missouri, 1906. Both the Norcross and Rust Craft companies collected antique greeting cards. Also includes a small number of modern cards by other manufacturers, circa 1930-1980. Collection represents development of the greeting card industry, social trends in the United States and technology of the printing industry from 1924 through 1978.
Scope and Contents:
The Norcross Greeting Card Collection consists of cards and a few records of both the Norcross Greeting Card Company and the Rust Craft Greeting Card Company, circa 1911 1981; antique greeting cards, circa 1800 1930 (bulk 1880 1900) collected by both these companies and their executives; and a small number of modern cards by other manufacturers, circa 1939 1960. According to Norcross Company officials in 1978, this collection represents "not only a history of the development of the greeting card industry but also a history of social trends in the United States" and gives "an indication of the quality and technology of the [printing] industry from 1924 through 1978."
The collection is divided into six series.
Series 1: Norcross Company Records, 1920-1981
Series 2: Antique Greeting Card Collection, circa 1800-1930 (bulk 1880-1990)
Series 3: Rust Craft Company Records, circa 1920-1980
Series 4: Greeting Cards by Other Manufacturers, 1939-1960
Series 5: Norcross Company Permanent Files, 1911-1981
Series 6: Rust Craft Company Permanent Files, 1927-1981
Biographical / Historical:
Arthur D. Norcross founded the Norcross Greeting Card Company in New York City in the nineteen twenties. From the start Norcross cards had a "look" which contributed to their selling success although, through the years, the company commanded only a small share of the greeting card market. In 1974 the company relocated to West Chester and Exton, Pennsylvania, where in 1981 Norcross and the Rust Craft Greeting Card Company merged to form divisions of a parent company.
At some point, Norcross executives realized the value of collecting and preserving antique greeting cards. The company built a large collection of antique cards, a number of which traveled in shows around the country bringing attention not only to the cards themselves but also to the Norcross Company.
Arthur Norcross died in 1968, and the company had four owners from then until 1982. One of the owners, the Ziff Corporation, a New York publisher, picked up the Norcross Company to augment the floundering Rust Craft Greeting Card Company that it had purchased primarily for its television holdings. Finally the Norcross and Rust Craft combination was acquired by Windsor Communications, Inc., a privately held company. In August 1981 Windsor entered into Chapter 11 proceedings under the Federal bankruptcy law and ceased producing greeting cards. Factors leading to bankruptcy included the expensive consolidation of Norcross and Rust Craft, a doubtful marketing strategy, and unsuccessful efforts to continue producing two distinct lines of greeting cards.
The Rust Craft Greeting Card Company, some of whose records are contained in this collection, was begun as a little bookshop by Fred Rust, (1877? 1949) in Kansas City in 1906. Later that year he created a plain Christmas folder which he called a "letter," perhaps a forerunner of the greeting card. These "letters" proved successful sellers prompting Rust to increase his publications over the years and expand his line to include post cards, greeting cards with envelopes, calendars, and blotters, in addition to lines of cards for New Year's and birthdays.
Donald Rust, his brother, soon joined him to take over manufacturing, and in 1908, Fred Rust, seeking to increase distribution, carried his line to Boston while Donald carried his to California. The original bookshop was retained until 1910 when all retailing was discontinued. After building a considerable volume of business, the firm was consolidated in Boston in 1914 and became known as Rust Craft Publishers.
Sales mounted as the company issued cards for various seasons. Many of the sentiments were written by Fred Rust himself. Around 1927 Ernest Dudley Chase joined the firm as an associate in charge of creation and advertising. In the 1950s the company relocated to Dedham, Massachusetts and finally in 1981 merged with the Norcross Company in West Chester and Exton, Pennsylvania.
A popular innovation of the Rust Craft Company was a card bearing the sentiment printed on the card itself with four or five extra sentiments tucked in as part of the message and design. This card was so popular that it was patented with the name Tukkin. The Rust Craft Company also collected some antique greeting cards.
Materials in the Archives Center
AC0109 Division of Domestic Life Greeting Card Collection, circa 1854-1975
AC0126 Burris and Byrd Family Card Sample Case, circa 1920
AC0263 Susie Paige Afro-American Greeting Card Collection, 1900-1984
AC0376 Olive Leavister 19th Century Handmade Valentine Collection, 1830-1880
AC0404 Archives Center Business Americana Collection, circa 1900-present
AC0530 Beatrice Litzinger Postcard Collection, 1900-1990
AC0468Archives Center Scrapbook Collection, circa 1880-circa 1960
AC0579 Greeting Card Collection, 1920s-1970s
AC0886 Ernest Dudley Chase Papers, 1930s-1940s
AC1198 Beatrice Morgan Steyskal Collection of Greeting Cards, 1958-1970
AC0060 Warshaw Collection of Business Americana
AC1251 L.F. Pease Greeting Card Company Collection, circa 1908-1913
AC 1252 Sandford Greeting Card Company and Family Papers, circa 1840-1990
AC 0062 Hoffmania (or Hoffman Collection
AC0295 Rocky Herosian Collection, 1910-1943
AC0674 Jean Clairmook Radio Scrapbook, 1930-1932
AC0136 Celia K. Erskine Scrapbook of Valentines, Advertising Cards, and Postcards, circa 1882-1884
The Valentine & Expressions of Love [videocassette], 2000 within the
Archives Center Miscellaneous Film and Videotape Collection, (AC0358)
Norcross Greeting Card Company, West Chester, Pennsylvania, 1982-1985.
Collection is open for research. Viewing the film portion of the collection without reference copies requires special appointment, please inquire.
Collection items available for reproduction, but the Archives Center makes no guarantees concerning copyright restrictions. Other intellectual property rights may apply. Archives Center cost-recovery and use fees may apply when requesting reproductions.
Business records -- 20th century
Chromolithographs -- 1880-1900
Greeting cards -- ca. 1800-1980
Motion pictures (visual works) -- 1960-1980
Slides (photographs) -- 1950-2000
Norcross Greeting Card Collection, Archives Center, National Museum of American History