Promotional products, calendars, and buttons were invented in the 19th century and are still going strong.
The promotional calendar was one of the first promotional products. The first promotional calendars were printed in the mid-nineteenth century and still rank among the most popular promotional items. The earliest promotional calendars were standard calendars printed with various advertisements; these were certainly functional, but they were unattractive. At the time, they were adequate ways to spread the word about a company or a product, but they were not particularly memorable.
|As the promotional items business took off during the late 1800s, people continued to look for new ways to advertise their products. In Red Oak, Iowa, Thomas Murphy and Edward Osborne are believed to be the first creators of a calendar that featured a work of art. As newspaper men, they were constantly looking to profit from their printing presses after the news had already been printed; after seeing a watercolor painting of the local courthouse, Osborne thought he could use the image to make his calendars more appealing. They reprinted the painting and then surrounded it with advertisements. When the centerpiece was completed, they attached a calendar to it and forever changed the aesthetics of promotional products. This new type of customized calendar gave consumers a decorative piece for their home or office and gave merchants a way to provide a daily reminder of their product or service.|
As the machines were developed to print a wider variety of colors, Thomas Murphy and Edward Osborne began looking for other works of art to use in their calendars. Photographs and paintings were both used with much success, and by the end of the 1800s their business had grown to include nearly one hundred employees and to produce nearly three million calendars!
|Murphy sold his portion of the business to Osborne in 1894, and Osborne went on to expand the business even further. He decided the company needed to be closer to an art-producing hub, and he also wanted a place that was in a larger business district in order to attract a larger and more varied clientele. Osborne moved the company to New Jersey, created a set guideline for product pricing, and began using a form of printing later known as letter press printing. He eventually established branches in Canada, England, and Australia.|
The promotional calendar, despite its humble beginning in a small newspaper office, has become one of the most effective forms of advertising. Promotional calendars are now produced in a wide variety of forms, including large wall calendars with all twelve months displayed, small desk calendars with minimal artwork for office functionality, and promotional wall calendars printed with different pieces of artwork for each month. With all of these products, businesses are able to reach their customers by giving them something they will want to use all year.
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