History of Promo Products

History of Promotional Items

Back in the day, we didn’t have online resources like Promo University to get our information. We had to hit the books the old-fashioned way and spend hours upon hours in the library. Learning about the history of the koozie and evolution of the t-shirt with the click of a button? Forget about it!

That’s why we’re excited for you to explore all the articles in Promotional Products History. We promise our content is much more exciting than those monotone history specials you were forced to watch in social studies class! Let’s look back at the history of some of your favorite promo products from pens to lunch boxes and everything in between.

The Syllabus

History of Promotional Products

Who were the first people to advertise using promotional products? What kinds of items did they give away? Enroll in this lesson to learn all about the history of promotional products!

History of Fidget Spinners

Take this article for a spin if you want to learn who invented the fidget spinner and why these small toys have become so successful.

History of Tote Bags

The first promotional tote bag was used in 1886 when Cantwell Shoes advertised their store with custom burlap bags printed by Jasper Meek. Today, non-profits, small startups, and major companies market their services using custom totes.

History of Pens

The pen has a long, interesting history marked by war and societal movements. It starts with the development of ink in 3200 BCE, goes to the creation of fountain and ballpoint pens, and leads to modern-day promotional pens in a variety of shapes and designs.

History of Modern Trade Shows

The concept of trade shows has roots in Middle Eastern bazaars and early World Fairs. Over time, they became more streamlined events for marketing new technology, products, and services. Today, trade shows make up a $14 billion industry that continues to grow in popularity.

History of Stress Balls

The first fidget objects were used in China as early as 206 BC. However, it wasn’t until the 1980s when stress balls were sold commercially, becoming popular items for relieving workplace anxiety and as promotional giveaways for businesses.

History of Lunch Boxes

The history of the lunch box begins with working-class citizens in the 19th century taking their food in metal pails or tobacco tins. From there, kids began to gravitate toward lithographed containers of their favorite cartoon characters. Today, lunch boxes are made from plastic or neoprene and have become a major force in the world of promotional products.

History of T-Shirts

The t-shirt has evolved from basic underwear and military attire to a wearable form of self-expression. Along the way, the modern tee has been shaped by pop culture influence and the invention of screen-printing and plastisol.

History of Koozies

The custom koozie has origins all over the world, starting in 19th century Britain, moving to Australia, and eventually ending up in a patent war in the United States. Today, the can cooler has become one of the best selling promotional items in the world.

History of the Frisbee

The story of how the Frisbee was invented spans across decades and goes from ancient Greece to an East Coast Ivy League university, the beaches of California to Ultimate Frisbee tournaments around the world.

History of Coffee Mugs

Coffee dates back to the 11th century with the first mugs made from wood, metal, or animal bones. The invention of ceramics changed the design of coffee cups, allowing for bold colors, intricate designs, and company logos printed on the surface.

History of Pencils

The history of pencils dates all the way back to the 17th century with the discovery of graphite. The pencil timeline is full of innovation and experimentation by famous figures including Nicolas-Jacques Conté, Henry David Thoreau, and Joseph Dixon.

History of Logo Design

The earliest logo designs can be traced to ancient civilizations where coins and pottery were carved with identifying emblems, the Middle Ages with family crests being used in battle, the Industrial Revolution with the rise of major corporations, and finally to today where logos often transcend the company and the products/services they provide.

History of Reusable Water Bottles

Plastic, stainless steel, and aluminum water bottles have been on the market since about 1947. Since then, they have evolved to be trendy conversation pieces that are eco-friendly, safe to drink from, and convenient to bring along on every commute.

History of Keychains

Ancient civilizations carried amulets, or luck tokens, as early as 1700 BC. The first official souvenir keychain appeared during Chicago’s World Fair, though the rise of cars and travel contributed largely to their popularity. Keychains are sold in gift shops and used as advertising items for many industries, especially car dealerships and realtors.

History of Backpacks

The earliest backpack was used by Ötzi the Iceman in ancient Egypt, but over time the bag evolved to become an essential part of everything from hiking explorations to military warfare to the classroom. Lloyd Nelson, Gerry Cunningham, and Dick Kelty are a few who contributed to the backpack’s modern design.

History of Sunglasses

Sunglasses were first used to prevent snow blindness, but eventually evolved to be medical devices and military equipment. By 1929, Sam Foster started selling sunglasses on the beaches of Atlantic City, turning them into true fashion pieces.

History of Baseball Caps

Baseball caps were first made from straw and used by the New York Knickerbocker Baseball Club in 1849. About 20 years later, the Brooklyn-style, or snapback, came onto the scene. Today, the New Era Cap Company creates baseball hats in all shapes and colors.

History of Flashlights

The flashlight turned night into day for many people. We no longer had to carry around hazardous lamps or candles just to see in the dark. This made people’s lives easier and safer. Flashlights also helped improve the jobs of first responders and mine workers. In fact, when flashlights were invented by David Misell in the early 1900s, they were first distributed to police officers in New York before they worked their way into the homes of civilians.

History of Sticky Notes

3M released the very first Post-its®, or sticky notes, to the general public in 1978. Dr. Spencer Silver invented the adhesive, while Arthur Fry took it further by placing the glue on the back of paper. By the start of the new millennium, sticky notes were valuable as office and school supplies, as well as promotional giveaways.

History of Sports Merchandise

Sports souvenirs became extremely popular in the 1970s. It was during this decade that foam fingers, customized jerseys, and bobbleheads were big with fans. Today, you can buy everything and anything featuring the logo, mascot, or name of your favorite team.

History of Lip Balm

Believe it or not, lip balm has been around as early as 40 B.C.! Cleopatra, known for her beauty in Ancient Egypt, used beeswax for its skin smoothing and hydrating properties. As time progressed, people began to look for treatments that helped heal cracked skin and chapped lips. From the 1800s to present day, lip balm has been a top-selling beauty product!

History of Wedding Favors

The tradition of giving out wedding favors started with sugar-covered almonds in ancient Greece. In the 16th century, French aristocrats gave every guest decorative boxes called bonbonnieres filled with sweets. We still give out delicious treats today, but we also customize small objects with our names and wedding dates, as well as make our own special favors.

History of PopSockets

PopSockets® started in David Barnett’s garage, the inventor of PopSockets®, in 2014. Since then, the market for PopSockets® has boomed as more and more people want this super cool gadget. This small invention is compatible with any smartphone, or tablet, and come in many styles and colors!

The 10 Most Iconic Promo Items in History

Promotional products have been a significant part of advertising for over 200 years. From tote bags to t-shirts, these logoed items have resulted in amazing brand exposure for companies of all sizes.

History of Cell Phone Wallets

A cell phone wallet might seem like a simple invention. After all, it’s just a little pouch that sticks to the back of your phone case, right? Well, there is actually more to the story than you might think! It involves patent wars, covert missions to the Apple store, and a thumbs up from “Shark Tank.”

Further Reading

The Anatomy of Pens and Pencils

Curious about the different parts of pens and pencils? Read here to find out more.