Promotional Products – a history

pensDid you ever wonder how it all began? All these promotional products? There is speculation that cave paintings may have been advertisements and cave people may have inscribed identifying information on their tools – but chances are they were not walking around with freebies emblazoned with logos and tag lines!

It was the 1800’s that saw the development of what we generally think of as promotional products or advertising specialties (although George Washington’s campaign buttons in 1789 are often cited as the first promotional product in the US). It was the Industrial Revolution with its rise in manufacturing and business that made it possible.

The story is that Jasper Meek of Coshocton, OH owned a weekly newspaper and was looking for extra work for his presses. One day in 1886 he watched a school child drop their books in the mud and had an idea. He proposed to a local shoe store that they give out burlap book bags printed with the store’s logo with every shoe purchase. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Other early promotional products include beautifully illustrated bookmarks during the Victorian Era with ads on the back for a wide variety of products; Adolphus Busch sent his beer salespeople out with branded corkscrews and pocket knives; and though the first bobblehead dates back to 1842, it was not until the 1920’s that the New York Knicks had the idea to turn it into a promotional product. The bobblehead may have heralded the era of less utilitarian promotional products…

Today there are over 25,000 products to choose from – and we are here to help you navigate through the process. There quite literally is something for everyone and every price point.

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