A Short History Of Wrapping Paper

Wrapping paper is luxurious, beautiful and makes every gift look better

Wrapping paper should not be an afterthought. It’s what you see first when the gift is delivered or is sat beneath the Christmas tree. Wrapping paper is a beautiful, artistic and rich way to show your love. Americans alone spend around $2.6 billion annually on wrapping paper. In Britain, an estimated 226,800 miles of wrapping paper used over the Christmas holidays.


Wrapping Paper

Fruit pattern (1862) by William Morris. Buy

The use of wrapping paper is first documented in ancient China, where paper was invented in 2nd century BC. In the Southern Song dynasty, monetary gifts were wrapped with paper, forming an envelope known as a chih pao. In the Chinese text Thien Kung Khai Wu, Sung Ying-Hsing states that the coarsest wrapping paper is manufactured with rice straws and bamboo fiber.

In Japan, furoshiki, a reusable wrapping cloth, has been around since the Edo period. Korean bojagi dates from the Three Kingdoms Period, possibly as early as the first century A.D.  The Victorians used elaborately decorated paper.

In 1917, things altered when Joyce and Ronnie Hall (Hallmark) sold out of tissue and manila papers at their Kansas City, Missouri, stationery store and instead offered the “fancy French paper”used for lining envelopes at $0.10 a sheet. It sold out fast.

A year last the brothers offered the lining paper as gift wrap. By 1919, the brother were selling their own printed wapping paper.

We’ve a great range of gift paper and Christmas wrapping paper in the Flashbak Shop. Subscribers to our free newsletter get discounts. You can sign up here.


Wrapping paper

Palempore, c. 1750-c. 1775 – Wrapping Paper. Buy

Wrapping paper

‘Hands Up’ Santa with a Gun – Will Crawford, 1912 – wrapping paper. Buy

‘Hands Up’ Santa with a Gun – Will Crawford, 1912 – wrapping paper. Buy.

Wrapping Paper

Tapestry – Greenery Designed by John Henry Dearle, For Morris & Co.,1892 – Wrapping Paper. Buy

Wrapping Paper

Kidney and Bladder Stones – Max Br”del – 1909 – Wellcome Library – Wrapping Paper. Buy

Wrapping Paper

Chinese and Japanese pattern from L’ornement Polychrome (1888) by Albert Racinet (1825–1893). Digitally enhanced from our own original 1888 edition. Buy

The Concourse of the Birds, Folio 11r from a Mantiq al-tair (Language of the Birds) – Wrapping Paper. Buy

Wrapping Paper

Rosehips (Hagebutten) by Christian Rohlfs – 1915 – Wrapping Paper. Buy

Wrapping Paper

Willow Bough by William Morris in 1887 – Wrapping Paper – Buy

Buy Wrapping Paper in the Flashbak Shop. 

Would you like to support Flashbak?

Please consider making a donation to our site. We don't want to rely on ads to bring you the best of visual culture. You can also support us by signing up to our Mailing List. And you can also follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. For great art and culture delivered to your door, visit our shop.