Gift wrapping paper as we know it began in the 1890's, when developments in printing presses allowed colored ink to be printed fluidly on stiffer papers. A rotary system developed that allowed the printed paper to be rolled onto cardboard rolls or cut into smaller sheets. The printed gift wrap industry took off at the turn of the century. Hy-Sill Manufacturing Inc., founded by Eli Hyman and Morris Silverman, became the first American gift wrap company in 1903.
People have been wrapping gifts since paper was invented in China in 105 AD. It was considered a sacred art and quite a secret for centuries, and no one knows who leaked the news, but by 800 AD, the Egyptians knew all about it. Someone there couldn’t keep a secret either because soon it spread to Europe where the first paper mill was started in 1085.
Wallpaper, the European precursor of gift-wrap, made its first appearance in England in 1509. It was only used briefly, however, because it cracked and tore too easily when it was folded, making wrapping a gift a rather dysfunctional experience. During the Victorian period, only the wealthier classes exchanged gifts and wrapping of them was very elaborate and expensive and topped with ribbons and laces. The subjects on the paper varied from snowy landscapes, to fireplaces to angels, holly boughs and St. Nicholas himself.
answered Dec 06 '11 at 21:51