Dennison’s Internal Reaction to Declining Sales

As the Roaring Twenties reached its peak, the realities of the decade began to catch up with Americans. Wages did not match the rate of inflation, and the constant barrage of advertising and marketing meant that credit lines were extended beyond what people could repay. The Stock Market Crash of October 1929 signaled an end to an era, and once thriving companies like Dennison needed to reckon with both changing cultural tastes and economic realities.

It was not until the late 1920s that competition and a saturated market lead to challenges for the company.[1] Dennison’s publications continued to encourage the consumption of crepe paper, but in 1929 the company had greater concerns about the future of the material. Dennison circulated an internal questionnaire about the utility of producing products for chain stores. Respondents stated that moving to a chain store market would eviscerate the profit of regular Dennison products, and would ultimately be detrimental to the crepe product line. As an alternative, Dennison considered the possibility of different products to continue the push for novelty that allowed crepe paper to blossom on the market in the previous decade. The Dennison paper lampshade, original only in the way that it was pre-made, relied upon the idea that domestic spaces needed cheap and over the top decoration.[2] However, Dennison employees quickly concluded that the amount of work to sell pre-fabricated lampshade decorations would exceed its novelty; why sell something when consumers could easily make it at home?

Dennison submitted patents throughout the 1930s for crepe paper manufacturing. This patent improved upon the color fastness of the paper, and reduced the bleeding of dyes when the paper became wet.

 

This Dennison patent from 1935 improved upon the draping quality of crepe paper. Although the stiffness of crepe paper was useful for some projects, this improvement made the paper more like a fabric textile.

Throughout this period patents for Dennison crepe paper were frequent. Even though the product itself was becoming stale in the eyes of consumers, company engineers worked to improve upon the product from behind the scenes. The public later fretted over the texture and durability of the material, but during this time engineers created new methods to increase the strength, stretch-ability, and colorfastness of crepe paper. This involved new presses for its crimping and different sequences of dyeing the product.[3] Still, consumers dismissed these somewhat dramatic efforts to improve the materiality of crepe paper.[4]

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The End of Crepe Paper’s Mass Popularity      Rise of “Plastic Papers”


[1]“Hanging Decorations,” A Report on Dennison Manufacturing Company’s Competition, 1929, box 316, folder 23, Dennison Manufacturing Company Record, Baker Library, Harvard Business School.
[2]“Crepe Paper Lamp Shade Edge,” 1930, box 316, folder 5, Dennison Manufacturing Company Record, Baker Library, Harvard Business School.
[3]Alexander L. Alm, Composite Sheet Material, U.S. Patent 2,014,046 filed February 14, 1930, and issued September 17, 1935; Alm, Paper Product and Method of Making, U.S. Patent 2,018,244 filed October 7, 1931, and issued October 22, 1935; Benjamin Asnes, Creped Paper and Method of Making the Same, U.S. Patent 2,168,895 filed July 8, 1936, and issued August 8, 1939.
[4]“A Motivational Research Study on the Sales, Advertising, and Promotional Problems of Dennison Crepe Paper,” Ernest Dichter papers, box 41, Hagley Museum and Library, Wilmington, Delaware.

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