The story behind the “Gifts of History”
told by the original founder, Johna Hayes, Jr.
We have been writing, creating and producing the “Gifts of History” since 1989. The initial idea for the “Gift of History” began April, 1984 in Tulsa, Oklahoma when some close friends, Tom and Susan, who had been trying for several years to have a baby were blessed with the birth of a baby boy.
Being single, I wasn't too adept at picking out baby gifts. But, because this was such a joyous occasion for Tom and Susan, I wanted to get a gift which would be unique for them and the new baby. For several days I kept thinking about a gift when this thought just popped into my head— ”Give them a gift to remember the day their child was born for them to enjoy today and for their child to learn of the day he or she was born."
I thought that was a great idea and assumed someone had created such a gift. I was traveling frequently and believed I would find such a gift in my travels. Surprisingly, I was unable to do so and ending up getting a silver spoon for their son. Not very original, but a nice gift.
I never thought about it again until the thought resurfaced in my mind again in 1986. I had left the corporate world in 1984 and returned to Atlanta to start my own business. In 1985, I bought a dry cleaners. Though I was doing well financially with the business, I hated getting up in the morning. So in May, 1986, I sold the business and was wondering what to do with myself.
Some friends in Atlanta were having their second baby and the same thought popped into my mind again. This time I did an intensive search for such a gift and found one company had such an item. But the history was printed on 8.5x11 paper with poor graphics. I felt it was something that would end up in a box and probably never seen by the child.
This was not what I had envisioned. I had hoped to find a gift that was of the quality that the parents would want to hang on a wall which would remind them of their child’s birth as he or she grew. I also envisioned the gift to be something that could be handed down through generations. I had always thought it would be neat thing to have a record about the day I was born and even the days my parents were born or got married.
So I asked myself the question, what would it take to create such a gift? That question began the start of a journey which has been my focus for 20 plus years.
During this 20 year period, just as with most small businesses, there were ups and mostly downs. I came close to quitting in 1991 because the business was not going well. I was discouraged until I received a letter from a customer in 1991 saying how much their Gift of History meant to them and that they would cherish it forever..
That letter encouraged me to keep creating “Gifts of History”. Since that time, we have created over 230,000 Gifts of History to help people celebrate the life milestones of a new baby, birthdays, weddings and anniversaries with a gift they can enjoy and display today and that will become family heirlooms to be passed down to future generations.
I hope you will let us create a Gift of History to celebrate an important milestone either in your life, your family's life or the life of a friend.
Founder of Gifts of History
Johna Hayes, Jr.
Jan 18, 1944 - Aug 25, 2008