100 years ago in a small office at 22 Quincy Street, Chicago, Frank Messenger, a deeply religious man, had an idea that inspired him to action: Sacred Art Religious Calendars. At age 61, Messenger had the belief that religious scripture-verse calendars would be an effective way to get the Gospel into the homes of millions throughout the country.
With six children to support and not a cent of his own, Messenger easily borrowed $3,000 from friends and embarked on his new journey to make his vision a reality. Friends believed in Messenger’s mission because he had an asset, an asset that no one could take from him – a clean honest business record.
In just the first seven months of operation, with the help of his son Harry, Messenger sold 100,000 religious calendars to families, businesses and churches across the Midwest. By 1918 the one million mark was reached for the first time, followed by the sale of over two and a half million calendars the next year.
Record company growth continued through the 1930’s allowing Messenger to expand its operations. Messenger acquired the Auburn Greeting Card Company and relocated its entire operation to Auburn, Indiana where Messenger continues its operations today.
It was also during the 1930’s when Messenger expanded its product offering to include funeral stationery. Funeral homes were then the principal buyers of Sacred Art Calendars and Messenger embraced the opportunity to further service the needs of this market segment.
During this time it was widely reported that Messenger was the owner of the largest collection of original religious art in the world, most of which were in oils. The most famous piece in the Messenger collection was the “Christhead” drawn by W.E. Sallman in 1937. The Sallman Christhead series continues in the Messenger line today.
Fast-forward to the 1970’s, sales of funeral stationery products surpassed calendar sales as Messenger’s largest product segment. By the 1980’s, Messenger achieved market leaderstatus in the funeral stationery industry where they remain today. This growth can be attributed in part to the fact Messenger was the first to coordinate the graphic themes of its funeral stationery products. Utilizing licensed art of appropriate color and subject matter, the various stationery products necessary for conducting a funeral not only coordinated but also complimented the life of the deceased.
In October of 2000, Messenger introduced a line of books and cards utilizing the licensed art of Thomas Kinkade, America's most recognizable and most-collected living artist before his death. Kinkade's art, coupled with tasteful verses have provided even more choices appropriate to the needs of American and Canadian family's.
Since introducing the artwork of Thomas Kinkade, Messenger has continued to expand its licensed art product offering to include artwork by Rick Kelley, Danny Hahlbohm, Precious Moments®, Wild Wings®, Molly West, Kate McRostie and others. In addition, Messenger also offers a line of coordinated stationery called Sacred Art which utilizes some of the same timeless original art that was featured in their original calendar product line.
As the industry leader, Messenger was at the forefront of incorporating the use of wood and leather for register book covers, micro-perforated multiple-up cards eliminating the need for hand cutting and same day service for personalized thank you cards.
Another first for the funeral stationery pioneer was the introduction of computer software that allows funeral homes to print stationery products. Their original program, Messenger Stationery Builder, quickly captured the attention of funeral directors who found Messenger’s program easy to use and provided them with exceptional funeral stationery products for their families.
Recently, Messenger again made industry advances with their newest stationery design and print web application Make It! Personal. The program is a progressive application that is free to the funeral home and is a great solution that allows funeral homes to easily create and print high quality, personal and professional quality memorial products within a matter of minutes.
Messenger has partnered with many of the industry’s leading Management Software Providers including Continental Computer, SRS Computing, Twin Tiers Technology and Halcyon to import case data into the Make It! Personal application.
Today Messenger offers the widest selection of stationery products in the industry, including memorial register books, service folders, acknowledgement cards, prayer cards and laminated bookmarks. With personalization more prevalent in the funeral industry today, Messenger has developed a whole new line of Make It! Personal coordinated products. The line also includes Personal Photo Books and Video Slide Shows that continue to feature popular artwork and designs funeral homes expect from Messenger, while providing flexibility for the funeral home to create personal remembrances for families.
Messenger has also formed invaluable partnerships with other leading companies to broaden its product mix in an effort to provide funeral homes with a breadth of products to offer their families. “The product quality and selections from our strategic alliances match the high standards we set for our Messenger Line of products and we are proud to offer these products to the funeral industry” states Bob Hoaglund, Vice President of Sales and Marketing of Messenger. “We continually strive to be our Customers’ most respected and trusted provider.”
Messenger has grown over the last century. Their 100,000 square foot headquarter facility houses all operations including manufacturing, new product development and design, customer service, accounting, information systems, sales, marketing and e-commerce. Messenger currently has over 100 employees. In addition, Messenger has over 40 independent and highly skilled sales representatives located throughout the United States, Puerto Rico and Canada.
How does an old and long established company stay relevant in today’s market? For Messenger, it’s consistently analyzing industry and consumer trends while understanding the challenges that funeral homes face on a daily basis. Messenger has made it their commitment to provide funeral professionals with the highest quality, innovative products and solutions available, unsurpassed customer service and experienced field sales and support.