Brief Company History of Bright of America®
1963: Brothers Bill and John Bright established Bright of America®as a producer of notecards for women’s organizations in their hometown of Summersville, West Virginia. Both Bill and John were skilled at photography and some of their earliest success was achieved by John dressing the family dog Mickey up in elaborate, custom made costumes and taking funny pictures of him on elaborately designed sets using his 35mm single reflex camera. Later, these images were sold as magazine covers, advertisements and calendar art helping to finance the boys education at West Virginia University.
Mickey the Gambler, Pool Shark, and Merchant. Photos By John Bright.
1964 to 1979: The business quickly grew and they continually expanded their graphic arts manufacturing capabilities and product lines. Advanced technology Heidelberg 4 color printing presses gave them all the printing excellence they needed and, though their own ingenuity, an automatic lamination line was developed and perfected. The Bright of America® plastic laminated placemat created a brand new market and the company was off and running.
The original product lines included laminated placemats, posters, key tags, magnets, plaques, calendars, planners, greeting cards, stationery and more. During this period, the flag logo, America Mark brand were established and the tagline, “Fund Raiser To The Nation” was adopted.
As the company’s manufacturing capabilities and product lines grew so did its product development efforts & creative capabilities. Licensing deals with the Children’s Television Workshop, Disney, Care Bears, Center For Housewares Designs and others along with innovative marketing programs such as their Key Finder Service helped fuel the company’s growth and reputation which led to multiple awards and recognition by customers.
Sales channels and customer support divisions were added to help manage the growth and included Church Graphics, International Sales, Local View, Ad Specialties & Premiums, Greenbrier Studios, Creative American Corporation, Fundraising, QSP Readers Digest, Bright-Crest and Flush Closeout.
1980: Candle production was added to production capabilities in the Summersville plant. The Crysto-Glass Candle and Canning Jar Candle lines were instant hits.
1983: Bright of America acquired the Lincoln House mail order catalog and began the annual Calendar, Placemat Ensembles, Candles and Christmas acrylic ornament programs featuring art from noted American artists including, Currier and Ives, Giordano, Rudi Nappi, Tom Cathey, Wolfgang Otto, A.E. Ruffing, Carlin, Sharon Harms, Sarah Kay, Roger Cremins, Robert Fabear, N. Chartier, Leigh, Geroge Santos, Carole Wynne to name a few. Other art was created by in-house graphic art talent such as Phil Skoczen, Jim Pikkart, Annette Burrick, Barbara Stanley, Jean Culling, and Jim Kreitzberg under the direction of Dee Barwick, VP Creative. Much of the original art is archived and digitized and available for licensing including the company’s registered trademarks.
1985: An imported products program was added to diversify the company’s product offering and included Stuffed Animals, Brass, Jewelry, Porcelain, Glass and Wood Products designed by the company and coordinated in ensembles with the in-house manufactured graphics arts products and candles.
Throughout the 1980’s the sales growth accelerated driven by the success of product offerings in mail order catalogs and fundraising programs and rapid fulfillment thanks to a state-of-the-art “pick pack” line through catalogs and brochures sold by schools, churches, clubs and other non-profit organizations to earn money for teams, activities,trips, etc.
A proprietary system of product evaluation and screening was developed which weeded out the poor sellers and highlighted the “stars” so that time and money spent on photography, catalog space and inventory was optimized. Soon the Bright of America® name became synonymous with innovative product design and development.
1990: The Bright brothers sold the business to Russ Berrie and Company, a large New Jersey based importer and marketer of gift products operating under the RUSS brand.
At the time the company was sold, it had grown to be “an international fundraising graphics, paper converting and marketing firm with between 500 and 1000 employees and over $20 million in sales exporting to over 40 counties and one of the country’s largest placemat producers.” as reported by the West Virginia State Journal. Bill Bright explained in a 2007 interview, “At one time we were the largest placemat manufacturer in the country. We would make those laminated placemats with pictures of the state on them. People would buy a whole set of their state.”
Following this purchase, Russ Berrie and Company expanded the product development efforts and began to utilize the company’s manufacturing facility located in Summersville, West Virginia to manufacture greeting cards and other graphic arts products and continued expansion of the Bright of America® school fund-raising and placemat operations.
1991 to 2003: Russ Berrie and Company continued the company’s growth through its acquisition of Scentex in 1997 and the creation of the Greenbrier/ Scentex and Practice Power® brands.
2004: Russ Berrie and Company sold the company to Industrial Renaissance, a group of private investors.
2005 to 2009: During this period the company exited the Fund Raising market and expanded the Greenbrier/Scentex and Practice Power® brands.
2010: Bright of America sold the Greenbrier/Scentex brand and closed its manufacturing plant in Summersville, WV in October, 2010.
2011: Privately held Bright International acquired the Bright of America® name and logo, art libraries, trademarks, and product lines and began re-focus of the company to strong American design combined with strategic global manufacturing.
Since the beginning, we’ve been dedicated to delivering America’s best designed products, at the best prices and with exceptional quality. And, the same is true today as Bright of America® continues the tradition of Great American Design of innovative products. Many of the company’s original trademarked product lines and products including Bright of America® Brightline Promotional Products are still being produced and much of the original art is available for licensing including the company’s registered trademarks.