Penrod/Hiawatha is a wholesale company serving the tourist retail industry in Michigan, Indiana and Ohio. We supply high quality post cards, calendars, mugs, guide books and souvenirs. Established in 1958, with just a limited quantity of post cards, the company soon became well known in Michigan. Over the years the company has continued to expand and improve both the quality and quantity of the products offered.
For over sixty years, Hiawatha has been a well known name associated with postcards and souvenirs. The Hiawatha Card Company was founded in 1954 by Don & Lucy Gridley from Ypsilanti, Michigan. The Gridley's also had a cottage overlooking the Straits of Mackinac at Mackinaw City, where their Summers were spent. Hiawatha Card Company was very successful in both the Detroit and the northern Michigan area, especially during and after construction of the Mackinac Bridge in 1957. With the Gridley's love for northern Michigan and their desire to enjoy more time there, the Detroit part of their business was sold and they expanded Hiawatha Card Company's coverage to include all of northern Michigan.
Meanwhile in southwest Michigan, John and Alice Penrod, who operated a photography studio, became involved in creating picture postcards in 1958. Shortly after that, their postcards published by Penrod Studio could be found all across southern Michigan and northern Indiana. Michigan's first pictorial guide book was printed by Dexter Press and was the cooperative work of Penrod Studio, Hiawatha Card Company and Hiawatha Card of Detroit. The three company principals became friends and developed a wonderful camaraderie.
When Don and Lucy Gridley decided to retire in 1969, they sold the Hiawatha Card Company to John & Alice Penrod of Berrien Center, Michigan. It was an eventful year. Penrod Studio had just completed a large warehouse additional on January 10th of that year and a week later, as shelves were being built, they were immediately filled with Hiawatha inventory. Penrod's photography studio had long since given way to scenic postcard style photography and the studio no longer existed.
The timing was perfect to add "Hiawatha" and remove "studio". The name Penrod/Hiawatha was born. That same year, Penrod/Hiawatha introduced the first 4" x 6" deluxe postcard. Called the "Supreme", these postcards were larger, glossier and brighter than earlier postcards. They were considered expensive and would retail for all of 10 cents each! Now, it is the standard size everywhere.
Ten years later, Loren and Mary Gunn of Ann Arbor also sold the Hiawatha Card of Detroit to the Penrod's, rejoining the Hiawatha companies.
Today, the staff at Penrod/Hiawatha takes great pride in continuing the Hiawatha tradition, started over half a century ago.
The graphic design that is now very familiar as the Penrod/Hiawatha trademark, depicts a native from the Chippewa Tribe sitting by a campfire. It was created for Penrod Studio by Niles, Michigan artist, Joe Welling. This design first appeared in print as the cover of a children's Michigan Coloring Book.