SAPIRSTEIN, JACOB J. (30 Oct. 1884-24 June 1987) founder of AMERICAN GREETINGS CORP. and Jewish philanthropist, was born in Wasosz, Poland, the son of Rabbi Isaac and Molly Sapirstein and grew up in Grajeyvo, Poland. He came to Cleveland in 1906 and obtained a job selling postcards at a stand in the HOLLENDEN HOTEL. He soon went out on his own, buying German-made cards and distributing them to drug and candy stores and novelty shops. When the WORLD WAR I embargo on the importation of German-made cards heightened the demand for cards in the U.S., Sapirstein expanded his business, foregoing his horse-drawn wagon for a Ford automobile which became his traveling office. He also pioneered in the use of wall racks and rotating floor stands for card displays. By 1932 his sons had joined the firm, and the Sapirstein Card company began to design and print its own line of cards. For business reasons, his sons changed their name to Stone in 1940. American Greetings thrived. Sapirstein retired as president in 1960, and was succeeded by his eldest son, Irving.
Sapirstein was vitally interested in the furtherance of Jewish education in the Cleveland area as a way to maintain Jewish values. He was a long-time benefactor of the Rabbinical College of Telshe and the HEBREW ACADEMY. He married Jennie Kantor in 1906, and they had 3 sons, Irving I, Morris S., Harry H. and daughter Bernice M. Davis. Sapirstein died at his home in UNIVERSITY HEIGHTS and was buried in Zion Memorial Park.