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Three legendary individuals have been named PPAI 2021 Promotional Products Pioneers in recognition of their business acumen or technological skills that have played a key role in the advancement of the industry. This year’s honors are presented posthumously to Kenneth Israel Berlekamp, Sr. of Berlekamp Plastics; Richard E. Kaeser of Kaeser & Blair, Inc.; and Carl Rosenfeld of Walter W. Cribbins. Each will be recognized in a video during the PPAI Expo Direct-2-You this month. This award program is sponsored by Bruce Fox, Inc. 

Top Left: Richard E. Kaeser of Kaeser & Blair, Inc.. Top Right: Carl Rosenfeld of Walter W. Cribbins. Above: Kenneth Israel Berlekamp, Sr. of Berlekamp Plastics.

Kenneth “The Colonel” Israel Berlekamp, Sr.—Innovation: Berlekamp introduced new technologies and applications to the promotional products industry. In 1948, he first brought imprinted glass ashtrays to the specialty world and later injection molding, a process invented in the late 1800s. Berlekamp also converted a rubber extruding machine for injection molding. At some point after he became a member of the Society of Plastic Engineers, the organization was looking for all the different ways injection molding was being used, so he sent them a key tag he’d molded for the University of Arkansas in the shape of a razorback hog. The Society declared it was the first time the injection molding process was used to make a novelty item.

Richard “Dick” E. Kaeser—Champion/Game Changer: Kaeser is credited with several original ideas, products and contributions to the promotional products industry. He and his company, Kaeser & Blair, were the first in the U.S. to offer an “advertising matchbook”—K&B printed the cover and Loveland Match Co. produced the striker area. He also developed bumper signs printed on rain-resistant paraffined paper that were attached to automobile bumpers by wires or metal clips and he developed the Pullmatch business card. Working with Continental Specialties, Inc., in the 1940s and 1950s, he produced calendars. In 1947, the company became the original licensee of Disney calendars, featuring Goofy, Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Pluto and Pinocchio, and photographed Marilyn Monroe for a calendar sold in the industry. In 1990, Kaeser & Blair developed the “3D Commission” payment method for its dealers with daily direct deposits for booked business.

Carl Rosenfeld—Visionary Business Model: Rosenfeld has several industry firsts to his name, including being the first to hire a woman salesperson and to hire full-time salespeople and let them communicate directly with suppliers. As president of the Advertising Specialty Guild, Rosenfeld saw the futility of an industry with two competing trade associations and took steps to effect its eventual merger with the Advertising Specialty National Association, forming the Specialty Advertising Association, now PPAI, in 1964. He was an early member and an active participant in the World Advertising Gift Exchange (WAGE), a global network comprised of international promotional products companies. The Promotional Products Education Foundation also traces its roots to Rosenfeld. It started with a $10,000 gift from Walter W. Cribbins company employees to honor his birthday.

The PPAI Promotional Products Pioneers recognition program was established several years ago to recognize those that have distinguished themselves in the industry through their vision, drive, innovation, character and leadership, or contributed to the development of technologies that stand out in industry advancement.


Danielle Renda is associate editor of PPB.