History

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Tension's HistoryBuilding Strong Connections Between Our Clients and Their End Customers

Tension grew its roots selling promotional material and other printed goods to meaningfully connect its clients and their customers. This expertise in facilitating those connections via mailing, shipping and printing processes remains true today. Tension is a leader and stable partner in an ever-evolving industry.

Adapting to the Market

Tension has a long history of quality products, innovative ideas and reliability. Established in 1886 by William Berkowitz, the Company specialized in popular advertising novelties and business stationery. As the Company grew, it adapted to the needs of its customers and began to fully concentrate on envelopes. Later, as the needs of the market changed, Tension expanded its product base to again include other printed and packaging goods and services. This ability to adjust to consumer needs has stayed at the heart of the Company. In business for more than a century, Tension weathered the Great Depression and Great Recession with fiscal responsibility and sustained growth.

Milestones of Ingenuity and Stability

Throughout its history the Company experienced many milestones showing its ingenuity and stability.

  • The Company’s first envelope patent was issued in 1909. Since that first patent Tension has garnered more patents than all other envelope manufacturers combined.
  • In the early 1920s Walter Berkowitz, son of founder William Berkowitz, discovered new high-speed envelope folding machinery that offered adjustability to produce envelopes of varying sizes and styles. The Company brought the equipment into the U.S., revolutionizing the American envelope industry. Today, Tension is known for its innovative ideas and the insertability of its envelopes.
  • The Company began expanding in 1924 with the addition of a manufacturing facility and sales office in Des Moines, Iowa. Today, Tension has a nationwide sales and manufacturing presence with seven manufacturing facilities and more than 20 sales offices.
  • In 1962, Bert Berkley, grandson of the Company's founder, became president and CEO of Tension. In 1988, Bill Berkley, great-grandson of the founder, became President and CEO. Bert Berkley continued as chairman of the board. Tension continues to be one of the longest operating private, family-owned companies in the country.
  • Beginning in the late 1990s, Tension expanded into the international marketplace with affiliated manufacturing facilities and fully-owned plants in Asia. Tension now operates in China and Taiwan.
  • Tension entered the packaging and pharmacy automation market in the early 2000s.
  • During the early 2000s, Lean Sigma using Continuous Improvement methodologies was integrated into Tension's standard processes, driving consistent quality procedures and state-of-the-art training across all plants.
  • After rebranding itself from Tension Envelope to Tension Corporation in 2011, the Company now operates under three divisions: Envelope, Packaging & Automation, and International.

How Tension Got Its Name

Tension HistoryIn the 1880s, a New York envelope manufacturer invented the string and button envelope closure, which consists of two round disks riveted to the seal flap and body of the envelope. The envelope is closed by twisting a string attached to the flap button around the lower button, thus holding the contents under tension. The envelope was named the “Tension Tie.”

Postal regulations at the time did not permit third or fourth class mail to be sealed, making the Tension Tie Envelope an immensely popular product. In fact, the company became so well known for this envelope, it changed its name to the Tension Envelope Company.

In 1937, Berkowitz Envelope acquired the assets and patents of Tension Envelope. In 1944, the company’s plant and sales organizations were united under the well-known Tension name as Tension Envelope Corporation. Tension is now a name recognized by financial institutions, photofinishers, direct marketers, utilities, insurance companies, and dozens of other industries as an innovative manufacturer of high-quality envelopes and one of the leading direct-to-user envelope companies in the nation.