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By Ashley Weibel

Leanin' Tree founder honored for exemplary career


Photo by Ashley Weibel Ed Trumble, founder of Leanin’ Tree, was recently awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Greeting Card Association for his successful career of almost 70 years.

Ed Trumble has enjoyed a lifelong passion for the American West. This passion found a home, nearly 70 years ago, when Trumble founded Leanin’ Tree, a family-owned greeting card company based in Gunbarrel featuring original western artwork.

On May 16, the Greeting Card Association honored Trumble’s long and successful career with its prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award.

Trumble’s love for art of the American West began young, during his childhood on a cattle-feeding ranch in Nebraska. Trumble nurtured this love by studying the history of the West and reading Western pulp magazines.

“My older brothers and I especially liked Wild West Weekly,” Trumble said. “I was fascinated with the illustrated chapter headings. I had them cut up and pasted all over my bedroom.”

With the creation of Leanin’ Tree, Trumble merged his passion for the American West with his fascination for the use of words and pictures. Originally named Lazy RL, the Leanin’ Tree greeting card company began in 1949 when Trumble placed an advertisement in the October issue of Western Livestock Magazine for four Christmas cards, designed by his partner Robert Lorenz, an amateur artist.

“We ran this little quarter page ad in black and white showing these four cards, essentially saying, ‘send money and we’ll send the cards,’ and we sold out that year,” explained Trumble. “It was very encouraging.”

Since its modest start, the Leanin’ Tree business has grown to employ over 200 individuals and now ships more than 30 million greeting cards a year from its headquarters in Gunbarrel.

For Trumble, the ability to be self-employed has been a significantly gratifying feature of his career.

“I’ve enjoyed very much working with the artists, but mostly, I’ve just enjoyed working for myself,” Trumble said. “When I got out of the army I was tired of taking orders. After I graduated from the University of Nebraska with a business degree, I swore I wasn’t going to work for anybody.”

However, the technological advances of the last decade, according to Trumble, have put a significant strain on the greeting card industry.

“The industry has taken a whipping so far,” Trumble said. “It’s tough, compared to what it used to be. Big companies like Hallmark have let thousands of employees go. We don’t know if young people today are going to continue buying cards as they grow older.”

Despite the strain imposed on the industry, Trumble remains optimistic about the future of Leanin’ Tree.

“We’re still in business and making money,” Trumble said. “We’re still selling tens of millions [of cards] a year.”

During his career, Trumble traveled across the country in pursuit of art to publish on Leanin’ Tree greeting cards, meeting a variety of talented artists. He purchased many of his favorite pieces and, in 1974, opened the Leanin’ Tree Museum of Western Art, an impressive collection of post-World War II western art comprised of 250 original paintings and 100 bronze sculptures.

“The museum is kind of a consequence of being in the greeting card business,” Trumble explained, “because as I was looking for art to publish on cards, traveling around the country, I met so many artists and was so happy with some of their paintings. Around 1970, I made the decision to try and build a small collection.”

Though it is highly cherished by the surrounding Front Range community, the future of the Leanin’ Tree Museum of Western Art is uncertain. With his children nearing retirement age, Trumble fears the privately-owned museum will not survive the years to come.

“We don’t know what is going to happen to the future of the art in the museum,” Trumble said. “In a few years, there may not be a Leanin’ Tree Museum of Art.”

In the face of this uncertainty, Trumble wisely remarked, “There’s an old saying – ‘The joy is in the journey, not the destination.’ And that’s exactly the story of my life. I’ve had so much pleasure and sheer fun meeting all these artists and overnighting in their homes, going on trail rides and to art shows with them. It [has been] a lot of fun.”

For more information about Leanin’ Tree, visit the museum at 6055 Longbow Dr. in Gunbarrel or leanintree.com.


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