The History of the Christmas Card

The History of the Christmas Card

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The History of the Christmas Card is kind of cool! Every year, we find it interesting to send out Christmas Cards to our friends and loved ones as it is a long-rooted tradition. Whether we design them ourselves or we buy them from the store, it always comes with a gesture of love and festive cheers. But as we create and send annually, have we ever stopped to think where the initial idea came from and who thought of it? Well, we are about to go on a little journey to finding out all that exciting information…

The Roots of the Christmas Card

According to general Christmas card facts, the first recorded history of the Christmas card started in 1843 by Sir Henry Cole. He was living in the United Kingdom at the time and was a civil servant, or as many would call it “Government worker” He worked with the Public Record Office, which has transformed into what we now call Post Office. As he worked, he thought of the idea of how ordinary people could use the system more and enjoy it while doing so. With the aid of his designer friend, John Horsley, the first set of cards were printed and sold.

At the time, they went for about 1 shilling (which would have worth a lot in those days!) and designed with a three-panel style. It featured on the outer panels a set of people looking after the poor while the inner had a family having dinner. Well, at first not many people were fond of it as the picture depicted a child given wine…hmm, they might have had a point, I think! However, for that first year, roughly 1000 cards were printed and sold with a slogan: “Just published, a Christmas Congratulations Card; or it featured an old English festivity to perpetuate kind recollections between dear friends”.

The card system was said to be mainly for the “rich” as the price tag was a little on the high side. Also, more cards were able to be sent via the new train system that was in place (a faster method than the traditional horse carriages). So, more cards could be delivered in a quicker time and even at some reduced cost.

But as time went by, things started to change – for good – as the printing industry underwent a phase of development. This transformation allowed Christmas cards to become more popular, and with this came a reduction in the production and sending cost. More people could send and spread the cheer and joy of the season. To this day, an engraved card done by artist William Egley (one of the first cards) to include some illustrations from Charles Dicken’s books is in the British Museum. If you are a Christmas card lover, your next trip to that area must include a visit to that museum!

It was not long after that the tradition of creating and sending cards became a popular thing in Europe and especially in Germany.

As the first-generation Christmas cards had the nativity scene, changes started to happen when people started referring to a “white Christmas” era. Cards later started showcasing snow-filled scenes. Also, it was a recollection of the UK’s history of the terrible 1836 winter season that caused many sorrows for everyone.

Though Christmas cards first appeared in the US in the late 1840s, again, only the rich could afford it. Lucky enough, the spread of the cards throughout the US came into play by a hero, Louis Prang. He was a German printer who was a part of the first-century card production in the UK. He saw the need to give everyone the chance to buy and send a card, so he started mass producing for an affordable cost. These new cards initially featured children, plants, animals, and flowers and were welcomed by everyone. Then with this progress, another printer, John C. Hall, and two of his brothers started creating Hallmark Cards, which to date is still famous as one of the biggest card manufacturing companies.

The Christmas Card Evolution

In 1891, the first personalized card was sent by famous sharpshooter and star of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show, Annie Oakley. She was in Scotland at the time, and the card she sent had a direct photo of her. This change was a great introduction to developing Christmas cards and, once again, welcomed by all. As the years went by, home-made cards became a hit in the 1910s and 1920s. A little bit too delicate to send through the post, these home-made cards which had ribbons and foil attached to them, and had to be delivered by hand.

Fast forward to today, Christmas cards have evolved into a wider reach and now are decorated with different attractions. Some have winter pictures, jokes, romantic scenes and gestures, Santa Claus, and so much more. Also, no need to only send by mail or hand anymore, but can be sent electronically and through other means of transportation.

To date, Christmas cards sent, are not left hanging at home. From early on, most women organizations around the world have collected and removed the pictures which they would use to make scrapbooks as entertainment for less fortunate children. Also, most charity organizations generally sell their collected cards as a way of raising funds to take care of other needed works of the organization and for the residents living there. Years have passed, and the development of the Christmas cards have been through a lot and naturally got better with each upgrade.

By the way…Christmas is just around the corner, now that you know the history of the Christmas card, getting those design ideas in would be great if you started now.

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