Birth of the Christmas Greeting Card

Birth of the Christmas Greeting Card cover

It’s the mid-1800s in the United Kingdom, and Sir Henry Cole had a remarkable idea to share “Good Tidings” among his friends. His friend, John Horsley, was the artist who designed that very first Christmas greeting card for him. He designed approximately one thousand cards to be given to special friends and family. The very first creation by him was not liked by many because it showed a child being given a glass of wine. But the idea progressed despite an even bigger problem – how he would get them to all his recipients?

Birth of the Christmas Greeting Card Pic 1
Image of John Horsley’s first Christmas postcard

Though delivering a package was costly, and the poor could never afford such an expense, Sir Henry created a “Penny Post” in town for folks to drop off their cards, thus, the creation of the post office. So, for about a Penny stamp, “Robin Postmen” (in tribute to the bird) distributed their mail for the holidays, even on Christmas day. As this tradition spread in 1860, Christmas cards were mass produced, and the postage dropped to a half-penny.

Birth of the Christmas Greeting Card Pic 2
Courtesy of United States Catalogue

The original cards were colorful with pictures of children caroling or nativity scenes. Some cards were decorated with snow scenes and red robin birds. This tradition expanded to America in 1849 as adopted by Louis Prang. He was a German immigrant that grew up in the printing business. He started the fad of Christmas cards in the United States.

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Louis Prang, courtesy of New York Historical Society
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The first known ‘personalized’ Christmas Card was sent in 1891 by the famous sharpshooter, Annie Oakley.
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First known Victorian Christmas card

In 1915, a poor, high school dropout named Joyce C. Hall gathered postcards and sold them to drugstores, bookstores and gift shops in Kansas City, Missouri. He soon realized what a lucrative business Christmas postcards was, so he purchased an engraving firm and mass produced the greeting cards in our country. This man was the founding father of the infamous company we’ve learned to count on for the holiday season – the original creator of Hallmark cards!

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I find it very interesting that the Christmas card industry gave birth to the post office. Who would have thought, much less in the UK?

Enjoy the song, “An Old Christmas Card”:

I hope as we pray for peace and joy this holiday season, God fills your heart with good tidings and cheer! Today, it doesn’t cost a cent to share those feelings with others. Have a wonderful love-filled Christmas!

Please join us again on Sunday for another, Everything Christmas Blog!

 


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