THE CHRISTMAS CARD
Christmas cards have always been a favorite staple of the holidays for me. I love selecting special cards to send to friends and loved ones and especially enjoy the thrill of seeing the first cards of the season arrive in the mail box. It's such a joy to see how each person's character truly shines through by the cards they select. With this wonderful tradition on my mind, I want to share a bit of background information on the history of the Christmas Card. And, as a matter of fact, our first card of the season arrived today!
History of the Christmas Card
The first commercial Christmas cards were commissioned by Sir Henry Cole in London, 1843, and featured an illustration by John Callcott Horsley. The picture, of a family with a small child drinking wine together, proved controversial, but the idea was shrewd: Cole had helped introduce the Penny Post three years earlier. Two batches totaling 2050 cards were printed and sold that year for a shilling each.
Early English cards rarely showed winter or religious themes, instead favoring flowers, fairies and other fanciful designs that reminded the recipient of the approach of spring. Humorous and sentimental images of children and animals were popular, as were increasingly elaborate shapes, decorations and materials. In 1875 Louis Prang became the first printer to offer cards in America, though the popularity of his cards led to cheap imitations that eventually drove him from the market. The advent of the postcard spelled the end for elaborate Victorian-style cards, but by the 1920s, cards with envelopes had returned.
The production of Christmas cards was, throughout the 20th century, a profitable business for many stationery manufacturers, with the design of cards continually evolving with changing tastes and printing techniques. The World Wars brought cards with patriotic themes. Idiosyncratic "studio cards" with cartoon illustrations and sometimes risque humor caught on in the 1950s. Nostalgic, sentimental, and religious images have continued in popularity, and, in the 21st century, reproductions of Victorian and Edwardian cards are easy to obtain.