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By Bridgette Waldau

History of the Christmas Card


The world’s first known Christmas card appeared in London in 1843, when Sir Henry Cole hired painter and illustrator John Calcott Horsley to design a holiday card to send to his friends. They designed the first card and sold them for 1 shilling each. That is only 5 or 8 cents today, but in those days it was considered expensive. The card has three panels. The outer two panels showed people caring for the poor and in the central panel was a family having a large Christmas dinner. This card garnered little enthusiasm among the English. Some Puritans voiced their displeasure with the card’s central illustration, which depicted the merriment of the season. Helping offset this criticism were the card’s side panels, emphasizing the more charitable endeavors of helping the poor. Also people didn't like the card because it showed a child drinking a glass of wine. About 1000 were printed and sold. They are now very rare and cost thousands of dollars to buy now.

First American Christmas card by Louis Prang. c.1975

By 1860, objections to joyful holiday cards had vanished and the custom of sending Christmas cards was well established in Britain. The first cards usually had pictures of the Nativity scene on them. In late Victorian times, robins (an English bird) and snow-scenes became popular. Vintage 1920s Christmas card

Christmas cards appeared in the United States in the late 1840s, but were very expensive and most people couldn't afford them. It 1875, lithographer Louis Prang, a printer originally from German but who had worked on early cards in the UK, started mass producing cards so more people could afford to buy them. He started a small printing business near Boston and is considered the father of the American Christmas Card. Prang published his first Christmas card in 1875 and it was simple flower design with the words “Merry Christmas.” Prang's early cards featured flowers, plants and children. The popularity of Prang’s Christmas cards with their fine color lithography was almost immediate. By 1881, he was reportedly printing five million cards a year.

Heartland LIVING December 2015 January 2016


First Christmas card by Sir Henry and John Calcott. c 1843

Vintage 1950s Christmas card

In the 1910s and 1920s, home made cards became popular.

Heartland living holiday issue 2015  
Heartland living holiday issue 2015  

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