The Christmas season is upon us. Folks are rushing from store to store, or combing through Amazon’s gazillion pages, to find the perfect present at the lowest price. Cookies bake in the oven, turkeys and hams are bought in anticipation of a scrumptious meal, and somewhere in between attending parties and wrapping gifts, many people take the time to address and send Christmas cards to their loved ones and friends
|Horsley's Christmas card|
The Christmas card was first introduced in the UK in 1843 by Sir Henry Cole. Cole worked as a civil servant and wanted to find a way for the average person to use the Public Post Office. Up until this time, only rich folk could afford the price of postage. When the UK began using trains instead of horses and carriages to ship mail, the Penny Post was created, making it possible for the common person to afford the price of postage.
Having little time to keep up on his own correspondence, Cole hired his friend, John Horsley, to design a Christmas card he could send to family and friends in lieu of writing long missives. Horsley crafted a card with three panels. The outer panels depicted scenes of people caring for the poor. The middle panel featured a family enjoying Christmas dinner. One thousand cards were printed and sold for a schilling. When people realized these cards could be mailed in an unsealed envelope for half a penny, they became very popular in the UK.
Christmas cards were also introduced to the United States in the 1840’s. Since they were costly, most Americans couldn’t afford to buy them. R.H Pease is credited with crafting and distributing the first American made Christmas card in the United States. Pease owned a variety store in Albany, N.Y and his cards depicted scenes of families, reindeer, Santa, and Christmas presents and foods.
|One of Prang's Christmas cards|
In 1875, Louis Prang began mass producing greeting cards in the United States. Originally from Germany and a printer, Prang arrived in the States in the 1850’s. He’d previously worked in the UK on their earlier cards. By 1870, Prang owned two-thirds of America’s steam presses and had perfected the colour printing process of chromolithography. Upon distributing his cards at an 1873 exposition, his agent’s wife suggested he add Christmas cards to his line. He did and the cards were an instant success with the American people, so much so Prang had difficulty keeping up with the demand for them. He later took up the English printers’ practice of offering prizes to artists with the best designs for his cards. Many of the winners crafted Biblical scenes, putting religious significance into the Christmas card, which had been lacking until that time.
Hallmark is the greeting card giant in today’s society. John C. Hall and two of his brothers developed Hallmark Cards in 1915. It’s estimated that 1.6 – 1.9 billion Christmas cards are purchased in the United States each year. Though my list has dwindled through the years, I’m happy to say I’m one of those purchasers.