Homemade and handwritten Christmas cards were popular in Victorian England. Beautiful, or at least precise, handwriting was considered a badge of honor, and Christmas greeting cards were one way to show off this skill.
Then Sir Henry Cole had an idea to speed up his own seasonal card-writing process.
Taking advantage of new printing technologies, Cole commissioned artist John Callcott Horsley to create a festive design, and produced about 1,000 copies of that Christmas card in 1843.
After Cole used the cards he needed, he sold the rest for one shilling each.
That card (seen above) is widely considered the first commercially produced Christmas card. Today, about 20 copies survive in libraries and archives
In Horsley’s illustration, a family celebrates at center, but lest you forget the charitable side of Christmas spirit, they’re flanked by images of people feeding and clothing the poor.
There’s also a banner that reads “A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to You.”
The trend quickly migrated to the United States. Another early Christmas card (above), that was printed in Philadelphia around 1850, similarly shows a family of five around a hearth, while a servant in the background seems to be setting the table. The family is surrounded by food, drink, dancers and snow-covered houses.
The U.S. Greeting Card Association predicts Americans will send about 1.6 billion Christmas cards this year. This multimillion-dollar industry can thank Sir Henry Cole for its innovative beginnings almost 200 years ago.
Source: Megan Gannon, News Editor/ Live Science