History of the Christmas Card   

The Custom of sending Christmas cards started in England in 1843 coinciding with the Penny Post public postal service. The very first person to commission a Christmas card was Sir Henry Cole the first director of the Victoria Albert Museum who had a large number of friends who he wanted to send a seasonal greeting, He commissioned John Calcot Horsley to paint a greeting card showing a happy family enjoying a Christmas festival and sipping wine. Previously people exchanged handwritten messages. Inside the card was the message “ A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Sir Henry though did not send a card the next year, but this was the beginning of the custom of sending printed Christmas cards.

As Printing methods improved Christmas cards became very popular in the late 1800’s this escalated when you could send a card in an unsealed envelope for one half penny.

Traditionally Christmas cards showed pictures of the nativity, were shaped liked crescents, bells, birds or candles. They were decorated with silk, satin or fringe.

That was the beginning. The following year other picture makers went into printing cards and the Christmas card was launched.

The Christmas card publishing industry created unheard opportunities for artists, writers, printers and engravers.

In 1880 the Christmas card had a new birth, for it was then that a great London firm offered five hundred guineas in prizes for the most artistic designs. Many of the great artists of the day responded with their best ideas. Kate Greenaway, Walter Crane, and Thomas Crane were among the many 19th century artists famous for their greeting card designs. In addition, literary writers saw the opportunity; they gave to the beauty of the painting the music of their words. Many well-known writers were not above this profitable work of creating greeting cards. Thousands of pounds were spent in finding the right poems and suitable Christmas sentiments, until at last these Yuletide offerings reached the climax of their literary and artistic excellence. The World Wars changed the Christmas theme in the greeting cards with patriotic themes. Throughout the twentieth Century Christmas both personal and personalised card market became a multi million pound industry.

In 2005 one the original Christmas cards was auctioned. It was thought that only 10 of the original 1000 survived. It was purchased by the editor of Progressive Greetings magazine.

First Commercial Christmas Card

This is the very first commercially produced
Christmas card drawn in 1843 by John Calcott
Horsley of Torquay, England at the request of
Sir Henry Cole (pictured below).


Sir Henry Cole