March Sendoff for Christmas Card

Posted On November 13, 2006

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In 1843 the British civil servant, industrial designer and Museum Director Henry Cole decided to save himself the trouble of hand-writing dozens of Christmas greetings by commissioning a card from his friend John C. Horsley, a well-known artist who had painted portraits of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.

According to the Bonhams auction house, a thousand cards of this design, showing a family at their Christmas dinner and carrying the words “A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to You” were printed and sold. The price was a shilling, then the equivalent of an average weekly wage.

About 20 of the cards, few in private hands, are thought to have survived. On March 20 a proof of the first Christmas card, inherited from a man who married one of Mr. Cole’s granddaughters, is to be sold at Bonhams in London. It carries an estimate of $7,600 to $11,400.

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