The origin of Christmas Cards

Posted On December 2, 2006

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Christmas Cards originally started as letters sent from school children to their families around the holidays.

Christmas Cards as we know them today began to be seen after the invention of the steam press in the 1840s.

The first cards printed in England specifically for use at Christmas were designed by John Horsley in 1843 and were sold at Felix Summerly’s Home Treasury Office. They featured the greeting, “A Very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to You”.

The first signs of people mailing cards to each other in the United States occurred around 1845. Until 1875 Americans had to import their Christmas Cards from Europe, but in 1875 that changed when a German immigrant by the name of Louis Prang published the first line of U.S. Christmas Cards.

Sources for the History of Christmas Cards >

UPDATE > The custom of sending Christmas cards started in Victorian England. Earlier, some adults had written Christmas letters. But letters took time to write, and people wanting to share Season’s Greetings with many others had a daunting task.

In 1843, British businessman Sir Henry Cole asked artist John Calcott Horsley to print some Christmas cards. One thousand cards were printed in black and white and then colored by hand. The cards, which depicted a happy family raising a toast to the recipient, were criticized for promoting drunkenness. In 1851 Richard Pease, a variety store owner, commissioned the first printed Christmas card in the U.S.

London printers Charles Goodall & Sons became the first to mass-produce Christmas cards. In 1862 they created cards saying “A Merry Christmas.” Later, they designed cards with various designs, including robins, holly, mangers, snowmen, and even Little Red Riding Hood.