The custom of sending Christmas cards began in the United Kingdom in 1843 by Sir Henry Cole.
He was a senior civil servant (government worker) who had helped set up the new ‘Public Registry Office’ (now called the Post Office), where he was assistant manager, and wondered how it could be used more by ordinary people.
Sir Henry had the idea of Christmas cards with his friend John Horsley, who was an artist. They designed the first card and sold them for 1 shilling each. (That’s only 5 p or 8 cents today (!), But in those days it was worth a lot more.) The card had three panels. The two exterior panels showed people caring for the poor and in the central panel there was a family that had a big Christmas dinner. Some people did not like the card because it showed a child that they gave him a glass of wine! Approximately 1000 were printed and sold (or could have been less!). Now they are very rare and cost thousands of pounds or dollars to buy now! The original cards were announced with the slogan: “Just published, a Christmas greeting card or an emblematic image of the old English holiday to perpetuate the kind memories among dear friends”.
The first postal service that ordinary people could use began in 1840, when they began the first public public deliveries of ‘Penny Post’ (Sir Henry Cole helped introduce Penny Post). Before that, only very rich people could afford to send something by mail. The new post office could offer a Penny stamp because new railroads were being built. These could carry much more than the horse and the car that had been used before. Also, trains could go much faster. The cards became even more popular in the United Kingdom when they could be published in an unsealed envelope for half a cent, half the price of an ordinary letter.
As printing methods improved, Christmas cards became much more popular and were produced in large quantities around 1860. In 1870, the cost of sending a postcard, and also Christmas cards, was reduced to half penny. This meant that even more people could send cards.
A card engraved by artist William Egley, who illustrated some of Charles Dickens’ books, is on display at the British Museum. By the early 1900s, custom had spread throughout Europe and had become especially popular in Germany.
The first letters usually had images of the Nativity scene in them. In the late Victorian era, robins (a British bird) and snow scenes became popular. In those days, postmen were nicknamed “Robin Postmen” because of the red uniforms they wore. The snow scenes were popular because they reminded people of the bad winter that happened in the United Kingdom in 1836.
Christmas cards appeared in the United States of America in the late 1840s, but they were very expensive and most people could not afford them. In 1875, Louis Prang, a printer who was originally from Germany but had also worked on the first cards in the United Kingdom, began producing mass cards so that more people could buy them. Mr. Prang’s first cards included flowers, plants and children. In 1915, John C. Hall and two of his brothers created Hallmark cards, which are still one of the largest card manufacturers today!
The first known “personalized” Christmas card was sent in 1891 by Annie Oakley, the famous shooter and star of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show. He was in Glasgow, Scotland, on Christmas 1891 and sent cards to his friends and family in the US. UU With a picture of her in it. As he was in Scotland, he wears tartan in the picture! Annie allegedly designed the cards and they were printed by a local printer.
In the 1910s and 1920s, homemade cards became popular. They were often unusual shapes and they had things like foil and tape. These were usually too delicate to send by mail and were given by hand.
Nowadays, cards have all kinds of images: jokes, winter images, Santa Claus or romantic scenes of life in times past. Charities often sell their own Christmas cards as a way to raise money at Christmas.
Charities also earn money with the stamps or stickers used to seal the card envelopes. This custom began in Denmark in the early 1900s by a postal worker who thought it would be a good way for charities to raise money, in addition to making more decorative cards. It was a great success: more than four million were sold in the first year! Soon Sweden and Norway adopted the custom and then spread throughout Europe and America.