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History of the Christmas Card: A Social Time-Saver

History of the Christmas Card: A Social Time-Saver

The holidays are a time when we catch up with family or old friends. The cards we receive are messengers of warm greetings and photographic evidence of family growth, expansion, and change. Even in today’s digital era, many of us still adhere to the tradition of sending and receiving Christmas cards in the mail.

In the Victorian era, postal mail was the equivalent of today’s social media. In England, with the advent of the “Penny Post,” anyone could send a letter across the country and thus share all their gossip and well wishes within a relatively short period of time. For recipients of these epistles, it was considered impolite not to return the favor and post all your own news back to the sender. For people with very large circles of friends and acquaintances, you can imagine how time-consuming this could be. Just think of all the Jane Austen or Charles Dickens novels you have read, and all the time those characters spent answering letters.

In 1843, Sir Henry Cole, a prominent resident of Victorian England with a large volume of correspondence, decided there just wasn’t enough time in his day to answer all his Christmas and New Year’s letters. His solution was to send a generic Christmas greeting printed along with an illustration, which he could then personalized by adding each name by hand. Thus, the Christmas card was born.

It took some years for the trend to catch on in the United States, but a New England printer named Louis Prang recognized the potential appeal of such a time-saver and began producing holiday postcards in 1875. In 1915, the Christmas card tradition began in earnest when the Hall brothers – Joyce, Rollie, and William – created a folding card that allowed senders to include even more greetings and news. Today, their enduring company is known as Hallmark.

Please enjoy this gallery of vintage holiday greetings, as we at Asgard Press send our own greetings to you.

 

Christmas card, 1907

(Card front) A merry Christmas, 1907. Publisher: Illustrated Postal Card Co. New York Public Library


Christmas card, 1907 (back)

(Card back) A merry Christmas, 1907. Publisher: Illustrated Postal Card Co. New York Public Library


Christmas Card, 1910-19

(Card front) To the folks back home, c. 1910-1919. Publisher: Owen Card Publishing Co. New York Public Library


Christmas card, 1910-19 (back)

(Card back) To the folks back home, c. 1910-1919. Publisher: Owen Card Publishing Co. New York Public Library


Christmas card, 1910

(Card front) Wishing you a merry Christmas, 1910. Publisher: Bamforth & Co. New York Public Library


Christmas card, 1910 (back)

(Card back) Wishing you a merry Christmas, 1910. Publisher: Bamforth & Co. New York Public Library

 

Christmas card, date unknown

(Card front) A merry Christmas, Date unknown. New York Public Library

 

Christmas card, date unknown (back)

(Card back) A merry Christmas, Date unknown. New York Public Library

 

Christmas card, c. 1800s

(Card front) We all wish you a merry Christmas, c. 1800s. New York Public Library

 

Christmas card, 1921

(Card front) Christmas greetings, 1921. New York Public Library

 

Christmas card, 1921 (back)

(Card back) Christmas greetings, 1921. New York Public Library

 

Christmas card, 1912

(Card front) A merry Christmas, 1912. Publisher: Sam Gabriel. New York Public Library


Christmas card, 1912 (back)

(Card back) A merry Christmas, 1912. Publisher: Sam Gabriel. New York Public Library

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