Like them or loathe them, traditional or electronic most of us send a few cards to friends and family; but when did this tradition start and why?

Sir Henry Cole, a civil servant in 1843, who later became the founding Director of the Victoria and Albert museum started the custom of sending Christmas cards. Working in the public records office he found that he was too busy to write to friends during the festive season and came up with the idea of the Christmas card in 1840. He commissioned John Callcott Horsley to produce the design and in 1843 the first 1000 were printed.

The first card design consisted of three panels. The two outer panels depicted the poor being cared for whilst the middle panel showed the scene of a large family Christmas dinner. The Christmas dinner image caused controversy at the time as it pictured a young child taking a sip of wine. The first cards were sold for 5p each in today’s money.

first-Christmas-card

In 1860 the printing processes were vastly improved, therefore Christmas cards became much more popular making them more accessible to the working people.

In late Victorian times robin and snow scenes became popular. The craze hit America in the late 1840s, however, they were expensive which made them unpopular. It wasn’t until 1875 that Louise Prang, originally from Germany, started mass-producing cards making them more affordable. Prang’s early designs featured botany and children. In 1915 John Hall established Hallmark Cards with two of his brothers and today Hallmark is still one of the biggest producers of cards.

 

prang-Christmas-card

OldDesignShop_VictorianCardWinterScene

Christmas_card3_byLouisPrang

In the 1910s and 1920s making your own cards became popular, cut in unusual shapes and including foil and ribbon. These tended to be less robust than the printed card and therefore usually hand delivered.

Today, cards include a myriad of different designs including jokes, winter pictures and romantic scenes.

Merry Christmas to you all from Reform. Enjoy your festive season.

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