Victorian Chrstmas Greeting Card History

Children in Victorian England had the task of writing greetings to their parents in their very best handwriting. Sometimes adults wrote Christmas letters to each other, but this could take up a great deal of time. The printed Christmas card solved the problem. The custom of sending printed cards was started in England by Henry Cole, who did not have time to write letters to each of his relatives. He asked an artist, John Calcott Horsley, to design a card for him. About 1,000 of these cards were printed, and those not used by Sir Henry were sold by the printer for one shilling. This was not cheap, which may be why they did not sell very well. With the introduction of the “penny post” in 1840, it became cheaper to send mail, and as a result of color printing and the invention of printing machines, cards could be printed faster and cheaper. The first company to print and sell Christmas cards on a large scale was Charles Goodall & Sons of London in 1862. The first charity card was produced in 1949 by UNICEF. Richard H. Pease, a printer from Albany, New York, is credited with sending the first specially printed Christmas card in America, in 1851. It managed to make the first mistake in Christmas card history. The card showed a building on which was hung a banner proclaiming “Pease’s Great Variety Store.”

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