The History of Christmas Cards
The custom of sending Christmas cards was started in the United Kingdom in 1843 by Sir Henry Cole. He was a civil servant (Government worker) who had helped set-up the new ‘Public Record Office’ (now called the Post Office), where he was an Assistant Keeper, and wondered how the Post Office could be used more by ordinary people.
The First Christmas Card
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 is only 8 cents today), but in those days it was worth much, much more.) The card had three panels. The outer two panels showed people caring for the poor and in the center panel was a family having a large Christmas dinner! Some people didn’t like the center panel of the card because it showed a child being given a glass of wine! About 1000 (or it might have been less!) were printed and sold. These first cards are now very rare and cost thousands of dollars to if you wanted to buy one now.
As printing methods improved, Christmas cards became much more popular and were produced in large numbers from about 1860. In 1870 the cost of sending a post card, and also Christmas cards, dropped to half a penny. This meant even more people were able to send cards.
The first cards usually had pictures of the Nativity scene on them. In late Victorian times, robins (an English bird) and snow-scenes became popular. In those times the postmen were nicknamed ‘Robin Postmen’ because of the red uniforms they wore. Snow-scenes were popular because they reminded people of the very bad winter that happened in the UK in 1836.
Christmas Cards appeared in the United States of America in the late 1840s, but were very expensive and most people couldn’t afford them.
In 1915, J. C. Hall and two of his brothers created Hallmark Cards, who are still one of the biggest card makers today!
In 1928, the company adopted the name “Hallmark”, after the hallmark symbol used by goldsmiths in London in the 14th century, and began printing the name on the back of every card. In the same year, the company became the first in the greeting card industry to advertise their product nationally.
In 1944, Hallmark adopted its current slogan, “When you care enough to send the very best.” It was created by C. E. Goodman, a Hallmark marketing and sales executive, and written on a 3×5 card. The original card is on display at the company headquarters. In 1951, Hall sponsored a television program for NBC that gave rise to the Hallmark Hall of Fame, which has won 80 Emmy Awards.
Americans purchase approximately 6.5 billion greeting cards each year. Annual retail sales of greeting cards are estimated between $7 and $8 billion.
The most popular Everyday card-sending occasion by far is Birthday, followed by a number of secondary occasions that include Sympathy, Thank You, Wedding, Thinking of You, Get Well, New Baby and Congratulations.
The most popular Seasonal cards are Christmas cards, with some 1.6 billion units purchased (including boxed cards). This is followed by cards for Valentine’s Day (145 million units, not including classroom valentines), Mother’s Day (133 million units), Father’s Day (90 million units), Graduation (67 million units), Easter (57 million units), Halloween (21 million units), Thanksgiving (15 million units) and St. Patrick’s Day (7 million units).
The Christmas Cards that are the most important to me are the ones I receive. Again this year I present the Christmas Cards I have received Christmas 2015. In years past people have e-mailed me and said, “What a stupid idea, I looked at everyone.” Enjoy.