Early Christmas cards

The first Christmas card dates from 1843. Sir Henry Cole asked John Calcott Horsely, R.A., to design a card that he could send to friends at the holiday season. One thousand copies of the lithographed, hand-colored card were produced, priced at one shilling each. Reproduced on the Hallmark postcard shown at left, the card's central frame depicts a family feast, flanked by two images of charity to the poor.

The influence of the Valentine card, which predated the Christmas card, is clearly visible in the earlier cards with either flowers and lace-paper. Indeed, if the words on the cards were changed, they would be equally suitable for Valentine's day. As time went on, the cards became ever more elaborate and decorative and it became fashionable to collect as many cards as possible. The proud display of cards received during the holiday season is a custom that continues to this day.

   Early cards
   Mechanical cards
   Sentimental images
   Animals & comic scenes
   Images of children