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When Was The First Christmas Card Sent?

The History Of Christmas Cards


Who Invented The Christmas Card



In 1843 Sir Henry Cole, the first Director of the London Victoria and Albert Museum (originally called the South Kensington Museum until the name change in 1899), England, UK was credited as the inventor of the Christmas and New Year Card.
It was the custom of Sir Henry Cole to write cards with a Christmas letter message to his family and friends each year. He hit upon the idea of getting cards commercially printed with a Christmas message to save him time.





Who Designed And Printed The Original Christmas Card


Sir Henry Cole commissioned the production of 1000 printed cards which were designed and made by British painter John Calcott Horsley. He designed the card on a lithograph stone and then printed the cards onto a stiff cardboard and then hand coloured them.





The printing work was done by Jobbins of Warwick Court, Holborn, London and the colouring was done by a professional colourer called Mason using dark sepia. The publishing was done by Joseph Cundall at Summerly's Home Treasury Office, 12 Old Bond Street, London, which was owned by Sir Henry Cole. They also sold the surplus cards for one shilling. Unfortunately the card showed a child drinking a glass of wine and was criticised by many and was soon withdrawn from sale, though the idea of sending cards at Xmas time soon caught on. Its popularity was boosted because in the same year Charles Dickens wrote and published The Christmas Carol.





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What Did The First Christmas Card Look Like


The card picture depicted the poor being fed and clothed with a centre panel of a painting of a Victorian family enjoying a meal and a drink. The border of the card had woody, rustic border hung with ivy, grapes and vine leaves.





What Was The Printed Message On The Original Christmas Card


This first card had the printed message: A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to You.


Sir Henry Cole was born in 1808 and died in 1882. He was an assistant at the Public Records Office as well as a writer and publisher of books and journals using the pseudonym Felix Summerly. His writings were on the subjects of architecture and art. He founded The Journal of Design.

John Callcott Horsley was born in 1817 and died in 1903. He was a Royal Academician as well as a popular painter.





In 2005 one of the original Xmas cards was auctioned. It is thought that only 10 of the 1000 survive. It was purchased by Jakki Brown in Devizes who is the editor and co-owner of Progressive Greetings Magazine and the General Secretary of the Greeting Card Association. The card was sent to Miss Mary Tripsack.

On Saturday 24th November 2001 another of the original Christmas cards was sold at auction for 22,500. It was sent by Sir Henry Cole to his Granny and Auntie Char. It attracted a higher than expected bid because it was signed by Sir Henry Cole.


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