discount Christmas cards are something we are all brought up with, even from a young age we are taught to send cards to classmates at Christmas time. For many, it’s an expensive way to say “hi, we still exist!” to friends you haven’t seen in years, to others it’s an essential part of the Christmas tradition – along with Mince pies, Santa and Presents.
But where exactly did this whole idea of sending a card at Christmas come from? Have we always done it since the postal system was invented?
The very first Christmas card that we know of was created and sent in 1843, by a man named John Calcott Horsely – and was sent to a Sir Henry Cole – the man who gave John the idea. Henry wanted a card he could send to friends and business acquaintances to wish them a Merry Christmas. The card sent depicted a typical English family enjoying the Christmas time, raising a festive glass as a toast to the recipient of the card – though the typical religious lot complained that it promoted drunkenness. Neither man had any idea that cards would take off.
A massive one thousand copies of that card were produced and sold for one shilling each at Felix Summerly’s Treasure House in Bond Street.
The idea of Chrstmas then exploded by the 1880s. During the 19th century when the numbers were still relatively small compared to today, the post office of Victorian Britain would deliver them all on Christmas morning. Nowadays, British people send an average of 50 cards each, every year.
The most popular Christmas card of the Victorian era turned out to be the “trick” card. These were similar to pop-up or pull-out books that children read today. The very first kind of trick card invented was the pull out flower card, in which the reader would pull a string and the flowers would double in size.
Curiously, reproducing money was also a favourite trick card, though some were quickly withdrawn for being too realistic. Other card depicted tickets with “prosperity” or “happiness” as the destination. They were in fact quite creative compared to the commercial dribble we see today. In fact, the cards were so good that Victorians would collect them in a card scrapbook and show friends throughout the following year. Can you imagine doing that today?