The First Christmas Card

John Callcott Horsley designed the world’s first commercially produced Christmas card for Sir Henry Cole in 1843.

Cole was part of the elite social circle in Victorian England. During the holiday season of 1843, having too many friends caused Cole much anxiety.

The old custom in England of sending Christmas and New Year’s letters boomed with the British postal system introducing the “Penny Post.”  A letter or card could then be sent anywhere in the country for the cost of a penny stamp.

Now, everybody was sending letters, but Sir Henry Cole was a busy man. He watched the stacks of unanswered correspondence and fretted over what to do. In Victorian England, it was considered impolite not to answer mail, and being the 1840s equivalent of an A-Lister, Cole had to figure out a way to respond to all of these people.

Cole asked his artist friend, John Callcott. Horsley, to design an idea he had sketched out. Cole had a thousand copies on stiff cardboard made by a London printer. On each postcard he had printed “TO:_____” so he could “personalize” the generic greeting “A Merry Christmas and A Happy New Year to You.”

Thus was born the first Christmas card.

1843 The First Christmas Card

The Modern Christmas Card

In the early 1900s, a man named Joyce Hall started a revolution that resulted in creating the modern-day Christmas card.

In 1905, he and his brothers spent $540 to buy picture postcards to sell to store owners and retailers in Norfolk, Nebraska. A few years later, they opened their own little store in Kansas City, Missouri, selling the postcards and other greeting cards, but the store sadly burned down just a little while later. After that, The Hall Brothers bought an engraving business and printed their own cards.

Their customers wanted to write more than what would fit on a postcard. This resulted in a card that was 4 x 6 inches folded once, and inserted into an envelope. By 1928, the cards were being produced under the brand we all know today as Hallmark.

Christmas cards in the twentieth century reflected the times and artistic styles of each decade. 

With the advent of computers and digital photography, families could now shoot, design, and print their own customized cards right at home.

1920s

The Most Popular Christmas Card of All Time

Debuting in 1977, one particular greeting card quickly took hold as the bestselling Christmas card design of all time. 

Hallmark artist Ruth Morehead designed the angelic Three Little Angels artwork that depicts a trio of adorable cherubs. Unlike seasonal cards that come and go with each passing year, ‘Three Little Angels’ was so popular that it was sent over 36 million times in its first two decades of production. According to Hallmark’s director of creative writing, Kristin Riott, “Cuteness and God together are unbeatable.”

Christmas Cards Today

Technology advancements in recent decades are making Christmas cards a little less popular. Social media platforms make it easier to stay connected with friends and family all over the world, and face-to-face video conferencing helps form meaningful connections, especially around the holidays.

Along with Mother’s Day, Christmas cards are still the most popular season for card-buying, card making, & sending, with over 1.5 billion individual & boxed cards purchased every year.

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Author Details
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Will Zeilinger and Janet Lynn had been writing individually until they got together and wrote the Skylar Drake Mystery Series. These hard-boiled tales are based in old Hollywood of 1955. Janet has published seven mystery novels, and Will has three plus a couple of short stories. Their world travels have sparked several ideas for murder and crime stories. This creative couple is married and lives in Southern California.
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Will Zeilinger and Janet Lynn had been writing individually until they got together and wrote the Skylar Drake Mystery Series. These hard-boiled tales are based in old Hollywood of 1955. Janet has published seven mystery novels, and Will has three plus a couple of short stories. Their world travels have sparked several ideas for murder and crime stories. This creative couple is married and lives in Southern California.

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