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English Christmas Cards

Christmas Cards-Cole-1840sThe very first Christmas card was commissioned by a United Kingdom government worker, Sir Henry Cole (1808-1882), in 1843 when he was too busy to write to his friends himself. Printed in black and white, they were originally colored by hand. The art design was done by John C. Horsley. These became the first commercial Christmas cards.

Only a handful of the 1,000 originally printed were sold, probably because of their prohibitively expensive price of one shilling in the 1840s.  Christmas-henry cole

It would be many years later that the tradition of sending Christmas cards really caught on. Sending cards became even more popular in Victorian times (1870s- 1900) when the cost of mailing Christmas cards dropped to a half-penny.

In the United States, the first Christmas cards were produced in the late 1840s, but were too expensive also for most people. They became more affordable in 1875, when a German printer began mass-producing them. In 1915, Joyce Clyde Hall and brother Rollie Hall created Hallmark Cards, beginning in Kansas City, Missouri, still one of the biggest sellers of Christmas cards today and the business is still operated by the Hall family.  christmas -Joyce_C_HallChristmas Cards-American 1840s

Photos: Henry Cole’s Christmas card; Sir Henry Cole, and early American Christmas card and Joyce C. Hall of Hallmark.

Related genealogical blogs:

History of Christmas Cards

Christmas Surnames


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