Wednesday, December 19, 2012

"Seasons Greetings"; A Historical Overview of the Christmas Card

As the Holidays quickly approach, you may be sending or receiving those holiday greetings. But how did this tradition begin and what has made it the popular symbol it is today?

The first commercially mass produced Christmas card was illustrated by John Calcott Horsley in 1843. Horsley was a painter of the time known for his subject matter that romanticized scenes of everyday life in the English countryside where he resided. Sir Henry Cole commissioned Horsley when he found himself to be too busy to hand write the traditional holiday greetings that year. While reception of this card was not taken lightly (it depicted children enjoying wine with their family) the idea of the illustrated card became a huge success and other commercial printers soon followed suit.

With the introduction of cheaper printing methods, 20 years later the Christmas card could be bought and sent by the general public – an act previously limited to the wealthy.

In the beginning, Christmas card graphics were not like the ones we see today. Instead of seasonal or religious depictions, images were meant to remind people that spring was approaching (an idea we, personally, tend to love!). Children and animals were the most popular themes.

During the world wars, access to German printers was cut off and companies like Hallmark and American Greetings saw a boom in sales when they encouraged Americans to send cards to soldiers in support. In the 1950s, subject matter of a more risque nature could also be found like the ones pictured below. These cards were produced in response to a times when Americans began to question tradition.

More recently people have resorted to making their own Christmas cards. Today's ease of photography production and at-home printing capabilities give individuals access that wasn't available 20 years ago. A popular choice is the family photograph with a seasonal design and message. The photo can be taken digitally and easily placed into templates at local vendors. With email and cellular communications being standard, some people choose to send out e-cards. However, the Christmas card still accounts for over half of all sales in the greeting card industry and is still widely and warmly received. So, did you send out cards this year?

1 comment:

Beatrice Johnston said...

I love this summary. Who knew Christmas cards started for the "wealthy" only. It's SOOO mainstream today, you almost feel wrong if you don't send a card. Good article!