Perhaps during this time of year many of us can relate to Sir Henry Cole. In 1843 he was simply too busy to write the traditional Christmas greeting to all of his family, friends, and business colleagues across England. So he asked his friend, artist John Horsely, to design a card (an image with a brief greeting) that he could send instead. What Horsely created was the first Christmas card. Along with Cole’s batch 1,000 cards were produced and sold for a shilling a piece. However, the card was criticized, particularly by temperance societies, for depicting a child being given a glass of wine. Despite the criticism, the custom of sending a card at Christmas caught on.
About thirty years later, German immigrant Louis Prang opened a print shop in Boston and mass produced the first line of Christmas cards in the United States. Instead of typical Christmas scenes, Prang’s early cards actually depicted flowers, plants, and children. By 1881 Prang was producing 5 million Christmas cards a year.
Though Prang is considered the “father of American greeting cards,” it was the Hall Brothers that introduced the “modern” greeting card. Based in Kansas City, Missouri, the Hall Brothers produced and sold postcards. In 1915 the company printed their first line of Christmas cards. Until then Christmas cards were actually postcards. Instead of a postcard, Hall Brothers produced a “book” format card – 4 inches wide, 6 inches high, folded once and inserted into an envelope. Greeting cards have followed the same basic format ever since. Two years later the company introduced “modern” wrapping paper and by the mid-1920s Hall Brothers became Hallmark.
On Saturday, December 3 the 48th Annual Wassail Bowl and Sale is being held at the Presbyterian Church, 24 Park Place in Geneva, from 10 am to 2 pm. Though we may not have Christmas cards, it will be a great opportunity to get fresh wreaths, greens, baked goods, holiday decorations, and gifts. Samples of wassail, a traditional spiced cider, will also be available for tasting. All proceeds benefit the Geneva Historical Society.
Join us on December 3 for the Wassail Bowl and Sale. And for more information about the history of Christmas cards, read “The History of the Christmas Card.”