Postcard Museum ~  Greeting Card Museum ~ The First Christmas Card ~ History of Greeting Cards ~ Welcome to Emotions Greeting Cards History of Greeting Cards, Louis Prang, John Calcott Horsley, Ellen H. Clapsaddle, Kate Greenaway, Hallmark, Esther Howland, Carlton Cards, Ambassador Cards, Victorian and more.

Welcome To Emotions Greeting Cards
Look At The History of Postcards and Greeting Cards

Enjoy your trip through our museum of over 1000 exhibits!

Sending greeting cards to friends and family is a tradition that goes back about 200 years. They  were mostly sent by the elite and wealthy in the early to mid 1800's.  Most of the early greeting cards were hand delivered and many were quite expensive, but they soon gained mass popularity with the introduction of the world's first postage stamp issued in 1840 
and a few ambitious printer's and manufacturer's perfecting printing methods, hiring artists and designed both elaborate expensive cards as well as simple affordable ones by the 1850's.
As you visit our galleries you will see that cards of the past were fine pieces of art. Manufacturer's used quality artists and many of the large manufacturer's held "art" competitions to generate interest and to get new ideas for cards.  Some of these competitions awarded as much as $1,000.00 to the winner!

The oldest known greeting card in existence is a Valentine made in the 1400's and is in the British Museum.  New Year's cards can be dated back to this period as well, but the New Year greeting didn't gain popularity until the late 1700's.  The Valentine and Christmas Card were the most popular cards, with Valentine's offering us the most "mechanical", "pop-up" and filigree cards, followed by Christmas,  St. Patrick's Day, Easter, Halloween and Thanksgiving.  Cards gained their highest popularity in the late 1800's and early 1900's offering us cards with some of the most unusual art.  The Victorian age give us the most prolific cards.

Valentine greetings were popular as far back as the Middle Ages, when lovers Early 1900's Valentine's Day Cardsaid or sang their Valentines.  Written Valentines began to appear after 1400.   Paper Valentines were exchanged in Europe where they were given in place of Valentine gifts.  Handmade paper Valentines were especially popular in England. In the mid to early 1800's, Valentines began to be assembled in factories.  Early manufactured Valentines were black and white pictures painted by workers in a factory.  Esther Howland (see below) known as the Mother of the Valentine made fancy Valentines with real lace, ribbons and colorful pictures known as "scrap".  She introduced the Paper Lace Valentine in the mid 1800's.   By the end of the 1800's, Valentines were being made entirely by machine.
Louis Prang Christmas Card date 1881
Christmas cards were introduced and popularized by John Calcott Horsley (see below), the artist of what is known as the world's first Christmas Card and Louis Prang (see below), known as the Father of the American Christmas Card.

The rest is History.  With the exchange of New Year's, Valentine's, Easter, St. Patrick's Day, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and Birthday Cards, just to name a few, there is probably no occasion that doesn't have its own greeting card!   If you would like to learn more about the history and the time line of postcards, you will find a 'Time Line ~ History Link' further down on this page.

We hope you enjoy the Galleries as well as the following stories that take you through the history and progression of the Greeting Card, its artists and manufacturer's.

The Pioneers of the Greeting Card Industry

John Calcott Horsley John Calcott Horsley was commissioned by Sir Henry Cole in 1843 toJohn Calcott Horsley ~ The first Christmas Card paint a card showing the feeding and clothing of the poor.  A center panel displayed a happy family embracing one another, sipping wine, and enjoying Christmas festivities.  (So much for good intention.  The card drew criticism because showing a child enjoying a sip of wine was considered "fostering the moral corruption of children.")  "A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to You" was printed on the first card.  Legend says Sir Henry didn't send any cards the following year, but the custom became popular and just three years after the English Parliament passed the Postage Act, it made it possible to send letters for a penny. Within 10 years, Christmas cards were the rage of England. Of the 1,000 original Christmas cards printed, only 12 are known to still exist, two of which are in the Hallmark Historical Collection.

Louis Prang known as the Father of Christmas CardsLouis Prang.  The Father of the American Christmas Card.  For more than 30 years, Americans had to import greeting cards from England.  In 1875, Louis Prang, a German immigrant to the U.S., opened a lithographic shop with $250 and published the first line of U.S. Christmas cards. His initial creations featured flowers and birds, unrelated to the Christmas scene.

By 1881, Prang was producing more than five million Christmas cards each year. His Yuletide greetings began to feature snow scenes, fir trees, glowing fireplaces and children playing with toys. His painstaking craftsmanship and lithographic printing have made his cards a favorite of collectors today.

Kate Greenaway.  Holiday cards designed by Kate Greenaway,Early drawing of Kate Greenaway the Victorian children's writer and illustrator, were favorites in the late 1800's.  Most were elaborate, decorated with fringe, silk and satin.  Some were shaped like fans and crescents, others were cut into shapes of bells, birds, candles and even plum pudding.  Some folded like maps or fitted together as puzzles, other squealed or squeaked.  Pop-Up Cards revealed tiny mangers or skaters with flying scarves gliding around a mirrored pond.

Esther Howland ~ Artist of some of the first Victorian Valentine's Day Cards

Esther Howland
In 1850, Esther Howland, an American printer and artist was among the first to publish and sell Valentines in the United States.   She later sold the thriving business to the George C. Whitney Company.


George C. Whitney.  The George C. Whitney valentine manufacturing company was in business from 1866 to 1942.  What began as a wholesale stationery store on Main Street in Worcester, became, by 1888, one of the largest valentine publishers in this country with offices in New York, Boston, and Chicago.  

Ellen H. Clapsaddle.   Undoubtedly the most prolific postcard and greeting card artist,  Ellen H. Clapsaddle's artwork was first published in 1906 by the Wolf Company an outlet for the International Art Company.  Ellen H. Clapsaddle's story is probably the saddest of any of the pioneers of the greeting card history.  She died unknown and penniless the day before her 69th birthday.  Today her cards are among the most collectible and sell in the range of $10.00 to $200.00, with the mechanical cards going for $450.00 and more.

Another artist who's cards are highly collectible is Frances Brundage, a prolific artist most notable for her paintings of children.  She produced over 200 books with a career that spanned for 65 years.

Hallmark ~ When You Care To Send The Very Best ~ Joyce C. Hall ~ Hall BrothersJoyce C. Hall.  Joyce C. Hall arrived in Kansas City, his inventory of postcards fit into a couple of shoeboxes, but his dreams couldn't be contained.  It was 1910 and the Norfolk, Nebraska, teenager was determined to make his mark in the business world. Little did it matter that his first office would be a room at the YMCA, or that he had so little cash he couldn't afford to pay a horse-drawn cab to get him there. He had big plans and the energy to make them happen.  His instincts held true.  By 1915 Hall Bros. was manufacturing its own cards, on its own presses, in its own plant. In 1923, J.C., and brothers Bill and Rollie Hall, along with their 120 employees, moved from tiny offices and rental space in four separate buildings into a brand new six-story plant.  The rest is history.

George Burkhardt.   In 1941, a small group of greeting card publishers under the leadership of George Burkhardt of Burkhardt-Warner established the Greeting Card Industry, predecessor of today's Greeting Card Association. Formed in Christmas Postcardresponse to a War Department order to reduce paper use by 25%, the organization successfully fought the possible elimination of paper used for greeting cards during World War II by launching "Defense Stamp Christmas Cards" and V-Mail greeting cards to help promote defense stamps and war bonds. Another effort named "Greeting Cards in Wartime" showed how greeting cards helped keep families in touch and boost the morale of soldiers fighting abroad. Millions of greeting cards were provided by the association through the Red Cross to wounded servicemen.

Along with those mentioned above,
there were many other prominent Greeting Card Pioneers,

Among them:

Charles Goodall & Sons were playing-card manufacturers in London, England. They produced Christmas....

Marcus Ward & Co. 
A prominent publishing house in London, England from the mid 1860's to the mid 1890's....

Raphael Tuck & Sons
Publishers from the mid 1800's into the early 20th Century.  Raphael Tuck & Sons were proudly known...

Siegmund Hildesheimer & Co.
with publishing houses in Manchester and London, England, printed cards from the mid 1800's to the early 1900's under...

Thomas De La Rue
Thomas De La Rue, born in 1793 began his carrier working...

Wolff Hagelberg  
printed some of the most beautiful cards from the mid 1800's to the late 1800's possibly...

The next generation of Greeting Card Manufacturer's included:

Norcross Greeting Cards

Gibson Art Company ~ Coming Soon

Rust Craft ~ Coming Soon

Buzza Cards,  Fairfield Cards,  A Barker Card and more. (links coming soon)

The History of Postcards, Postcard Terminology
& Postcard Collecting
Foxing, Deltiology, Chrome, Divided Backs
and other Postcard and Greeting Card Jargon.

What does it all mean?

Postcard Time Line ~ History

Grading Postcards ~ Postcard Preservation and Terminology

Hold To Light Cards ~ What Are They?

What the heck is a Penny Dreadful?

Acrostics and Puzzle Cards ~ What do they look like?

Recommended  Reading

A Comprehensive List of Victorian, Edwardian
and Modern Card Manufacturers,
Printers and Artists


The Greeting Card Industry Today
Statistics / Mail Safety / Industry Facts & Forecasts

  • Current News 


    WASHINGTON, D.C., November 21, 2001 – Both the United States Postal Service (USPS) and the Greeting Card Association (GCA) predict that the American public will continue to send holiday cards as they have in years past. Independent research conducted for industry leaders American Greetings and Hallmark supports the conclusion that people are not concerned with handling their mail and will continue to send their holiday greeting cards.

    "According to our members, sales of greeting cards actually increased after September 11th," said GCA executive vice president, Marianne McDermott. "Historically, in times of stress, war or depression, people tend to send more greeting cards to keep in closer touch with family and friends."

    The independent consumer research revealed:
  • 99 percent of those polled want to stay in closer touch with family and friends since
    the September 11th. 
  • 86 percent are not concerned about handling or opening greeting cards or other
    personal mail. 
  • More than 90 percent plan to send the same number or more holiday cards this
    season (both paper and e-cards). 
  • More than 70 percent consider sending greeting cards a holiday tradition they
    cherish and will carry on. 
  • Less than 10 percent will be sending fewer cards due to the anthrax scare. 
    80 percent say they will mail their cards; 27 percent will hand deliver cards this

    "There is no indication that people are planning not to send greeting cards," says Jeff Petit, vice president of communications at American Greetings. "Quite the contrary. Early reports show that sales of holiday cards may actually be up, with themes of inspiration, patriotism and world peace being most popular."

    Julie O’Dell, public relations director at Hallmark agrees. "Consumers have told us the 100-year-old tradition of sending holiday greeting cards has more meaning this year. They will continue to use cards as an important way to connect with family and friends."

    The Postal Service has delivered more than 30 billion pieces of mail since the anthrax scare began. With increased security measures in place, the Postal Service looks forward to delivering this holiday mailing season. "Greeting card industry research bears out what I've felt all along: Americans will continue to share best wishes through the mail this holiday season with family and friends," said Postmaster General Jack Potter.

    "Exchanging holiday greeting cards," added Potter, "connects family and friends during these complex times. The 100-year tradition of sending cards is one more sign of the continuing strength and unity in the American people, and we're ready to deliver!"

    The Postal Service has a variety of initiatives planned to make mailing more convenient for consumers this holiday season, including extended window hours, a variety of seasonal stamps, and Stamps-by-Mail.

    Sending greeting cards is a universal custom that goes back one hundred years with 2.5 billion holiday cards sent each year. "Greeting cards are very recognizable mail to most of us. The receiver usually knows the sender’s handwriting and return address," McDermott adds. She reminds people to always include a legible return address.

    * Typically, between one-third and one-half of greeting cards are hand delivered during the holiday season.


    WASHINGTON, D.C., OCTOBER 19, 2001 - The strong desire to keep in touch with loved ones, family and friends means people are sending and receiving more greeting cards now than typically during this time of year, says the Greeting Card Association (GCA), the Washington, D.C. trade association for card publishers and manufacturers.

    "Greeting cards reflecting heart-felt emotions help us to maintain connections to people we care about, and also help people to cope with these uncertain times," says Marianne McDermott, executive vice president of the GCA. "Greeting cards have always been and will continue to be a favored form of communicating feelings to those we care about," McDermott adds.

    The GCA wants to aid the public in its awareness of suspicious mail. "If people just use prudent judgment, use common sense, there is nothing to fear," Postmaster General Jack Potter said Wednesday on NBC's "Today." "The mail is safe."

    The U.S. Postal Service recommends these guidelines for identifying suspicious mail. Typical characteristics include envelopes or parcels that:
  • Have any powdery substance on the outside; 
  • Are unexpected or from someone unfamiliar to you; 
  • Are addressed to someone no longer with your organization or home or are otherwise
  • Have no return address, or have one that can't be verified as legitimate; 
  • Are of unusual weight, given their size, or are lopsided or oddly shaped; 
  • Have an unusual amount of tape on them; 
  • Are marked with restrictive endorsements, such as "Personal" or "Confidential;" 
  • Have strange odors or stains; 
  • Show a city or state in the postmark that doesn't match the return address.
  • "Also, be sure to use your own handwriting and include your name and return address so the recipient knows who it's from," says McDermott. "Staying in touch with a greeting card can help many of us to express what is in our hearts, but sometimes difficult to put into words," she adds.

    The GCA represents approximately 170 member companies both in greeting card publishing and in allied industries in the United States and Canada. Americans send and receive some 7 billion greeting cards each year. 


    WASHINGTON, D.C., OCTOBER 26, 2001 - Since the September 11th acts of terrorism, attitudes in America have changed as we reassess our relationships and values. These sentiments will be reflected in greeting cards this holiday season and carry over into the New Year, according to the Greeting Card Association (GCA). Expect to see more greeting cards offering heartfelt and emotional messages, including care and concern, sympathy, support and encouragement to the recipient. Traditional peace and love holiday cards will have a new meaning this year, reflecting the world's global unity in our intolerance of terrorism. So, too, will greeting cards offering messages of hope and faith to cope during these times.

    Moreover, in light of the way the country has pulled together after September 11th, there is also a trend toward patriotic themes and American pride. Cards of red, white and blue are expected to be popular as well as greeting cards featuring the American Flag and acknowledging those who serve and protect the United States - the anonymous "everyday" heroes. Both American Greetings and Hallmark are reporting new cards this season reflecting these themes.

    The GCA remains optimistic about holiday card sales and points to the overall need for people to keep in close touch with family and friends.

    "At least for the near future, we don't expect personal mail habits throughout the U.S. to change," says Marianne McDermott, executive vice president of the GCA. Greeting cards are a traditional form of expressing one's emotions and due to the strong sentiments in this country, sales of greeting cards will be strong this holiday season, the GCA reports. The new trends in greeting cards, such as patriotism, will also spur sales, McDermott adds. 

    Over the years, while some factors have remained the same (women still purchase 80% of all greeting cards), there have been some significant changes including;  the increase in sales of everyday-general friendship cards, the growth in the number of greeting card publishers, and the projected need for more emotion-based me-to-you messages in the form of greeting cards.

    Today, there appears to be cards for every relationship, every occasion, every ethnicity, every age group, every gender and every special interest group. Greeting cards are being sold in more outlets than ever before, as well as being purchased and sent over the Internet. A single greeting card has the power to touch more people in more ways than any other form of communication, while conveying or eliciting a wide range of emotions. 

    General Industry Facts

    Today, the industry generates more than $7.5 billion in retail sales from consumer purchases of more than 7 billion cards. 

    Cards range in price from $0.38 to $10.00, with the average counter card retailing for around $2.00 - $4.00. Cards featuring special techniques, intricate designs and new technologies are at the top of the price scale.

    Estimates indicate that there are nearly 2,000 greeting card publishers in the U.S. today, ranging from major corporations to small family-run organizations. When the GCA was formed in 1941, there were only about 100 greeting card publishers with approximately $43 million in greeting card sales at the wholesale level.

    GCA publisher member companies account for approximately 90% of the industry market share.

    Consumer Participation

    Over 90% of all U.S. households participate in the greeting card category, purchasing at least one greeting card per year. Of this group, 87% of households purchase at least one card per year for an everyday occasion (birthday, anniversary, etc.), and 70% purchase at least one seasonal (holiday) card per year. Note: A small percentage of U.S. households purchase only seasonal (holiday) cards.

    The average participating U.S. household purchases 35 individual cards per year.

    People of all ages and types exchange greeting cards. Women purchase more than 80% of all greeting cards.

    Nine out of 10 Americans look forward to receiving personal letters and greeting cards because cards allow them to keep in touch with friends and family and make them feel that they are important to someone else.

    Personal greeting cards and letters are the primary types of mail people most look forward to receiving, open first and read thoroughly. 


    Of the total greeting cards purchased annually, roughly half are seasonal and the remaining half are for everyday card-sending situations.

    Greeting cards are available for more than 20 different holidays, including holidays of specific ethnic origins like Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and Chinese New Year. The most popular card-sending holiday remains Christmas, which accounts for over 60% of all individual seasonal cards sold.

    The next most popular holidays in order are: Valentine's Day, Mother's Day, Easter and Father's Day.  Together, the top five card-sending holidays account for 95.5% of individual seasonal card sales.

  • Christmas 61%
  • Valentine's Day 25%
  • Mother's Day 4%
  • Easter 3%
  • Father's Day 2.5%
  • Other 4.5%

    The most popular everyday card-sending situation is still Birthday, which accounts for nearly 60% of everyday cards sold.

    The next most popular everyday card-sending situations in order are: Anniversary, Get Well/Feel Better, Friendship/Encouragement and Sympathy. Together, the top five everyday sending situations account for approximately 87% of everyday cards sold.

  • Birthday 60%
  • Anniversary 8%
  • Get Well/Feel Better 7%
  • Friendship/Encouragement 6%
  • Sympathy 6%
  • Other 13%


    The average person receives more than 20 cards per year, about one-third of which are birthday cards.

    The most popular recipients of seasonal cards are parents, who receive about one out of every five seasonal cards.

    The most popular recipients of everyday cards are friends, who receive about one out of every three everyday cards.

    Industry Trends

    Since 1993, the number of U.S. households participating in the greeting card category has grown more than 6%.

    Greeting card retail growth recently has been driven primarily by sales of cards for everyday situations versus seasons (holidays) and by individual cards rather than from packaged or boxed cards.

    In keeping with casual Fridays and a more relaxed lifestyle, Americans are using casual, conversational cards for communicating with friends, neighbors and work associates in addition to using more traditional cards to recognize milestone occasions and special relationships.

    The State of the Industry Report also offers some insights on the future of the greeting card industry in the next millennium, including:

    Today's Consumers Value Greeting Cards

    A strong majority of consumers acknowledged they enjoy sending greeting cards and that greeting card sending is a valued family tradition.

    Consumers continue to recognize the unique benefits of greeting cards, and a strong majority offer the
    following opinions:
  • Greeting cards are more thoughtful than most other communication options.
  • Greeting cards show the recipient that he/she is special.
  • Greeting cards "make it easy to express feelings" and "help me express myself better than I can alone."
  • Greeting cards have sentimental value as keepsakes.
  • There is something uniquely appealing about the tactile, highly personal way ink-on- paper cards connect the sender with the recipient.

    Greeting Cards Are One of the Most Accessible Forms of Communication

    Although the growth in electronic communication has been widely publicized, only 48% of households had personal computers and only 37% of households had Internet access at the end of 1998. These percentages are expected to grow to 65% and 58%, respectively, by 2003 (Source: Inteco). By comparison, greeting cards can be found in about 100,000 retail outlets in the U.S., and over 90% of households participated in the greeting card category in 1998.

    Growth in discounting and, specifically, the emergence of the deep-discount channel, have provided price-sensitive consumers with greater access to affordable ink-on-paper greeting cards across a broader range of relationships and sending situations.

    Technology Growth and Innovation Will Stimulate Future Greeting Card Sales

    Electronic modes of communication (cellular telephones, faxes, PC-based communication) provide a convenient and inexpensive way to keep in touch.

    The proliferation of these new modes of communication is expected to, over time, increase the number of interpersonal relationships people are able to maintain, as well as increase the intimacy of those relationships.

    The "core" Internet users are men and younger adults who are not typical greeting card users. Increasing these consumers' involvement in communicating with friends and loved ones has the potential to increase their familiarity with the benefits of card sending.

    As a result, the need for emotion-based me-to-you messages will grow, with traditional greeting cards playing an important role in meeting those needs.

    EDITOR'S NOTE: A recent study released in the United Kingdom by research company Mintel indicates that, although the British "market is mature and sales are virtually static, increasing numbers of greeting card buyers are becoming passionate about greeting cards." Mintel's consumer research findings show that there are now more "Avid Enthusiasts" sending cards for a wide range of occasions than "Limited Enthusiasts" who only send cards for birthdays, Christmas and a few other occasions. The number of "Limited Enthusiasts" has decreased 4% while "Avid Enthusiasts" have increased 5%. The number of hard core non-senders in the UK is approximately 5% of the British population.

    Growing Internet Usage Boosts the Greeting Card Industry

    Just as the VCR has not been the death of the movie house, so too the Internet will not be the death knell of the paper greeting card industry. As a matter of fact, it may be just the opposite, reveals a recent sociological study by Dr. Barry Wellman, professor of Sociology at the University of Toronto, and Dr. Keith Hampton, professor of Urban Studies and Planning at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

    In a two year study of a new residential Toronto suburb wired with high speed Internet access, the researchers discovered that wired residents were "more active in the community, had more neighborhood social ties and communicated with those ties more frequently" than non-wired citizens. (1)

    In addition, "wired residents had significantly more contact than non-wired: 68 percent of wired residents reported that their overall level of social contact either increased or remained the same as compared with only 45 percent of non-wired residents." (2) Increased social contact means more interpersonal relationships.

    Furthermore, the ease of computer-mediated communication only enhances the intimacy of those relationships. Not only are computers bringing people closer together, they are also getting people back into the habit of correspondence by writing. In fact, e-mail and electronic greetings are complementing paper greeting cards, not replacing them.

    For example, there will always be those occasions, such as weddings, sympathy or Christmas, when sending an e-mail or electronic greeting is inappropriate. Paper greeting cards, on the other hand, show one took the time to look for, consider and purchase a card just for them. E-mail is just so easy, that it’s not really special.

    Indeed, the Wellman and Hampton study concluded, "computer- mediated communication is just another method of social contact to be used in forming new social ties and in maintaining existing social networks."  Actually, "Computer-mediated communication seems especially useful for increasing contact and support for those who previously had been just out of reach." (3)

    If anything, the Internet is helping to foster the use of traditional forms of communication by enabling a whole new generation to expand its network of family and friends it wishes to stay in touch with over time. This study confirms that the increased use of the Internet and e-mail will, in the long run, bolster the greeting card industry.

    The Internet naturally promotes communication, and of course communication is what relationships are about – and an increased number of relationships is good news for the traditional greeting card market.

    (1) Hampton, Keith (2001). "Broadband Neighborhoods - Connected Communities." In Kori Inkpen and Jean Vanderdonckt (eds.) CHI 201 Extended Abstracts. ACM Press. Forthcoming

    (2) Hampton, Keith & Barry Wellman (2001). "Long Distance Community in the Network Society: Looking at Contact and Support Beyond the Borders of Netville." American Behavioral Scientist. Forthcoming.

    (3) Ibid.

The Greeting Card Industry Information Today -  is Courtesy The Greeting Card Association
2002 The Greeting Card Association Statistics


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