The Christmas Card  Christmas cards originated in England over 150 years ago.  "You cannot reach perfection though you try however hard to there's always one more friend or so you should have sent a card to," wrote Richard Armour.  Sir Henry Cole knew exactly what Armour was saying.  The founder of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London had so many Christmas greetings to send that handwriting them was impossible.   Yet he wanted to make his friends aware of the need to help the destitute on that holiday. 

The answer.  In the year 1843, Sir Henry commissioned John Calcott Horsley to paint a card showing theThe First Christmas Card by John Calcott Horsley feeding and clothing of the poor.  A center panel displayed a happy family embracing one another, sipping wine and enjoying the festivities. (So much for good intentions. 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 that first card.  Legend says Sir Henry didn't send any cards the following year, but the custom became popular anyway. 

Holiday cards designed by Kate Greenaway, the Victorian children's writer and illustrator and Frances Brundage and Ellen H. Clapsaddle, were favorites in the late 1800's and early 1900's.  Most were elaborate , decorated with fringe, silk and satin.  Some were shaped liked fans and crescents; others were cut into the shapes of bells, birds, candles and even plum puddings.  Some folded like maps or fitted together as puzzles; other squealed or squeaked.  Pop-up Cards reveled tiny mangers or skaters with flying scarves gliding around a mirrored pond. 

Christmas Card by Louis PrangFor 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.  Christmas Cards have changed since the days of Sir Henry and Louis Prang.  They now sport comics, jokes and clever verses.  But those that picture timeless and simple settings such as excited children around a Christmas tree, Nativity scenes, nature scenes and carolers singing in the snow are still in the highest demand today.
- Juddi Morris, Vivian Hotchkiss

And now, our Christmas Gallery.  We're sure you will enjoy your journey through some of our oldest and most unusual cards.

Christmas Gallery Page One
Click on the thumbnail images to view cards in their actual size.



Christmas Card  Christmas Card
Mfg. Unknown
Circa: Late 1800's
One of our most prized cards, this embossed cut-out  paper lace card has Gold Foil on the bell and leaves, Velvet on the flowers and some gold glitter as a final touch. A delicate purple bow hold the inside sheet of the card which reads:  "May Christmas bring you all pure and perfect happiness. To you, like birds, my wishes wing their way singing, with naught to mar their warmth and lightness, may purest pleasures crown your Christmas Day and make your home a scene of love and brightness.



Wolff Hagelberg Christmas Card
Mfg. Wolff Hagelberg
Made in Berlin, Germany
Circa: 1892
This is a tiny Christmas Card that reads: "A hearty Christmas greeting. Happy and free from care may you ever be, Merry days, jolly days, may you ever see."


Christmas Card
Mfg. Unknown
Series:  C32 C N
Circa: Early 1900's
Embossed, Gold Leafed Postcard reads:
"A Merry Christmas."





Aluminum ~ Tin Christmas Card
Mfg. Unknown
Circa: 1930's
Very unusual small bright and shiny cards are made from very thin tin or aluminum.   They each have another small paper card attached to the front as well.  The pink boot is marked 861 and has a fold out in the back so it can stand on its own.   It reads: "Christmas Wishes, Wishing you everything good at Christmas."   The green train is not marked and reads: "Hi There! Wishing A Joyous Christmas and Much Happiness in the New Year."



Louis Prang Christmas CardLouis Prang Christmas CardLouis Prang Christmas Card
    Mfg. L. Prang & Co., Boston
Circa: 1881
Two of the most prized cards in our collection, these cards are made by Louis Prang a pioneer of the greeting card industry. You can read about Mr. Prang in the History section of the Museum.  These two cards are fine examples of the earliest Christmas Cards. The first card reads: "Good Wishes in Myriads! The back (center card) reads: "Merry Christmas". The second card reads: "A Glad Christmas to you!"





Embossed Velveteen Christmas Card
Mfg. Unknown
Made in Germany
Circa: early 1900's
Series:  583
Double layer Post Card. The front is Embossed with Velveteen leaves and birds, the sleigh and bells are gold leafed.  The back has a flat surface. The card reads: "A Merry Christmas". The text and border are also is Gold Leafed.



Christmas Gallery
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10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18,
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