Christmas Card Day is celebrated annually on December 9. John Callcott Horsley (1817-1903), a British narrative painter and Royal Academician, designed the first Christmas and New Year’s card in 1840 at the suggestion and request of his friend, Sir Henry Cole (1818-1874), the first director of the Victoria and Albert Museum. Christmas cards designed by Horsley were first sent in 1843 when 1,000 cards were offered for 1 shilling each. The cards, showing a family with their glasses raised to toast Christmas, were well-received by most people except by the Puritans. The first Christmas card’s inscription read, “Merry Christmas and A Happy New Year to You.” “Merry” was then a spiritual word meaning “blessed,” as in “Merry Old England.” Christmas cards became very popular and other artists quickly followed Horsley’s concept.
Until 1875, Americans had to import their Christmas cards from Europe. The first greeting card was produced in the U.S. by German lithographer Louis Prang, who immigrated to New York City around 1850. In 1860, Prang produced the first color cards with nature scenes of winter for Christmas and New Year’s. During the Civil War, President Lincoln had political cartoonist Thomas Nast illustrate Santa Christmas (Santa Claus); Nast was the first artist to introduce Father Christmas in the traditional red suit and leather belt.
Read this article and more in our December newsletter.
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