In 1843 England, Henry Cole had too much correspondence to keep up with. Not answering all the letters he received at Christmastime would be impolite. Then he got an idea
An artist friend illustrated a scene he had in mind, a family celebrating the holiday at the table, bordered by images of people helping the poor. Cole had a thousand copies made by a London printer on stiff cardboard. At the top was the salutation, “To: _____” along with “A Merry Christmas and A Happy New Year to You.” Cole added his friends’ names and sent out the first Christmas cards.
|An 1877 card doesn't look Christmassy.|
A German immigrant created the first Christmas card in the United States in 1875. Louis Prang’s card featured a painting of a flower and read “Merry Christmas.” Early American Christmas cards were beautiful, but didn’t contain a Christmas or holiday image.
Modern Christmas cards began in 1915, when a postcard printing company started by Joyce Hall in Kansas City, published its first Christmas card. He was joined by his brothers, Rollie and William, and the Hall Brothers Company adapted a four-inch-wide by six-inch-high format, folded once, and inserted into an envelope. Postcards didn't have enough room for folks who wanted to write a short message, but not a whole letter. A decade later, the company changed its name to Hallmark.
During World War I, sending cards to soldiers was considered a good way to boost morale. Many combined patriotic and religious symbols, while others sought funds to support war orphans or refugees. Cards sent during World War II differed in spirit and appearance. Many WWII cards made no reference to the war, but conveyed a longing for peace with an underlying optimism.
Resource: Smithsonian magazine