The History of Holiday Greeting Cards

Wishing friends and family a Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays via an annual greeting card is something we take for granted today. But have you ever wondered when it all began or how greeting cards have evolved?

  • Early greeting cards started out as simple slips of papyrus that were exchanged by both the Egyptians and Chinese as messages of goodwill.
  • The British Museum has a Valentine from the 1400s that is considered the oldest known greeting card in existence.
  • By 1840, the introduction of the postage stamp assisted the popularity of greeting cards. These early cards were created as works of art.
  • In 1843 Sir Henry Cole (London) commissioned a card illustrated by John Callcott Horsley. The focus was on the image rather than the greeting card message. 1000 of these cards were produced and sold for 1 shilling each.
  • By the 1860’s when cheap colour printing came along almost everyone could afford cards and a new industry took off. What was once relatively expensive, hand-made and personalized item, became an effective and affordable way to communicate.
  • In the 1900’s greeting cards, particularly christmas cards evolved based on the designs and fashions of the times. These were the influences of the 1920’s Art Deco movement, the satirical commentaries on poverty and prohibition during the 1930’s and finally the humour oriented cards of the 1950’s.
  • Humour continues to be popular today, as does religious motifs, winter pictures and romantic scenes of times gone by.
  • Today greeting cards are a billion dollar industry and come in all sizes that include singing cards, digital cards and e-cards

Finding the right card or perfect message can be alot of fun and for many people a way to get into the spirit of the holiday season. Happy Holidays everyone!

Want to read more? Get a new article directly into your inbox every month: