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A Long Tradition: A Short History of Christmas Cards


The world’s first commercially produced Christmas card, designed by John Callcott Horsley for Henry Cole in 1843.

In addition to buying presents for family and friends, there’s another equally important tradition during this holiday season – sending Christmas cards!

Did you know that the world’s first commercially produced Christmas card dates back to England in 1843? It was commissioned by Sir Henry Cole and designed by John Callcott Horsley.

This commercial card was innovative yet controversial for the time. Its innovation lay in the fact that it helped develop the modern postal system – a fact which Sir Henry Cole cleverly capitalized on, as he helped introduce the “Penny Post” three years prior.

Its controversy was rooted in the design: it showed a young child alongside adults, drinking wine from a glass. However, on either side of this colorful image were black and white images of charity: the family was giving food and clothing to the poor.

Unlike most Christmas cards today, early English Christmas cards typically had illustrations of flowers, fairies, and other beautiful designs to show the arrival of spring. Humorous or sentimental images of children and animals were also popular.

Nearly 30 years after the first commercial card was produced, the lithograph firm Prang and Mayer become the first printer to offer cards in America. Its owner, Louis Prang, has been called the “father of the American Christmas card.”

Important events, such as both World Wars and mainstream adoption of the internet, have impacted the popularity of Christmas cards. However, the ability to customize your personal and business Christmas cards have generated new excitement in a 175-year old industry.

For the past 10 years, Ziti Cards has joyfully helped businesses across 8 different industries – from Architecture to Trucking – create one-of-a-kind, customized Holiday cards for their clients and customers!

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