Behold! The Very First Christmas Card (1843)


Christmas playing cards aren’t simply an anachronism.

They’re nearly an endangered species, the sufferer of the Web, postal price will increase, and the jettisoning of any time consuming custom whose execution has been discovered to deliver the reverse of pleasure.

Above, Victoria and Albert Museum curators Alice Energy and Sarah Beattie take us on a backwards journey to a time when the trade of Christmas playing cards was a supply of true social merriment.

Christmas playing cards should maintain a particular place in each the V&A’s collections and coronary heart, on condition that the museum’s founder, Henry Cole, inadvertently invented them in 1843.

As a effectively revered man about city, he obtained an awesome many extra vacation letters than he had time or inclination to reply to, however neither did he want to seem impolite.

So he enlisted his good friend, painter J.C. Horsley, to create a festive illustration with a built-in vacation greeting, leaving simply sufficient area to personalize with a recipient’s title and maybe, a handwritten line or two.

He then had sufficient postcard-sized reproductions printed as much as ship to 1000 of his pals.

(It’s hell being in style…)

Discuss zeitgeist: Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol was first printed that exact same vacation season.

No surprise everybody wished in on the enjoyable.

A part of the rationale the playing cards within the V&A’s assortment are so effectively preserved is that their recipients prized them sufficient to maintain them in memento albums.

Understandably. They’re very interesting little artifacts.

The higher crust might afford such fancy design components as intelligent die-cut shapes, pop up components, and translucent home windows that inspired the recipients to carry them as much as precise home windows.

Technological advances within the printing trade, and the creation of the cost-effective Penny Publish allowed these whose budgets had been extra modest than Mr. Cole’s to take part too.

Their playing cards tended to be easier in execution, although not essentially idea.

Along with the views we’ve come to count on – winter, Father Christmas, holly – the Victorians had a factor for jolly anthropomorphized meals and a few really shameless puns.

Get pleasure from these Ghosts of Christmas Previous, expensive readers. We’re nearly impressed to revive the custom!

Learn extra in regards to the creation of this custom, together with the way it jumped the pond, in Smithsonian Journal’s Historical past of the Christmas Card.

Associated Content material 

When Salvador Dalí Created Christmas Playing cards That Have been Too Avant Garde for Hallmark (1960)

J.R.R. Tolkien Despatched Illustrated Letters from Father Christmas to His Children Each 12 months (1920-1943)

Langston Hughes’ Home made Christmas Playing cards From 1950

Watch Terry Gilliam’s Animated Quick, The Christmas Card (1968)

Hear Neil Gaiman Learn A Christmas Carol Simply Like Charles Dickens Learn It

An Oscar-Successful Animation of Charles Dickens’ Basic Story, A Christmas Carol (1971)

Ayun Halliday is the Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine and writer, most just lately, of Artistic, Not Well-known: The Small Potato Manifesto.  Observe her @AyunHalliday.


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