Christmas Card History
By Jane Clancy

** Editor's note: My mother tore this brief article from an old magazine of undetermined origin.  I found the article when my sisters and I were clearing out my mother's estate.  I wanted to pass this along to those who love Christmas and the joy of sending and receiving holiday cards.  My most sincere apologies to both author and publication....
Over 150 years ago, one of the worlds' favorite holiday traditions was born; the sending of Christmas cards.

The first card was the brainchild of London businessman Henry Cole, who decided that he just did not have enough time to write the personal message to relatives and friends that had become the custom during the Christmas season.

Cole asked his friend John Calcott Horsley, an artist and member of the Royal Academy, to design a card he could put in an envelope and mail.  Horsley's three-panel, pastel-tinted design features a jolly Victorian family toasting the season.  At each side are depictions of two of the oldest traditions of Christmas - feeding the hungry and clothing the needy.

Cole's idea soon caught on around the country, aided in large part by the 1840 Penny Postage Act, which allowed anyone in England to send mail to friends near and far for a mere penny.

Christmas cards became popular in America after Louis Prang perfected the lithographic process of multicolor printing in the 1870's.

By 1881, Prang was printing almost 5 million Christmas cards yearly.  He sponsored art contests with prizes up to $1,000 to get original designs for his cards.

Today, card designs number in the thousands.  May are the work of famous artis or noted persons such as Pablo Picasso, Henry Fonda, and Grandma Moses.  Americans exchange over 2.5 billion Christmas cards every year.