Christmas postcards, 1913
I thought this Christmas postcard from 1913 was interesting because the Father Christmas figure really does look more like an eastern Saint Nicholas than a western Santa Claus. The hat is different than the red cap with white pom-pom or tassel and the fur trim is brown rather than white. The bag of toys includes a blond doll, a train, what looks like a ball, and a flag with light blue and light green bands. Father Christmas is holding another doll or possibly a nutcracker with a Chinese motif.
The first commercial Christmas cards appeared in England in 1843 the idea of Sir Henry Cole and his friend, John Horsley, an artist as a way to encourage more people to use the new postal service. The card was a tri-fold and cost 1 shilling. The two side panels showed people caring for the poor and folded over the center section with a picture of a family having a Christmas dinner forming the envelope and card all in one. As new railways were built the “Penny Post” (public postal delivery service) that was established in 1840 could offer to deliver an unsealed envelope for one halfpenny or half the cost of a regular letter. Approximately 1000 cards were printed and sold making any that have survived time very rare today.
By the 1860s and 1870s printing methods had improved and Christmas cards gained popularity. It also helped that the price of sending a postcard dropped to half a penny and meant even more people could afford to send them. The custom of sending cards at Christmas began in the United States in the 1840s but was expensive. It wasn’t until 1875 that a German born printer, Louis Prang, started mass-producing cards. While early cards featured Nativity scenes, robins, and snow scenes, the new cards also featured flowers, plants and children. By the early 1900s the custom had spread all over Europe too. John C. Hall and two of his brothers created Hallmark Cards in 1915 and that company is still one of the largest greeting card companies today.
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