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The First Christmas Card

Updated on September 25, 2012

The first commercial Christmas card was designed and printed in London in 1843, at the suggestion of British businessman, Sir Henry Cole and featured an illustration of John Callcott Horsley (1817-1903), a well known British painter and member of the Royal Academy.

At that time Henry Cole had to send hundreds of Christmas messages, which he thought would take a lot of time and then came up with the idea of Christmas cards. He commissioned the card because pressure of business had prevented him from writing to all his friends at Christmas, as was his usual custom.

The First Christmas Card

The card shows three pictures:

  • In the centre, the card depicted three generations of a family in a party, raising a toast to the recipient of the card .
  • to one side the hungry receiving food;
  • to the other side the poor being clothed.

The card drew criticism because showing a child enjoying a sip of wine was considered "fostering the moral corruption of children. But with most people the idea was a great success and the Christmas card quickly became very popular

One thousand were printed from a lithographic stone by Jobbins of Warwick Court, Holborn, London. They were lithograph on a single piece of pasteboard measuring 5 x 3 1/4 inch. and coloured by hand by an artist named Mason. with a greeting: "A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to You." It also states that is was "Published at Summerly's Home Treasury Office, 12 Old Bond Street, London.

All the surplus to the requirements of Cole and Horsley were sold by the printer for 1s each.

Although 1,000 were printed, very few are known to remain in existence today.

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    • R Burow profile image

      R Burow 8 years ago from Florida, United States

      Wow ! To think the first Christmas card still exist. I am a bit surprised that the first card was not religious. I would have thought the first was a nativity card. I learned something. Thanks.

    • MM Del Rosario profile image

      MM Del Rosario 9 years ago from NSW, Australia

      @G-Ma Johnson - thanks for dropping by and I am glad you like the hub.

      @teeray - I got this info from "The Book of First" by Patrick Robertson. which list down information and events (big and small) that helped changed the world, a very useful reference. It also help me to verify facts that I found in the internet.

      Just an update, when I added my EBay capsule look what is on my EBAY The First Genuine Christmas Card 1843 Made in London Current Bid: $15000.00 . It still exist.

    • teeray profile image

      teeray 9 years ago from Canada

      Very cool hub! Wow, where did you track this info down?

    • G-Ma Johnson profile image

      Merle Ann Johnson 9 years ago from NW in the land of the Free

      That was very interesting..Actually never thought about where the first Christmas card originated from..Thanks for that, very much G-Ma