|This card is believed to be the very first mass-produced Christmas card. It was designed by English painter John Calcott Horsley for his friend Henry Cole. Courtesy of Southern Methodist University Bridwell Library.|
English painter John Calcott Horsley (1817-1903) is believed to have designed the very first mass-produced Christmas card in 1843. The three-paneled or triptych card was hand-colored and designed for Calcott’s friend, Henry Cole, founder and director of the Victoria and Albert Museum. As the story goes, Cole couldn’t find the time and was too harried and busy to write the traditional Christmas note or letter and wanted, instead, a quick way to send a Christmas greeting to friends and family. (Sound familiar?)
The middle panel of the card features a family heartily enjoying food, wine and merriment. The panel to the left shows a family in need receiving food, while the panel to the right shows a family in need receiving clothes. The scenes are framed with branches and ivy. The greeting: “A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to You” is printed on a pink banner in the middle panel.
As a recent article in the Telegraph points out, the lithograph card ignited a controversy and was criticized for depicting underage drinking in the form of a child sipping a glass of wine. Cole also sold extra cards for a shilling apiece which some thought was much too expensive.
It is thought that about 1,000 cards were produced. One of ten believed to have survived is held in the special collections at Southern Methodist University’s Bridwell Library.
MERRY CHRISTMAS & HAPPY HOLIDAYS!
For more on this card and the tradition of sending Christmas cards, please visit the following links: