History of Christmas Postcards

When I sat down last week to take care of the most time-consuming and expensive of all my Christmas projects–that of preparing Christmas cards–I wondered how this dying art form got its start. Hallmark says the history of the Christmas card only goes back 175 years, to 1844. It was the idea of a gentleman in the United Kingdom, a Sir Henry Cole. He worked as a civil servant in England, and helped pass a bill lowering the cost of postage to encourage people to use the postal system.

The first card was mostly monochromatic, not at all like the cards of today, which are decorated with glitter and gold. It featured a banquet scene that was highly controversial since the children pictured were drinking wine. Color was not introduced until the Victorian era.


Image Source: Egley Christmas Card

Postcards were introduced around the same time as the Christmas card, but the earliest cards did not include room for a message, The picture was on one side and the back side was only used for the address of the recipient. However, in 1907, the back half of the card was split in half, leaving room for a short message. Christmas-themed postcards quickly became fashionable. Postcards were a less expensive way to send tidings to one another. Not only was it cheaper to send, but the small area to write a message meant no long letters were needed to accompany each card.

My grandmother collected postcards, and I am the keeper of her album. I went through it recently and found postcards showing scenes from Italy and Spain, even though she never left the states. I guess she felt this was the only way she’d ever see Europe.  Her collection of Easter and Christmas postcards is colorful and spans the years from 1910-1920. Postage for all postcards was one penny. Postcards containing photos instead of prints did not appear until 1939. After World War II they became a staple for the tourist industry. The price to send a postcard did not change until 1952, when it doubled to two cents.

I know Grandma would be proud for me to share her collection of Christmas postcards with you.










Enjoy these reminiscences from another time, and have a great holiday.

Grandma knows best.