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Christmas Cards



Norman Rockwell | Christmas Card | Two sleeping children, 1952

The first recorded Christmas cards were sent by Michael Maier to James I of England and his son Henry Frederick, Prince of Wales in 1611.
The next cards were commissioned by Sir Henry Cole and illustrated by John Callcott Horsley in London on 1 May 1843.
The central picture showed three generations of a family raising a toast to the card's recipient: on either side were scenes of charity, with food and clothing being given to the poor.


Allegedly the image of the family drinking wine together proved controversial, but the idea was shrewd: Cole had helped introduce the Penny Post three years earlier. Two batches totaling 2. 050 cards were printed and sold that year for a shilling each.
Early British cards rarely showed winter or religious themes, instead favoring flowers, fairies and other fanciful designs that reminded the recipient of the approach of spring. Humorous and sentimental images of children and animals were popular, as were increasingly elaborate shapes, decorations and materials.
At Christmas 1873, the lithograph firm Prang and Mayer began creating greeting cards for the popular market in Britain The firm began selling the Christmas card in America in 1874, thus becoming the first printer to offer cards in America.
Its owner, Louis Prang, is sometimes called the "father of the American Christmas card".
By the 1880s, Prang was producing over five million cards a year by using the chromolithography process of printmaking.
However, the popularity of his cards led to cheap imitations that eventually drove him from the market.


The advent of the postcard spelled the end for elaborate Victorian-style cards, but by the 1920s, cards with envelopes had returned.
The extensive Laura Seddon Greeting Card Collection from the Manchester Metropolitan University gathers 32,000 Victorian and Edwardian greeting cards, printed by the major publishers of the day, including Britain's first commercially produced Christmas card.






Quella che è considerata la prima cartolina natalizia "ufficiale" della storia, o - per meglio dire - la prima cartolina natalizia a essere realizzata e stampata per usi commerciali, fece però la sua comparsa solo nel 1843, quando l'uomo d'affari inglese Henry Cole (1802-1882), che lavorava alle poste britanniche, commissionò al disegnatore e amico John Callcott Horsley la realizzazione di 1.000 cartoline natalizie da inviare ai propri amici.
Horsley disegnò così una famiglia, composta da elementi di varie generazioni e intenta a festeggiare il Natale con un brindisi a base di punch (fatto che non mancò di suscitare polemiche) e che recava la scritta a lettere maiuscole "A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to You" (ovvero "Un Buon Natale e un Felice Anno Nuovo a te/voi").
Le cartoline, ognuna delle quali misurava 8,5 x 14,5 cm, furono stampate a litografia presso la Jobbins of Warwick Court di Holborn (Londra) e colorate da un pittore professionista, un certo Mason. Le mille cartoline furono acquistate da Cole al costo di 1 scellino l'una.
Lo stesso Cole le firmò con il proprio "nome di battaglia", ovvero Felix Suddenly.
Secondo alcuni, tuttavia, la prima vera cartolina natalizia della storia potrebbe essere una cartolina conservata nel British Museum, realizzata dal sedicenne William Egley Jr. e databile tra il 1842-1849.