His 1843 answer to cut n' paste? Sir Henry commissioned John Calcott Horsley to paint a card showing the feeding and clothing of the poor. A center panel displayed a happy family embracing one another, sipping wine and enjoying the festivities. And where did his good intentions get him? The card drew criticism because showing a child enjoying a sip of wine was considered "fostering the moral corruption of children." Crap! "A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to You" was printed on that first card. Legend says Sir Henry didn't send any cards the following year, but the custom became popular anyway.
Holiday cards designed by Kate Greenaway, the Victorian children's writer and illustrator and Frances Brundage and Ellen H. Clapsaddle, were favorites in the late 1800's and early 1900's. Most were elaborate , decorated with fringe, silk and satin. Some were shaped liked fans and crescents; others were cut into the shapes of bells, birds, candles and even plum puddings. You know, for the poor. Some folded like maps or fitted together as puzzles; other squealed or squeaked. Pop-up Cards reveled tiny mangers or skaters with flying scarves gliding around a mirrored pond. Sure beats the one I made at Costco.
For more than 30 years, Americans had to import greeting cards from England. Apparently it was just too high concept or high tech for Americans to figure out. In 1875, Louis Prang, a German immigrant to the U.S., opened a lithographic shop with $250 and published the first line of U.S. Christmas cards. His initial creations featured flowers and birds, unrelated to the Christmas scene. By 1881, Prang was producing more than five million Christmas cards each year. His Yuletide greetings began to feature snow scenes, fir trees, glowing fireplaces and children playing with toys. His painstaking craftsmanship and lithographic printing have made his cards a favorite of collectors today. Christmas Cards have changed since the days of Sir Henry and Louis Prang. They now sport comics, jokes and clever verses. You'll find these at Spencers at the mall. But those that picture timeless and simple settings such as excited children around a Christmas tree, Nativity scenes, nature scenes and carolers singing in the snow are still in the highest demand today.It seems the trend will become just an elaborate Facebook post, somehow sponsored by Hallmark in the next couple years.