Who started this whole ‘holiday card’ thing anyway?

holiday card inventor henry cole
Henry looks like he needed a break from the holiday madness…

Holiday cards have been around for over 100 years…169 years to be exact! In 1843, Sir Henry Cole (an English civil servant and inventor)¬†commissioned John Calcott Horsley to draw a Christmas greeting card. The tradition at the time was to pen personalized greetings to friends and family, but Cole was a prominent businessman and decided that, with his hectic schedule, he would do a mass mailing of uniform, hand-colored lithographed cards instead. (The more things change, the more they stay the same!)

The card that Horsley designed was a triptych (a three panel design that folded out). The two side panels depicted good deeds like feeding the hungry, and the center panel showed a family feasting and drinking wine. If you look closely at the image below, you can see a mother holding a cup of wine that her child is drinking! – According to some accounts, this did not make the British temperance movement very happy at all…

holiday card historic
Merry Christmas…wine for everyone!

The printer made over 1,000 cards, and once Cole got the number he needed, the printer sold off the extras, and a new tradition was born. Christmas cards became popular in many parts of Europe, but they didn’t make their way to the United States for another 30 years. A Boston lithographer, Louis Prang, began to make high-end cards that featured flower arrangements rather than traditional Christmas themes. He was eventually forced out of business in 1890 as Americans favored penny Christmas postcards imported from Germany. By WWI, the Christmas cards were the norm for wishing holiday cheer.

Today, the options for holiday cards are endless…over 2 BILLION holiday-themed cards are exchanged in the United States each year, and there are numerous unique ways to express your holiday spirit. The “penny” cards of today come from places like Costco and give nice, but somewhat cookie-cutter results (mmmm….Christmas cookies…).

Meanwhile, Photoshop makes it easier than ever for professional photographers and designers to create stylish, customized cards that will stay on people’s mantles into the new year. The sky is the limit…choose a color scheme, design elements, card style…whatever your heart desires, or have your photographer present a few options to keep it simple.¬†Henry Cole was on to something…commission an artist to take care of your cards and get back to the things you really want to do this holiday season, like spending time with family, decorating the house, baking those Christmas cookies…

What’s that you say? You WANT to create your own holiday card? Here are some tips to make it great.

  • Have a professional photographer (like Spark) at least take the picture you will use for your card…the design of the card may be really cute, but the whole thing can be ruined if you stick a lousy looking photo into it
  • Use a photo that is well-lit and in focus, and try to make sure there is light in people’s eyes
  • Set your camera so that you are getting a good quality image (especially if the picture will be stretched to 5×7 or greater) – if you don’t know how to do this, talk to your local professional photographer at Spark Photography
  • That warehouse store where everyone goes is fine, but there are a LOT of other affordable (and at least somewhat personalized) options online…just make sure you get your order in on time for the holiday cut off, and allow time for shipping and time for you to get them out to friends and family.

If you do decide that this is your year to turn the card creation over to someone else, Spark is here for you! – I could have done WONDERS with Henry Cole’s baggy eyes in Photoshop…

We still have great holiday deals going on until October 6th…after that, prices go up, so don’t delay. Call or email us today…even if you just want to talk about how to capture your own holiday card image the right way.

All the best to you and yours.





Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *