The Edmondson Blog

Very First Christmas Card

The first ever commercially printed Christmas Card was printed in London in 1843. Sir Henry Cole, a senior civil servant in the Post Office decided he was too busy to write individual Christmas greetings to his family, friends and business colleagues, so he asked his friend, the painter John Callcott Horsley, to design a card with an image and brief greeting that he could send instead.

Horsley designed a triptych, with the two side panels depicting good deeds (clothing the naked and feeding the hungry) and the centre panel showing a family Christmas party. A thousand were printed and hand coloured, and sold for a shilling each. Twelve cards survive including the one Cole sent to his grandmother.

The inclusion of booze got Cole and Horsley in trouble from the British Temperance Movement, especially the child having a sip of wine.

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