Turn of the Century Holiday Cards

The idea of the modern Christmas card is credited to Sir Henry Cole, the first director of the Victoria and Albert Museum in England. At his request, John Calcott Horsley created a card depicting three generations of a family toasting and drinking together. In 1843 Horsley printed 1,000 of these cards thus producing the first commercial Christmas card.

A majority of the Christmas cards sold in the United States prior to 1875 were from Europe. It was not until the early 1870s that German immigrant Louis Prang began commercially producing greeting cards in the United States. These early American cards followed the same themes as their European counterparts—children, animals, springtime, and humor. Increasing competition from other manufacturers and the advent of the “penny postcard” spelled the decline of the elaborate Victorian cards of the late nineteenth century. Below is a sampling of the Museum’s collection of late nineteenth and early twentieth century greeting cards.

Happy Holidays from the staff of the Lynchburg Museum!