History of the Christmas Card

Will you be sending Christmas cards this year? It seems a little redundant nowadays when friends who are hundreds of miles away can be reached in 30 seconds via text and you already read what would be included on Auntie Joan’s round robin on Facebook. However, we believe that’s exactly why we should still send them. It means double the amount it used to that you took the time to sit down and write a card to say you’re thinking of someone at Christmas.

Of course it was the masters of Christmas, the Victorians, who made the first commercial Christmas card In 1843. Henry Cole – an industrial designer who is also considered the designer of the first postage stamp and helped establish the Victoria and Albert Museum – commissioned the card which depicted a family raising a glass of wine and read “A Merry Christmas and Happy New Year To You.” The illustrator, John Callcott Horsley, was rector and treasurer of the Royal Academy of Art at the time. One of the first ever cards, sent from Cole to his grandmother, fetched £22,500 at auction in 2001.

Christmas cards have become a tradition all over the world and with some of our favourite vintage icons…

  • Vivien Lee and Laurence Olivier had their Christmas cards made up by Roger Furse, a famous theatre art director. In 1953 their Christmas greetings were sent out with an illustration of the couple in Sleeping Beauty.
  • Before Andy Warhol became a pop-art sensation, he worked on a number of commercial projects including Christmas cards for Tiffany’s. They were, as you might expect, brightly coloured and his signature cheeky style is present in messages such as “a Christmas card from mademoiselle” and the image of a pointed, red ankle boot with a holly bush growing out of it.
  • In 1961, cabaret star and screen goddess Marlene Dietrich took part in a UNICEF fundraiser selling Christmas cards to the public. The UNICEF Christmas card programme was started in 1949 to raise money from the sale of cards which featured images from famous artists such as Picasso and Matisse.

Wishing you all a very ‘Merry Christmas’

Clerkenwell Vintage Fashion Fair x

Join our Mailing list!

Get all latest news, and exclusive event updates.