Looking Back: Christmas greetings cards from the past

Published 5:33 pm Friday, December 20, 2019


These Christmas greeting cards are from a collection owned by Sharon Stratton of Danville. She is an avid historian and collector of historic items she and her family have gathered for years. Many of the postcards have one-cent stamps from the early 1900s and others have never been mailed. 

The first Christmas cards were sent in 1611 England but did not become an American tradition until the late 1800s. The early cards rarely showed winter and religious themes. They favored flowers, fairies and other fanciful designs that reminded people of spring.

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The first Christmas greeting cards tradition began in 1874, when the lithograph firm of Prang and Mayer of Britain began selling them in America.

Louis Prang was sometimes called the “father of the American Christmas card,” because he was the printer to offer cards in America.

Postcard greetings began in the late 1800s and that was the end of elaborate Victorian style cards until about 1920 when cards and envelopes returned.

Cards with patriotic themes began during the World Wars, and cartoon illustrations and humor caught on in the 1950s.

Changes in the 21st century shows a decline in the Christmas card due to email and telephones.

Victorian-era cards are collector’s items and have sold for thousands of dollars at auctions.