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The Santa Card

Credit for designing the first Christmas card is given to John Callcott Horsley (1817-1903), a British narrative painter and a Royal Academician. He designed the card in 1843 for his friend Sir Henry Cole, the first director of the Victoria and Albert Museum. The first edition of 1000 cards was copied and hand colored, shows a family party, and displays the legend "A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to You." They were printed by lithography on stiff cardboard, 5 1/8 by 3 1/4 inches. The price was 1s. each. Other designers quickly followed with Christmas cards in England.

But it was not until 1875 that Louis Prang (pictured at right), working from his shop in Roxbury, Massachusetts, printed the first American cards, two years after the penny post card was first authorized by the U.S. Congress. His first design was a simple flower design with "Merry Christmas." The one-cent postage quickly spread the use of the post card as a means of communications – as opposed to the three-cent letter.

The early Santa cards had him in suits of many colors, but in 1885, Prang created his first Santa with a red suit, and in 1886, another Santa Claus card, with Santa in red. It is shown in the thumbnail below.

Santa has remained a popular figure throughout the history of Christmas cards. Two good sites for seeing antique cards include:

The most highly recommended site is Greg Livaudais, History of Christmas Cards, The Livaudais Family Home Page [Accessed November 2, 2001]. Note from the site:

"The History of Christmas Cards website is based on the findings of Greg Livaudais using his collection and many published sources. All the cards illustrated, except where noted, are cards in the Livaudais Collection. This collection contains over 3,600 Christmas cards dating from 1876 to current. Much of the text on these pages come from the study and analysis of the cards in this collection."

Also see

  • Christmastime Celebration

  • Gabriella Oldham, ed., Old-Fashioned Christmas Cards (New York: Dover Publications, 1989)

  • Suzanne Presley, ed., Old-Fashioned Santa Claus Cards (New York: Dover Publications, 1990)

  • Thomas Nast, Thomas Nast Christmas Cards (New York: Dover Publications, 1985)

  • Barbara Hallman Kissinger, Christmas Past (Gretna: Pelican Publishing Co., 2005). Contains Christmas cards and other images & illustrations of Christmas.

  • Bevis Hillier, Greetings from Christmas Past (London: The Herbert Press, 1982).

I know that I've got another excellent Christmas card book, but I can't lay my hands on it this morning. I'll keep looking and update this page when I find it.


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Collections of Christmas Carols & Poetry
Compiled and Edited by
Douglas D. Anderson

Victorian Visions
A Christmas Poetry Collection

Divinely Inspired
A Christmas Poetry Collection

The Bridegroom Cometh
Poetry For The Advent

Other books by Doug Anderson

Once A Lovely Shining Star

A Christmas Poetry Collection

So Gracious Is The Time

A Christmas Poetry Collection

How Still The Night

The Christmas Poems of Father Andrew, S.D.C.

 Father and Daughter

Christmas Poems by Frances and William Havergal

Now, Now The Mirth Comes

Christmas Poetry by Robert Herrick

What Sudden Blaze Of Song

The Christmas Poems of Rev. John Keble

 A Holy Heavenly Chime

The Christmastide Poems of Christina Georgina Rossetti

All My Heart This Night Rejoices

The Christmas Poems of Catherine Winkworth

A Victorian Carol Book

Favorites from the 19th Century —
Still favorites today!

Other Books by Doug Anderson

A Psalter – A Book of the Psalms Arranged by Luther's Categories

Betbüchlein: A Personal Prayer Book, a recreation of Luther's 1529 prayer book

Daily Prayer

Luther's Passional

Luther's Writings on Prayer: A Selection

Devotions for the Advent – 2009

The Lenten Sermons of Martin Luther, Second Edition

Descriptions of all these volumes can be seen at
Books by Doug Anderson

The Hymns and Carols of Christmas
Douglas D. Anderson

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