The First Mailed Christmas Card

日期:03-13-2018来源:World Expo Museum

Christmas is the most important festival in the West, equivalent to the Spring Festival in China. The key Christmas customs are hanging holly sticks, roasting turkey, decorating Christmas trees, preparing Christmas gifts and sending greeting cards.

Did you know about the first Christmas card in the world? The story must start with Henry Cole and the first world expo.


Henry Cole

HenryCole is a prominent name in the British art and industrial history. He was a government official involved in business, postal services, art and design. He was known as the “father” of modern British design education.

World Expo 1851 in London


Prince Albert examining the blueprints.

HenryCole, an assistant administrator for the Public Archives Office, had participated in prize competitions of the Art Association since 1845. In 1849, he visited the national fair in France and heard that Mr. Buffett had tried to internationalize the French exposition but failed.

After he returned to England, Henry Cole found an opportunity to discuss with Prince Albert, the husband of Queen Victoria, the possibility of making the London exhibition a World Expo. Prince Albert's decision was unambiguous: it must include foreign products and it must be international.


 Crystal Palace, World Expo 1851 in London  

In the same year, the organizing committee held a large public meeting where Henry Cole, who had been named director of the World Expo, described the master plan for the World Expo to London's leading businessmen and bankers, on behalf of Prince Albert.

In 1851, the Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations (the Great Exhibition) was held and became the first World Expo. The Great Exhibition attracted about 6 million visitors, and generated a profit of about 186,000 pound sterling.

Henry Cole played a leading role in organizing the first World Expo. As an outstanding educator and patron of arts, HenryColewas a familiar figure in the English elite circles and unluckily he had many, many friends. In 1843, these friends became a headache of Henry Cole during the Christmas season.


HenryCole’scomic image

Everyone sent greetings to Sir Cole. As the founder of the Victoria and Albert Museum and a strong supporter of the new postal system, he was a popular but extremely busy public figure. He didn't know what to do with the piles of letters. According to Ace Collins, author of The Stories behind the Great Tradition of Christmas, “In Victorian England, it was impolite not to reply to a letter.” He had to figure out a way to cope with all these friends.


The first Christmas card ever sent

Sir. Cole came up with a brilliant idea. He asked his artist friendJ. C. Horsleyto design a picture he had in his mind. In the middle of the picture was a family celebrating Christmas, and on both sides were people helping the poor. Then, Sir Cole had the picture printed on 1,000 cards, each of which had a recipient line saying: “To: ____” where Sir Cole could fill in the name he wanted to reply to, a general greeting:“A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to You” , and a sender line: “From ____” where Sir Cole wrote his own name.  


Greeting Cards in the Victorian Age

In the first years, a greeting card cost one shilling (equivalent to 5.75 pounds now), while a stamp was one penny (equivalent to 40 pence now). But as printing technology continued to improve, Christmas cards became cheaper, which makes Christmas cards popular in the 1860s.

Towards the end of the 19th century, the custom of sending Christmas cards spread throughout Europe. Neither Sir Cole nor J. C. Horsley had expected that their small commercial inspiration should evolve one of the most popular Christmas customs.

The concept of Christmas in the Victorian Age was very different from what it is today. Christmas was not just a Christian holiday, but also a festival of fun. You would see a strange card like a mouse riding on a lobster. It's funny. Anyway, Merry Christmas. Don't have any nightmare.

Let's take a look at the funny paintings of that period.


A monkey is painting a dog.


“Happy New Year to you,” a dog without a body said.


Cuckoo chickens skied to celebrate the New Year


Flowers of the country: I wish you a Happy New Year

So, would you send a Christmas card to your friends?