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(from the Postcard and Greeting Card Museum – www.emotionscards.com)
Sending greeting cards to friends and family is a
tradition that goes back about 200 years. They were mostly sent by the
elite and wealthy in the early to mid 1800’s. Most of the early
greeting cards were hand delivered and many were quite expensive, but
they soon gained mass popularity with the introduction of the world’s
first postage stamp issued in 1840 and a few ambitious printer’s and
manufacturer’s perfecting printing methods, hiring artists and designed
both elaborate expensive cards as well as simple affordable ones by the
As you visit our galleries you will see that cards
of the past were fine pieces of art. Manufacturer’s used quality
artists and many of the large manufacturer’s held “art” competitions to
generate interest and to get new ideas for cards. Some of these
competitions awarded as much as $1,000.00 to the winner!
The oldest known greeting card in existence is a
Valentine made in the 1400’s and is in the British Museum. New Year’s
cards can be dated back to this period as well, but the New Year
greeting didn’t gain popularity until the late 1700’s. The Valentine
and Christmas Card were the most popular cards, with Valentine’s
offering us the most “mechanical”, “pop-up” and filigree cards,
followed by Christmas, St. Patrick’s Day, Easter, Halloween and
Thanksgiving. Cards gained their highest popularity in the late 1800’s
and early 1900’s offering us cards with some of the most unusual art.
The Victorian age give us the most prolific cards.
Valentine greetings were popular as far back as the Middle Ages, when lovers said
or sang their Valentines. Written Valentines began to appear after
1400. Paper Valentines were exchanged in Europe where they were given
in place of Valentine gifts. Handmade paper Valentines were especially
popular in England. In the mid to early 1800’s, Valentines began to be
assembled in factories. Early manufactured Valentines were black and
white pictures painted by workers in a factory. Esther Howland (see
below) known as the Mother of the Valentine made fancy Valentines with
real lace, ribbons and colorful pictures known as “scrap”. She
introduced the Paper Lace Valentine in the mid 1800’s. By the end of
the 1800’s, Valentines were being made entirely by machine.
Christmas cards were introduced and popularized by
John Calcott Horsley, the artist of what is known as the world’s first
Christmas Card and Louis Prang, known as the Father of the American
The rest is History. With the exchange of New
Year’s, Valentine’s, Easter, St. Patrick’s Day, Halloween,
Thanksgiving, Christmas and Birthday Cards, just to name a few, there
is probably no occasion that doesn’t have its own greeting card!