Do people still send postcards these days…?
The Christmas card as we know it today started life in 1843 when English inventor Sir Henry Cole commissioned a set of 2000+ cards which were sold for a shilling each and proved popular. The card featured an illustration, by John Calcott Horsley, of a family raising a toast to the recipients with the now familiar greeting, “A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you”. There were certainly individual homemade cards sent between families and friends before this, however, this first commercial card changed the tradition forever. Cole’s importance in the history of the postal service isn’t just restricted to this invention, which snarls up the Royal Mail every December, but he was also one of the team, led by Rowland Hill, who were responsible for the introduction of the Uniform Penny Post – the first mail delivery service to cover the UK, not just the capital and it’s environs. There are even some who suggest he had a hand in the design of the Penny Black, the world’s first public postage stamp.
With the advent of the postcard in the late 1800s sales of elaborate Christmas cards declined and single-sided cards were increasingly used to send yuletide greetings. Above is an Edwardian example featuring a bucolic winter scene and a verse, a very common design. Others included models of young ladies, or mothers with children, and wealthier families could afford to create their own photo-postcards from family snaps. The postcard boom didn’t last too long and the more traditional card made a swift comeback, but for some of us, only postcards will do, even now.
Postcard published in the Rotary Photographic Series Printed in Britain.