Advert for W Straker's Christmas cards
Medium: Print on paper
Standardised greeting cards were first sent in the 18th century, usually by companies to their customers over the New Year holidays. In this sense, they were a corporate variation on the calling cards or monogrammed invitations of the day. The first Christmas card was designed in the 1840s by John Callot Horsley, a well known narrative painter. He had been commissioned by Henry Cole, director of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, and the V&A printed and sold 100 copies of the card for one shilling each. It depicted a domestic scene at Christmas.
The success of the Christmas card was largely made possible by the introduction of the penny post in 1840, which made seasonal greeting cards an inexpensive way of keeping in touch with family and friends throughout the country.