The first recognised commercial Christmas card was produced in England in 1843 by Henry Cole, the founder of the Victoria and Albert Museum. It was a hand coloured print showing a family scene flanked by scenes of Christmas charity. This was inscribed with the words: "A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to You" with space at the top to put the name of the recipient and at the bottom for the name of the sender.
However, it was not until the 1860's that the Christmas card as we know it came into being. Initially these were small cards with a simple greeting set within an embossed border. However, as the demand for Christmas cards grew, the cards became larger and more elaborate. Folded sheets of white paper were ornamented with borders of overlapping lace that lifted to form a raised framework for a central picture and turkeys, fireside scenes, plum puddings etc became popular themes.
The founder of the American Christmas card is said to be Louis Prang of Boston who printed a wide variety of album cards and visiting cards. In 1875 he issued seasonal greeting cards which were an immediate success.
By 1880 the popularity of Christmas cards was such that many prominent artists of the time had their work reproduced in this form. It was also the year that the familiar 'Post early for Christmas' plea as issued for the first time.