Trumbull – Guion Christmas Card – 1961 – History of the Christmas Greeting Card

ADG - 1961 Christmas Card - History of Greeting Cards - front

ADG - 1961 Christmas Card - Vignettes - page 1

Top: Having once undertaken to create a home-made Christmas card and being encouraged by a few kindly comments to annually repeat the experiment, one he eventually reaches the point where he is expected each year to come up with an idea at least as good as the last one; and this you will readily agree, can in time he come quite a chore. So be charitable if I slip occasionally.

For my 1961 card, son David suggested that my trip around the world might afford material for a card based on the manner in which Christmas is celebrated in foreign lands. A bit of research along this line soon shunted be off on a related topic.

Running across an unsupported statement that 1861 was the first year in which an American Christmas greeting card first made its appearance led to the idea that this year’s theme might encompass its Centennial and set the stage for my 1961 card.

The resultant facts gathered are here presented in the following brief history of the

C H R I S T M A S  G R E E T I N G   C A R D


( depicted on front cover)

On a December day in 1843 in England, an Englishman, Henry Cole, sat in his London home addressing what was probably the first Christmas card ever printed. In all, 1000 copies of this card were produced. In later years Mr. Cole was knighted.

A card for a similar purpose, published by W. M. Egley in England, for many years purported to be the first Christmas card, made its appearance in 1848.

Before that period, however, the “merrie” celebrations of the English of the Middle Ages, that have come down to us in song and story, had given place under the rule of Oliver Cromwell to more dour deportment; the Puritans indeed trying to put an end to Christmas and its celebration. Massachusetts in 1659 imposed a fine of five shillings on anyone caught celebrating.

But by Mr. Cole’s time this stern view of things was softening. Perhaps the side panels in the picture depicting “clothing the poor” and “feeding the hungry” helped to offset the convivial atmosphere suggested in the center panel. At least by 1860 throughout the British Empire the custom of sending Christmas cards was growing in popularity, perhaps encouraged by the writings of Dickens in the story of his Scrooge.

ADG - 1961 Christmas Card - History of Greeting Cards - page 2


in the year 1450 in Germany’s Rhineland the rude woodcut pictured above, actually a New Year’s card, shows the Christ-child standing in the bow of an ancient galley, manned by angels, with the Holy Mother seated by the mast.

The inscription reads: “here I come from Alexandria and bring many good years to give generously. I will give them for almost no money and have only God’s love for my reward”.


( Note misspelling of the word “variety”)

there seems to exist considerable doubt among experts as to when the Christmas card made its first appearance in this country.

At least the one reproduced above, while bearing no identifying date, is a very “early” card and may have been the one referred to as having made its debut in 1861. R. H. Pease, whose name appears in the picture, was an engraver and lithographers of Albany, N.Y.

ADG - 1961 Christmas Card - History of Greeting Cards - page 3


By the “father” of American Christmas Cards

Lewis PRANG, a German immigrant, penniless when he came to this country in 1850, did more than anyone else to popularize the custom of sending Christmas cards.

By 1860 Prang was running 45 presses in his shop for the production of small artistic picture cards. His colored art reproductions were selling abroad as well as in this country.

Then came a day in 1874 when a new idea was born. A woman employee suggested that the words “Mary Christmas” be printed on small decorated cards. He experimented with his British customers first and the next year tried out the card on the American public. Five years later he was turning out 5 million cards a year and employing 300 people. Even today Prang’s satin and plush cards with their silken tassels and fringe are eagerly sought by collectors and librarians.


Each Christmastide I have an “address Book Party” – – All on myself.

what a heartwarming experience it is to go over one’s Christmas card list! Here in recollection pass by ones closest and most intimate friends, without whom life’s path would be dull and gray. Remembrance of them brings a warm glow to the heart and calls to mind many kindly act and friendly associations – memories of the days that are no more, old friends we seldom see but whose yearly greetings are one more link in the golden chain that binds us to the past.

Here are names of some we have not seen for years and we sometimes wonder what useful purpose is served by keeping them on our list; but so precious a thing is friendship and so strong the feeling is sentiment that we are reluctant to make deletions from our list.

So, if through the intervening months our pen seems in active please consider this, today’s seasons greetings, and accumulation of much good-will and affection at this blessed season from,

One of your old well-wishers,,

AD Guion

ADG - 1961 Christmas Card - History of Greeting Cards - back

Tomorrow, another Christmas Card from Grandpa. On Saturday, the next installment of the Voyage to California by John Jackson Lewis in 1851.

On Sunday, information on Rev. Elijah and Clara’s family life in New Orleans.

Judy Guion


2 thoughts on “Trumbull – Guion Christmas Card – 1961 – History of the Christmas Greeting Card

  1. I think Grandpa’s reflection on his Christmas card list is the best part of this card!

    • Judy Guion says:

      Liz – I think it is quite sad that fewer and fewer people take the time and effort to send out Christmas cards each year. The writing process gives us time to reflect on memories and remember how each person had an impact on our life.

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