The introduction of the Christmas card

In 1843, Sir Henry Cole, who just three years earlier had played a key role in helping introducing Royal Mail’s Penny Post service, commissioned artist John Callcott Horsley to make the artwork for the first ever commercial Christmas card. Only 1,000 were printed and sold for 6d (in colour) or 2d (in sepia). This made them a luxury item only available to the upper echelons of society. One of the original 1,000 cards was sold at an auction in Devizes, Wiltshire for £25,000 on 24th November 2001.

The cards were designed to encourage people to post more but initially they garnered little enthusiasm. People were concerned that the card’s central illustration focused on the merriment of the season, rather than more charitable endeavours such as clothing the poor and feeding the hungry.