Speaking of slacking off, I'm going straight to the Fakt™ today because I have stuff to do in the morning, and then the next morning, and then I'll be out of town the morning after that. I'll probably finish the series later this week with some info on good ol' Satan Clause himself.
"A relatively recent phenomenon, the sending of commercially printed Christmas Cards originated in London in 1843.
"Previously, people had exchanged handwritten holiday greetings. First in person. Then via post. By 1822, homemade Christmas cards had become the bane of the U.S. Postal system. That year, the Superintendent of Mails in Washington, D.D., complained of the need to hire sixteen extra mailmen. Fearful of future bottlenecks, he petitioned Congress to limit the exchange of cards by post, concluding, 'I don't know what we'll do if it keeps on.'
"Not only did it keep on, but with the marketing of attractive commercial cards the postal burden worsened.
"The first Christmas card designated for sale was by London artist John Calcott Horsley. A respected illustrator of the day, Horsley was commissioned by Sir Henry Col, a wealthy British businessman, who wanted a card he could proudly send to friends and professional acquaintances to wish them a 'merry Christmas.' In the summer of 1843, he commissioned Horsley to design an impressive card for that year's Christmas.
"Horsely produced a triptych. Each of the two side panels depicted a good deed -- clothing the naked and feeding the hungry. The centerpiece featured a party of adults and children, with plentiful food and drink.
"The first Christmas card's inscription read: 'merry Christmas and a happy New Year to you.' 'Merry' was then a spiritual word meaning 'blessed,' as in 'merry old England.' Of the original one thousand cards printed for Henry Cole, twelve exist today in private collections." (Which goes to prove that people threw them out back then just as readily as today.)
"Printed cards soon became all the rage in England; then in Germany. But it required an additional thirty years for Americans to take to the idea. In 1875, Boston lithographer Louis Prang, a native of Germany, began publishing cards, and earned the title 'father of the American Christmas card.'
"Prang's high-quality cards were costly, and they initially featured not such images as the Madonna and child, a decorated tree, or even Santa Claus, but colored floral arrangements of roses, daisies, gardenias, geraniums, and apple blossoms. Americans took to Christmas cards, but not to Prang's; he was forced out of business in 1890. It was cheap penny Christmas postcards imported from Germany that remained the vogue until World War I. By war's end, America's modern greeting card industry had been born." *
*( Today's entry contains excripts from the book Extraordinary Origins of Everyday Things by Charles Panati, pg 71._