A Brief History of Everything Greeting Card

Brief History of Greeting Cards

October heralds the official start of the holiday season (in my mind, anyway). It is time to start thinking about what kind of candy to buy for Halloween, how big of a Turkey you’ll need this year, and just what the heck are you going to get Aunt Norma for Christmas? It’s also a time to let your loved ones know how much (or how little) they mean to you, and so you’ll turn to the dreaded greeting card aisle in your grocery store; it’s seemingly never-ending walls towering above you as you breakout in a cold sweat.

Do you ever wonder how we got to this point? Hundreds of options for (almost) every occasion lay before you to summarize a myriad of sentiments. It wasn’t always this way, though. In fact, the American greeting card industry really only came about in the last century. Sending well-wishes for significant events pre-dates modern society altogether. We can trace this practice back to the ancient Egyptians (duh, those folks had their hands in everything) and the ancient Chinese (also, some real smarties).

But even more recently, as early as the 1400’s, Europeans were selling handmade Valentine cards to give to loved ones. After that, we didn’t really see much advancement in card technology until the advent of the US Post Office Department (later to become the USPS) in 1775. After that it quickly became easier to pass along a “Happy Birthday” to someone in another state (if you had a few months notice or if they didn’t mind it being a little late).

Esther Howland became the first to publish a regular series of Valentines in the US in 1849. She established a publishing firm that was quite successful, specializing in elaborately decorated cards. After that, a German immigrant named Louis Prang started a small lithographic company near Boston in 1856. Prang is widely known as the Father of the American Christmas Card, as his business perfected the art of lithographic printing on cards. This increased the speed at which the cards could be produced, as well as the volume. This is seen as the birth of the American greeting card industry.

It is an industry that would establish itself as a money-making machine in the 1940’s, when a group of greeting card publishers would form the Greeting Card Industry (a predecessor of the Greeting Card Association). The new group helped organize the first “mail early” campaign with the US Post Office Department which brought more awareness to using the mail to send your “Happy Holidays”.

That’s just a brief summary of centuries of creative endeavors that culminates to one point…send somebody you love something nice every once in a while. You don’t have to stare down that wall of cards, though. We can create something truly as unique as your Aunt Norma. Just send us an email or give us a call and let us “hand craft” something for you today!

Information culled from  Greeting Card Association and other sources