The rise of holiday cards occurred during the late 19th century thanks to improvements in technology that made mass production possible. Lithographer Louis Prang took full advantage of this in 1874 by producing a variety of Christmas cards, with sales totalling over 5 million every year.
Due to the large number of cards being produced, more artwork was required, leading to a wide range of opportunities for “artists, lithographers, engravers, printers, ink and pasteboard makers,” to quote a Times article in 1883 that discussed the ever-growing card industry.
Despite being a festive holiday card, traditional Christmas cards of the time lacked any of the classic themes we know and see today. For instance, there was not always a traditional festive setting such as picturesque snowy landscapes, Santa Clause doing his thing, various religious settings, or any of the common designs present in modern cards.
Take a look and see some of the more unusual Victorian holiday cards celebrating Christmas and New Year. They are probably unlike anything you would expect!
A Christmas card design by Louis Prang, with a parade of musical frogs.
The first commercially-produced Christmas card.
A Christmas card from 1880 showing a paint palette and a kitten.
A Christmas wish in the form of flowers with the faces of children.
A c. 1880 card showing cherry blossoms and a landscape in bloom.
A spring-themed ‘Happy New Year’ card, showing an egg, a chick and a hatched baby.
A Christmas card from 1885.
A butterfly carrying a baby on this Victorian-era card.