A Lookback at Old Christmas Cards that are Very Unlike Anything We See Today

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.

holiday cards victorian eraPublic Domain/WikiCommons

The first commercially-produced Christmas card.

holiday cards victorian eraPublic Domain/WikiCommons

A Christmas card from 1880 showing a paint palette and a kitten.

holiday cards victorian eraLibrary of Congress

A Christmas wish in the form of flowers with the faces of children.

holiday cards victorian eraBoston Public Library/flickr

A c. 1880 card showing cherry blossoms and a landscape in bloom.

holiday cards victorian eraLibrary of Congress

A spring-themed ‘Happy New Year’ card, showing an egg, a chick and a hatched baby.

holiday cards victorian eraNova Scotia Archives/flickr

A Christmas card from 1885.

holiday cards victorian eraPublic Domain/WikiCommons

A butterfly carrying a baby on this Victorian-era card.

holiday cards victorian era

Nova Scotia Archives/flickr