The History Of Commercial Greeting Cards In The UK

The history of commercial greeting-cards in the UK started in 1843 with Sir Henry Cole.

Up until the middle of the 19th century, if you wanted a greeting card you made it yourself. That was fine if you only needed a few cards for friends and family, but Sir Henry Cole was a busy man and he needed lots of Christmas cards.

Sir Henry was so busy that he not only helped found the Public Records Office and the postal system, he also managed the Great Exhibition of 1851. And he helped set up what became the Royal College of Art. And he designed a teapot that went into commercial production.

In other words, he was busy and open to new ideas. And in 1843 he got a printer to print his Christmas cards. It was a success (of course) and the idea spread, and soon anyone could buy printed cards.

At least, you could if you could afford them. They were expensive because each design had to be hand drawn and printed using the lithographic printing process.

Then along came photography. And the history of commercial greeting-cards in the UK was forever changed. Soon, printers worked out how to add photographic images to printed cards. What was previously laborious became easy and fast.

You Are In Good Company

If you send cards, you’re in good company. In the UK in 2012 we sent 952 million greeting cards in the UK. Add Christmas cards to that and the average Briton sends more than 30 cards a year.

Top of the list are birthday cards, Mother’s Day cards, and Valentine’s Day cards. And with all the digital offerings, there’s no slow-down in traditional cards. We love them and we send them.

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