The habit of sending greeting cards has a long history in the UK. It started commercially 1843 with Sir Henry Cole. Before he came up with the first commercial print run, if you wanted to send a card you made it yourself with your own fair hands. That was fine if you only needed a few cards for friends and family, but Sir Henry Cole was a public figure, and very well known. Andhe was busy and he needed lots of Christmas cards.
Sir Henry Cole
Sir Henry Cole was busy with ideas. He helped found the Public Records Office and the postal system. And he also managed the Great Exhibition of 1851. Furthermore, he helped set up what became the Royal College of Art. On top of that he designed a commercially produced teapot.
Britain Ruled The World
Remember that Britain at this time was triumphant everywhere. The British won the battle of Trafalgar, so the country was secure. Britain was master of a far flung colonial empire. And in consequence, Britain was looking forward and looking for new ideas. So while Christmas cards are not the top of the tree of invention, they caught on. Soon the idea spread and anyone could buy printed greeting cards.
Greeting Cards For The Well Off
Of course, you could only buy greeting cards if you could afford them. And at that time they were expensive to produce because someone had to create the design. That meant someone had to drawn the design by hand. Then the desgin had to be printed using the lithographic printing process.
Photography Changed Everything
Photography changed all that. Once a way was found to reproduce photographs for printing, greeting cards took off. What was previously laborious became easy and fast.
Of course, one downside was that with the coming of machines, the art and craft of etching and lithographic drawing fell into disuse. The result was that a whole class of craftspeople became part of the industrial workforce. Such is the price of progress.
Fast Forward To Today
Fast forward to today when each person on average sends thirty greeting cards a year. Multiply that up and the British public send over a billion greeting cards a year.