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.

Card to illustrate The history of commercial greeting-cards - Worth It Greeting card with a crested guinea Pig with speech bubble and text, Happy Birthday, because you're worth it'

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.

At Flying Twigs we don’t actually make Christmas cards. But we do make a range of birthday cards. And here is on that could be addressed to Henry Cole. After all, because you are worth it fits very well with this energetic pioneer

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.

He was busy and he was forward looking – 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.

Of course, one downside was that with the coming of machines, the art and craft of etching and lithographic drawing fell into general disuse, and another independent section of the community became part of the industrial workforce. Such is the price of progress.

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.

At the top of the list are birthday cards, Mother’s Day cards, and Valentine’s Day cards. And with digital printing that enables small runs to be done economically, there is no slow-down in greeting card sales. We love them and we send them.

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