On this day. 9th December 1843, the first Christmas cards...

On this day. 9th December 1843, the first Christmas cards were created in England. Sir Henry Cole, Director of London’s Victoria and Albert Museum, found that writing numerous Christmas greetings to friends and colleagues was too time-consuming. He asked his artist friend, John Calcott Horsley, to design a card which could be used by Cole and also sold to the public.

Horsley produced 1,000 lithographed and hand-coloured cards which were more like postcards. They sold for a shilling, which was the equivalent of a day’s wages for a labourer. It was another twenty years before Christmas cards became more affordable, following the invention of cheaper colour lithography.

The State Library of New South Wales holds a large collection of historic Christmas and greeting cards.

In Australia, in 1881 John Sands organised a competition in which the public was invited to submit designs for Christmas cards, which he intended to publish. Prizes were offered for the winning designs. The designs had to be “Australian in character”, so most of these watercolours show either bush landscapes and life, or botanical illustrations. These entries are from the collection held in the State Library of New South Wales PXA 648.