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History of Greeting Cards

Sending greeting cards to friends, lovers and family is a tradition that goes back over 200 years. While the first greeting card actually dates back to the early 1400's, greeting cards became popular in the mid 1800's when the cost of color printing dropped, and cards could be delivered for just a penny.

Sir Henry Cole is credited with coming up with the idea for the first mass produced greeting card, which turned out to be a Christmas card he had created by his good friend, John Calcott Horsely. That year, Cole was late sending his usual holiday greetings letters to all his friends and relatives for Christmas. He contacted Horsely to ask if he was able to hand colour and engrave a thousand cards for him with a seasonal message which could then be sent to everyone. Horsely accommodated him, and thus began the tradition of sending holiday greeting cards.

And so the first modern Christmas card was born. It depicted a young boy with a red scarf and the greeting 'Merry Xmas and a Happy New Year'. Sir Henry was delighted with the result. He even sold the left over cards in Old Bond Street for a shilling each! With the help of the penny post, which had been introduced in England a few years earlier, the practice couldn't help but catch on and grow.

By the 1860's, Americans were importing most of their greeting cards from Germany, but in 1906 a gentlemen from Cleveland by the name of Jacob Sapirstein started his own greeting card business. With a $50 loan acquired at a local bank, Sapirstein began selling penny postcards greeting cards at local drug stores, and quickly became a success. After his death in 1918 his son and wife continued the business and grew it to enormous success.

As the concept of greeting cards grew, people found many occasions to send them, including holidays, birthdays, or just to say hello. The greeting card then became a fixture in American culture, and has continued to grow ever since.

In the 1980's the greeting card market was growing by 10% per year. Small publishing houses were establishing themselves and specialist card shops, also selling giftwrap and associated gifts were springing up on nearly every high street and shopping mall.

By the 1900's the Post Office was having to handle an extra 11.5 million letters in Christmas week alone.

Today, the greeting card business grosses over $7.5 Billion dollars per year, with literally millions of cards sent annually. All of that adds to the wonderful feelings we hold for our friends and family members and we reach out to let them know how we feel about them!