Christmas in postcards

List Mike Smith Next  Right Button
Christmas-themed postcards a custom since 1840s
By Mike Smith
According to Wikipedia, the world’s first commercial Christmas card was
commissioned by Sir Henry Cole (1808–1882) in London, England in 1843.
Cole was a civil servant and entrepreneur who had helped Sir Rowland Hill with the invention of the world’s first adhesive postage stamp.
Hill, whose name is well known to stamp collectors, published a famous pamphlet on postal reform in 1838 which proposed, among other things, that “the postage on all letters received in a post-town, and delivered in the same, or any other post-town in the British Isles, shall be at the uniform rate of one penny per half ounce.”
By May 1840, Hill’s reforms had finally been accepted, and Britain issued the world’s first adhesive postage stamp - the famous “Penny Black.” Three years later, Sir Henry Cole decided to take advantage of the growing popularity of penny postage and started the Christmas card business.
When the sending, receiving and collecting of picture postcards in the industrialized world exploded into what some postal historians call a “mania” from 1900 to 1914, astute publishers realized that there was money to be made in Christmas postcards.
After all, there was little cost difference in the production of a folded Christmas card versus a postcard. And in Canada, for example, the postcard rate was a third of the letter rate (1 cent versus 3 cents). Thus conditions were perfect for an influx of Christmas postcards. In this WT article then, I'd like to showcase a few nice examples.
The beautiful card shown in Figure 1 is a recent acquisition from the Golden Horseshoe Post Card Club Show held last September. For those who have never been to one of the major postcard shows in Ontario, or have never joined one of the five clubs from Merrickville to London, you are missing out on great cards and camaraderie.
The Figure 1 card is from a series of brilliantly coloured and embossed postcards by Stedman Bros. Ltd. of Brantford. Note the small U.S. flags at the front and back of the sleigh. Stedman Bros., who imported all of the postcards it retailed in Canada, probably received this card in a bulk shipment from a U.S. printer.
I picked up the Figure 2 postcard many years ago at the Toronto Postcard Club Show, which has been held in February every year for decades. As a patriotic postcard collector, the first thing I spotted on the card was the Canadian coat-of-arms. I only noticed that it was a Christmas postcard long after I had mounted it in my “G” publisher album.
The publisher’s name, written only as a stylized “GMP” on the back, eluded me for years until my collector buddy Ken Elder discovered it in an old Toronto business directory. The full name of the publisher turned out to be Gold Medal Premium of Toronto.
Not long after adding the Figure 2 postcard to my collection, I added several more by the same publisher, all with Christmas themes (see Figure 3).
When I showed my proud little group of six to another collector buddy, Wayne Curtis, he nonchalantly showed me his Christmas postcards by Gold Medal Premium – all 52 of them.
Knowing this hobby as I do, I'm sure even more by this publisher will turn up as time goes by.
I don't know where I picked up the Christmas postcard shown in Figure 4, but I do remember wanting it for the advertising as opposed to the Christmas theme.
Even though it has Christmas-season artwork and “A Merry Christmas to You” at the bottom, it was the caption at the top that caught my eye. How could I not purchase an antique postcard “From the Common Sense Mfg. Co., Toronto”?
Like so many other multi-themed postcards, this little gem is definitely collectible on more than one level.
Finally, although they are certainly not antiques yet, I couldn't resist including one of the delightful Christmas postcards issued by Canada Post (see Figure 5) as part of its popular Santa Letter-Writing Program for kids.
The program, which has been going strong since 1982, has generated an amazing series of collectible letterhead, envelopes, postcards, posters, bookmarks etc., even beermats.
One dedicated collector, Tony Shaman, authored a limited edition, full-colour catalogue on all this great stuff and it was introduced at the Golden Horseshoe Post Card Club Show mentioned earlier.
If you would like a copy, I can put you in touch with Tony via my contact information (see bottom of page).
I sure wish I had kept all the letters and other ephemera from Santa (Canada Post) my kids received over the years. Oh well, it's never too late to start a new hobby.
Figure 1 
A very colourful and heavily embossed Christmas postcard by Stedman Bros. of Brantford circa 1908.
Figure 2
This Christmas postcard with a patriotic theme was published in Toronto by Gold Medal Premium. The publisher’s name has only recently been discovered.
Figure 3
A cheerful Santa Claus can be seen in this Christmas postcard, again by Gold Medal Premium. This card is from a series of at least 52 cards published in the late 1920s.
Figure 4
This Christmas postcard was mailed by the Common Sense Manufacturing Co. of Toronto to Windsor, Nova Scotia in 1906.
Figure 5
The stamp side of what’s known as an “After Christmas” postcard in Canada Post’s Santa Letter-Writing Program. This card would be sent to a child whose letter to Santa didn’t reach the North Pole H0H 0H0 address in time for a pre-Christmas reply. The picture side shows Santa at the beach.
Michael J. (Mike) Smith is an RMC graduate (Class of '77) and ex-naval officer who has been an avid collector of Canadiana for most of his life. His current passion is collecting and writing about Canadian antique postcards. He is currently working on his eighth postcard handbook. Visit
Return to top of page
This Is Publishing © 2013
581 8th Line West, RR1 Hastings, ON, K0L 1Y0
Phone/Fax: 705-696-1833