According to Wikipedia, the worlds first commercial
Christmas card was
commissioned by Sir Henry Cole (18081882) in London,
England in 1843.
Cole was a civil servant and entrepreneur who had helped
Sir Rowland Hill with the invention of the worlds 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, Hills reforms had finally been accepted,
and Britain issued the worlds 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 publishers 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
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
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.
A very colourful and heavily embossed Christmas postcard
by Stedman Bros. of Brantford circa 1908.
This Christmas postcard with a patriotic theme was published
in Toronto by Gold Medal Premium. The publishers name has
only recently been discovered.
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.
This Christmas postcard was mailed by the Common Sense Manufacturing
Co. of Toronto to Windsor, Nova Scotia in 1906.
The stamp side
of whats known as an After Christmas postcard
in Canada Posts Santa Letter-Writing Program. This card
would be sent to a child whose letter to Santa didnt 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 postcard-directory.com/mikesmithbooks