It’s definitely impossible to trace today who was the first one ever to think about creating a greeting card. History hasn’t any notice about it. The first mentioning about a greeting card goes back to as far as 500 years B.C. At that time they were made of papyrus scrolls and in Chinese and Egyptian cultures considered to be an expression of wealth and good will. Those very first cards are considered to be the first hand-made greeting cards in the history of mankind.
In the new, restored after strong barbaric tribes’ influence and now quickly developing Europe greeting cards firstly appeared much later – approximately in the 15th century. There was no postal service available at that time, so the cards were hand-delivered. The very process of card delivering was quite expensive, so only wealthy people could afford themselves to exchange those small cardboard pieces, on which artists drew various images.
Greeting cards became popular in England at the end of 18th – beginning of the 19th century. Those were hand-made cards, normally created by artists who possessed various techniques – watercolors, application and even lithography. The cards were richly decorated with dry flowers, leather, velvet, silk, rubber, beads etc. Such cards were dedicated to Passover, Christmas, St.Patrick’s Day. The gift cards of rich and complex decoration were hand-delivered.
What is known for sure is the fact that the first appeared were definitely greeting cards. The first commercially produced card is considered to be a famous valentine-card. Its idea is normally attributed to Duke Orleansky, who being in prison, wrote numerous love letters to his wife.
The first published Christmas card was that introduced in 1840 by Sir Henry Cole. A stiff 7x 12cm piece of cardboard depicted Cole’s family sitting around the holiday table.
The picture was accompanied by the inscription ” A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!” It was printed in edition of 1000 pieces, from which only 12 ones managed to survive till nowadays. One of them has been recently sold in England for 22,000 sterling. Commercial publishing of greeting cards took on growth in 1860s.
The first postcards were edited on the 22nd of September 1869 by Austrian government. Those were 123×88 mm pieces of stiff yellow cardboard bearing a lemon-yellow stamp at the right corner. They had no any paintings on them.
The first printed picture postcard appeared a few months later. In July 1870 a book seller Shwartz from Oldenburg printed a first card with a small image, depicting an artilleryman with a gun.
The postcard was officially recognized at the World Post Congress in Bern in 1874, where the internationally accepted size of 90 x 140 mm was fixed. A little later, in 1925, the new standard postcard size of 105 x 148 mm was introduced and it exists till nowadays.
The story of hand-made cards is less “happier”. With the widespread of printed greeting cards, they were forgotten for quite a long time. Only in the 90s years of the 20th century the companies producing hand-made greeting cards on the commercial bases began to appear in Europe and America. The popularity of this “new” item was so big, that at the beginning of 2000s such companies popped all over the world. That period definitely marked a new stage in the history of hand-made greeting card.