|Sending greeting cards to friends and family is a tradition that
goes back about 200 years. They were mostly sent by the elite and wealthy in the
early to mid 1800's. Most of the early greeting cards were hand delivered and many
were quite expensive, but they soon gained mass popularity with the introduction of the
world's first postage stamp issued in 1840
and a few ambitious printer's and manufacturer's perfecting printing methods, hiring
artists and designed both elaborate expensive cards as well as simple affordable ones by
As you visit our galleries you will see that cards of the past were fine pieces of art.
Manufacturer's used quality artists and many of the large manufacturer's held
"art" competitions to generate interest and to get new ideas for cards.
Some of these competitions awarded as much as $1,000.00 to the winner!
The oldest known greeting card in existence is a Valentine made in the 1400's and is in
the British Museum. New Year's cards can be dated back to this period as well, but
the New Year greeting didn't gain popularity until the late 1700's. The Valentine
and Christmas Card were the most popular cards, with Valentine's offering us the most
"mechanical", "pop-up" and filigree cards, followed by
Christmas, St. Patrick's Day, Easter, Halloween and Thanksgiving. Cards gained
their highest popularity in the late 1800's and early 1900's offering us cards with some
of the most unusual art. The Victorian age give us the most prolific cards.
Valentine greetings were popular as far back as the Middle Ages,
when lovers said or sang their Valentines. Written Valentines began to
appear after 1400. Paper Valentines were exchanged in Europe where they were
given in place of Valentine gifts. Handmade paper Valentines were especially popular
in England. In the mid to early 1800's, Valentines began to be assembled in
factories. Early manufactured Valentines were black and white pictures painted by
workers in a factory. Esther Howland (see below) known as the Mother of the
Valentine made fancy Valentines with real lace, ribbons and colorful pictures known as
"scrap". She introduced the Paper Lace Valentine in the mid 1800's.
By the end of the 1800's, Valentines were being made entirely by machine.
Christmas cards were introduced and popularized by John Calcott Horsley (see below), the
artist of what is known as the world's first Christmas Card and Louis Prang (see below),
known as the Father of the American Christmas Card.
The rest is History. With the exchange of New
Year's, Valentine's, Easter, St. Patrick's Day, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and
Birthday Cards, just to name a few, there is probably no occasion that doesn't have its
own greeting card! If you would like to learn more about the history and the
time line of postcards, you will find a 'Time Line ~ History Link' further down on this
We hope you enjoy the Galleries as well as the following stories that take you through the
history and progression of the Greeting Card, its artists and manufacturer's.
The Pioneers of the Greeting Card Industry
John Calcott Horsley. John
Calcott Horsley was commissioned by Sir Henry Cole in 1843 to paint a card showing the feeding and clothing of the
poor. A center panel displayed a happy family embracing one another, sipping wine,
and enjoying Christmas festivities. (So much for good intention. The card drew
criticism because showing a child enjoying a sip of wine was considered "fostering
the moral corruption of children.") "A Merry Christmas and a Happy New
Year to You" was printed on the first card. Legend says Sir Henry didn't send
any cards the following year, but the custom became popular and just three years after the
English Parliament passed the Postage Act, it made it possible to send letters for a
penny. Within 10 years, Christmas cards were the rage of England. Of the 1,000 original
Christmas cards printed, only 12 are known to still exist, two of which are in the
Hallmark Historical Collection.
Louis Prang. The
Father of the American Christmas Card. For more than 30 years, Americans had to
import greeting cards from England. In 1875, Louis Prang, a German immigrant to the
U.S., opened a lithographic shop with $250 and published the first line of U.S. Christmas
cards. His initial creations featured flowers and birds, unrelated to the Christmas scene.
By 1881, Prang was producing more than five million
Christmas cards each year. His Yuletide greetings began to feature snow scenes, fir trees,
glowing fireplaces and children playing with toys. His painstaking craftsmanship and
lithographic printing have made his cards a favorite of collectors today.
Kate Greenaway. Holiday
cards designed by Kate Greenaway, the Victorian children's writer
and illustrator, were favorites in the late 1800's. Most were elaborate, decorated
with fringe, silk and satin. Some were shaped like fans and crescents, others were
cut into shapes of bells, birds, candles and even plum pudding. Some folded like
maps or fitted together as puzzles, other squealed or squeaked. Pop-Up
Cards revealed tiny mangers or skaters with flying scarves gliding
around a mirrored pond.
Esther Howland. In 1850, Esther Howland, an American printer and artist was
among the first to publish and sell Valentines in the United States. She later
sold the thriving business to the George C. Whitney Company.
George C. Whitney. The George C. Whitney
valentine manufacturing company was in business from 1866 to 1942. What began as a
wholesale stationery store on Main Street in Worcester, became, by 1888, one of the
largest valentine publishers in this country with offices in New York, Boston, and
Ellen H. Clapsaddle. Undoubtedly the most prolific postcard and greeting card
artist, Ellen H. Clapsaddle's artwork was first published in 1906 by the Wolf
Company an outlet for the International Art Company. Ellen H. Clapsaddle's story is
probably the saddest of any of the pioneers of the greeting card history. She died
unknown and penniless the day before her 69th birthday. Today her cards are among
the most collectible and sell in the range of $10.00 to $200.00, with the mechanical cards
going for $450.00 and more.
Another artist who's cards are highly collectible is Frances Brundage,
a prolific artist most notable for her paintings of children. She produced over 200
books with a career that spanned for 65 years.
C. Hall. Joyce
C. Hall arrived in Kansas City, his inventory of postcards fit into a couple of shoeboxes,
but his dreams couldn't be contained. It was 1910 and the Norfolk, Nebraska,
teenager was determined to make his mark in the business world. Little did it matter that
his first office would be a room at the YMCA, or that he had so little cash he couldn't
afford to pay a horse-drawn cab to get him there. He had big plans and the energy to make
them happen. His instincts held true. By 1915 Hall Bros. was manufacturing its
own cards, on its own presses, in its own plant. In 1923, J.C., and brothers Bill and
Rollie Hall, along with their 120 employees, moved from tiny offices and rental space in
four separate buildings into a brand new six-story plant. The rest is history.
George Burkhardt. In
1941, a small group of greeting card publishers under the leadership of George Burkhardt
of Burkhardt-Warner established the Greeting Card Industry, predecessor of today's
Greeting Card Association. Formed in response to a War Department order to reduce paper use by 25%,
the organization successfully fought the possible elimination of paper used for greeting
cards during World War II by launching "Defense Stamp Christmas Cards" and
V-Mail greeting cards to help promote defense stamps and war bonds. Another effort named
"Greeting Cards in Wartime" showed how greeting cards helped keep
families in touch and boost the morale of soldiers fighting abroad. Millions of greeting
cards were provided by the association through the Red Cross to wounded servicemen.
Along with those mentioned above,
there were many other prominent Greeting Card Pioneers,
Charles Goodall &
Sons were playing-card manufacturers in London, England. They produced Christmas....
Marcus Ward & Co.
A prominent publishing house in London, England from the mid 1860's to the mid 1890's....
Tuck & Sons
Publishers from the mid 1800's into the early 20th Century. Raphael Tuck &
Sons were proudly known...
Hildesheimer & Co.
with publishing houses in Manchester and London, England, printed cards from the mid
1800's to the early 1900's under...
Thomas De La Rue
Thomas De La Rue, born in 1793 began his carrier working...
printed some of the most beautiful cards from the mid 1800's to the late 1800's
The next generation of Greeting Card
Norcross Greeting Cards
Gibson Art Company ~ Coming Soon
Rust Craft ~ Coming Soon
Buzza Cards, Fairfield Cards, A Barker Card and more. (links coming
The History of Postcards, Postcard
& Postcard Collecting
Foxing, Deltiology, Chrome, Divided Backs
and other Postcard and Greeting Card Jargon.
What does it all mean?
Postcard Time Line ~ History
Grading Postcards ~ Postcard Preservation and Terminology
Hold To Light Cards ~ What Are They?
What the heck is a Penny Dreadful?
Acrostics and Puzzle Cards ~ What do they look like?
A Comprehensive List of Victorian, Edwardian
and Modern Card Manufacturers,
Printers and Artists
The Greeting Card Industry Today
Statistics / Mail Safety / Industry Facts & Forecasts
- Current News
CONSUMERS TO SEND HOLIDAY CARDS AS USUAL
WASHINGTON, D.C., November 21, 2001 Both the United States Postal Service (USPS)
and the Greeting Card Association (GCA) predict that the American public will continue to
send holiday cards as they have in years past. Independent research conducted for industry
leaders American Greetings and Hallmark supports the conclusion that people are not
concerned with handling their mail and will continue to send their holiday greeting cards.
"According to our members, sales of greeting cards actually increased after September
11th," said GCA executive vice president, Marianne McDermott. "Historically, in
times of stress, war or depression, people tend to send more greeting cards to keep in
closer touch with family and friends."
The independent consumer research revealed:
- 99 percent of those polled want to stay in closer touch with
family and friends since
the September 11th.
- 86 percent are not concerned about handling or opening greeting
cards or other
- More than 90 percent plan to send the same number or more
holiday cards this
season (both paper and e-cards).
- More than 70 percent consider sending greeting cards a holiday
cherish and will carry on.
- Less than 10 percent will be sending fewer cards due to
the anthrax scare.
80 percent say they will mail their cards; 27 percent will hand deliver cards this
"There is no indication that people are planning not to send greeting cards,"
says Jeff Petit, vice president of communications at American Greetings. "Quite the
contrary. Early reports show that sales of holiday cards may actually be up, with themes
of inspiration, patriotism and world peace being most popular."
Julie ODell, public relations director at Hallmark agrees. "Consumers have told
us the 100-year-old tradition of sending holiday greeting cards has more meaning this
year. They will continue to use cards as an important way to connect with family and
The Postal Service has delivered more than 30 billion pieces of mail since the anthrax
scare began. With increased security measures in place, the Postal Service looks forward
to delivering this holiday mailing season. "Greeting card industry research bears out
what I've felt all along: Americans will continue to share best wishes through the mail
this holiday season with family and friends," said Postmaster General Jack Potter.
"Exchanging holiday greeting cards," added Potter, "connects family and
friends during these complex times. The 100-year tradition of sending cards is one more
sign of the continuing strength and unity in the American people, and we're ready to
The Postal Service has a variety of initiatives planned to make mailing more convenient
for consumers this holiday season, including extended window hours, a variety of seasonal
stamps, and Stamps-by-Mail.
Sending greeting cards is a universal custom that goes back one hundred years with 2.5
billion holiday cards sent each year. "Greeting cards are very recognizable mail to
most of us. The receiver usually knows the senders handwriting and return
address," McDermott adds. She reminds people to always include a legible return
* Typically, between one-third and one-half of greeting cards are hand delivered during
the holiday season.
GCA OFFERS MAIL HANDLING GUIDELINES
WASHINGTON, D.C., OCTOBER 19, 2001 - The strong desire to keep in touch with loved ones,
family and friends means people are sending and receiving more greeting cards now than
typically during this time of year, says the Greeting Card Association (GCA), the
Washington, D.C. trade association for card publishers and manufacturers.
"Greeting cards reflecting heart-felt emotions help us to maintain connections to
people we care about, and also help people to cope with these uncertain times," says
Marianne McDermott, executive vice president of the GCA. "Greeting cards have always
been and will continue to be a favored form of communicating feelings to those we care
about," McDermott adds.
The GCA wants to aid the public in its awareness of suspicious mail. "If people just
use prudent judgment, use common sense, there is nothing to fear," Postmaster General
Jack Potter said Wednesday on NBC's "Today." "The mail is safe."
The U.S. Postal Service recommends these guidelines for identifying suspicious mail.
Typical characteristics include envelopes or parcels that:
- Have any powdery substance on the outside;
- Are unexpected or from someone unfamiliar to you;
- Are addressed to someone no longer with your organization or
home or are otherwise
- Have no return address, or have one that can't be verified as
- Are of unusual weight, given their size, or are lopsided or
- Have an unusual amount of tape on them;
- Are marked with restrictive endorsements, such as
"Personal" or "Confidential;"
- Have strange odors or stains;
- Show a city or state in the postmark that doesn't match the
- "Also, be sure to use your own handwriting and include your
name and return address so the recipient knows who it's from," says McDermott.
"Staying in touch with a greeting card can help many of us to express what is in our
hearts, but sometimes difficult to put into words," she adds.
The GCA represents approximately 170 member companies both in greeting card publishing and
in allied industries in the United States and Canada. Americans send and receive some 7
billion greeting cards each year.
GCA REPORTS GREETING CARD TRENDS AND SALES FORECASTS
WASHINGTON, D.C., OCTOBER 26, 2001 - Since the September 11th acts of terrorism, attitudes
in America have changed as we reassess our relationships and values. These sentiments will
be reflected in greeting cards this holiday season and carry over into the New Year,
according to the Greeting Card Association (GCA). Expect to see more greeting cards
offering heartfelt and emotional messages, including care and concern, sympathy, support
and encouragement to the recipient. Traditional peace and love holiday cards will have a
new meaning this year, reflecting the world's global unity in our intolerance of
terrorism. So, too, will greeting cards offering messages of hope and faith to cope during
Moreover, in light of the way the country has pulled together after September 11th, there
is also a trend toward patriotic themes and American pride. Cards of red, white and blue
are expected to be popular as well as greeting cards featuring the American Flag and
acknowledging those who serve and protect the United States - the anonymous
"everyday" heroes. Both American Greetings and Hallmark are reporting new cards
this season reflecting these themes.
The GCA remains optimistic about holiday card sales and points to the overall need for
people to keep in close touch with family and friends.
"At least for the near future, we don't expect personal mail habits throughout the
U.S. to change," says Marianne McDermott, executive vice president of the GCA.
Greeting cards are a traditional form of expressing one's emotions and due to the strong
sentiments in this country, sales of greeting cards will be strong this holiday season,
the GCA reports. The new trends in greeting cards, such as patriotism, will also spur
sales, McDermott adds.
- STATE OF THE INDUSTRY
Over the years, while some factors have remained the same (women still purchase 80% of all
greeting cards), there have been some significant changes including; the increase in
sales of everyday-general friendship cards, the growth in the number of greeting card
publishers, and the projected need for more emotion-based me-to-you messages in the form
of greeting cards.
Today, there appears to be cards for every relationship, every occasion, every ethnicity,
every age group, every gender and every special interest group. Greeting cards are being
sold in more outlets than ever before, as well as being purchased and sent over the
Internet. A single greeting card has the power to touch more people in more ways than any
other form of communication, while conveying or eliciting a wide range of emotions.
General Industry Facts
Today, the industry generates more than $7.5 billion in retail sales from consumer
purchases of more than 7 billion cards.
Cards range in price from $0.38 to $10.00, with the average counter card retailing for
around $2.00 - $4.00. Cards featuring special techniques, intricate designs and new
technologies are at the top of the price scale.
Estimates indicate that there are nearly 2,000 greeting card publishers in the U.S. today,
ranging from major corporations to small family-run organizations. When the GCA was formed
in 1941, there were only about 100 greeting card publishers with approximately $43 million
in greeting card sales at the wholesale level.
GCA publisher member companies account for approximately 90% of the industry market share.
Over 90% of all U.S. households participate in the greeting card category, purchasing at
least one greeting card per year. Of this group, 87% of households purchase at least one
card per year for an everyday occasion (birthday, anniversary, etc.), and 70% purchase at
least one seasonal (holiday) card per year. Note: A small percentage of U.S. households
purchase only seasonal (holiday) cards.
The average participating U.S. household purchases 35 individual cards per year.
People of all ages and types exchange greeting cards. Women purchase more than 80% of all
Nine out of 10 Americans look forward to receiving personal letters and greeting cards
because cards allow them to keep in touch with friends and family and make them feel that
they are important to someone else.
Personal greeting cards and letters are the primary types of mail people most look forward
to receiving, open first and read thoroughly.
Of the total greeting cards purchased annually, roughly half are seasonal and the
remaining half are for everyday card-sending situations.
Greeting cards are available for more than 20 different holidays, including holidays of
specific ethnic origins like Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and Chinese New Year. The most popular
card-sending holiday remains Christmas, which accounts for over 60% of all individual
seasonal cards sold.
The next most popular holidays in order are: Valentine's Day, Mother's Day, Easter and
Father's Day. Together, the top five card-sending holidays account for 95.5% of
individual seasonal card sales.
- Christmas 61%
- Valentine's Day 25%
- Mother's Day 4%
- Easter 3%
- Father's Day 2.5%
- Other 4.5%
The most popular everyday card-sending situation is still Birthday, which accounts for
nearly 60% of everyday cards sold.
The next most popular everyday card-sending situations in order are: Anniversary, Get
Well/Feel Better, Friendship/Encouragement and Sympathy. Together, the top five everyday
sending situations account for approximately 87% of everyday cards sold.
- Birthday 60%
- Anniversary 8%
- Get Well/Feel Better 7%
- Friendship/Encouragement 6%
- Sympathy 6%
- Other 13%
The average person receives more than 20 cards per year, about one-third of which are
The most popular recipients of seasonal cards are parents, who receive about one out of
every five seasonal cards.
The most popular recipients of everyday cards are friends, who receive about one out of
every three everyday cards.
Since 1993, the number of U.S. households participating in the greeting card category has
grown more than 6%.
Greeting card retail growth recently has been driven primarily by sales of cards for
everyday situations versus seasons (holidays) and by individual cards rather than from
packaged or boxed cards.
In keeping with casual Fridays and a more relaxed lifestyle, Americans are using casual,
conversational cards for communicating with friends, neighbors and work associates in
addition to using more traditional cards to recognize milestone occasions and special
The State of the Industry Report also offers some insights on the future of the greeting
card industry in the next millennium, including:
Today's Consumers Value Greeting Cards
A strong majority of consumers acknowledged they enjoy sending greeting cards and that
greeting card sending is a valued family tradition.
Consumers continue to recognize the unique benefits of greeting cards, and a strong
majority offer the
- Greeting cards are more thoughtful than most other communication
- Greeting cards show the recipient that he/she is special.
- Greeting cards "make it easy to express feelings" and
"help me express myself better than I can alone."
- Greeting cards have sentimental value as keepsakes.
- There is something uniquely appealing about the tactile, highly
personal way ink-on- paper cards connect the sender with the recipient.
Greeting Cards Are One of the Most Accessible Forms of Communication
Although the growth in electronic communication has been widely publicized, only 48% of
households had personal computers and only 37% of households had Internet access at the
end of 1998. These percentages are expected to grow to 65% and 58%, respectively, by 2003
(Source: Inteco). By comparison, greeting cards can be found in about 100,000 retail
outlets in the U.S., and over 90% of households participated in the greeting card category
Growth in discounting and, specifically, the emergence of the deep-discount channel, have
provided price-sensitive consumers with greater access to affordable ink-on-paper greeting
cards across a broader range of relationships and sending situations.
Technology Growth and Innovation Will Stimulate Future Greeting Card Sales
Electronic modes of communication (cellular telephones, faxes, PC-based communication)
provide a convenient and inexpensive way to keep in touch.
The proliferation of these new modes of communication is expected to, over time, increase
the number of interpersonal relationships people are able to maintain, as well as increase
the intimacy of those relationships.
The "core" Internet users are men and younger adults who are not typical
greeting card users. Increasing these consumers' involvement in communicating with friends
and loved ones has the potential to increase their familiarity with the benefits of card
As a result, the need for emotion-based me-to-you messages will grow, with traditional
greeting cards playing an important role in meeting those needs.
EDITOR'S NOTE: A recent study released in the United Kingdom by research company Mintel
indicates that, although the British "market is mature and sales are virtually
static, increasing numbers of greeting card buyers are becoming passionate about greeting
cards." Mintel's consumer research findings show that there are now more "Avid
Enthusiasts" sending cards for a wide range of occasions than "Limited
Enthusiasts" who only send cards for birthdays, Christmas and a few other occasions.
The number of "Limited Enthusiasts" has decreased 4% while "Avid
Enthusiasts" have increased 5%. The number of hard core non-senders in the UK is
approximately 5% of the British population.
Growing Internet Usage Boosts the Greeting Card Industry
Just as the VCR has not been the death of the movie house, so too the Internet will not be
the death knell of the paper greeting card industry. As a matter of fact, it may be just
the opposite, reveals a recent sociological study by Dr. Barry Wellman, professor of
Sociology at the University of Toronto, and Dr. Keith Hampton, professor of Urban Studies
and Planning at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
In a two year study of a new residential Toronto suburb wired with high speed Internet
access, the researchers discovered that wired residents were "more active in the
community, had more neighborhood social ties and communicated with those ties more
frequently" than non-wired citizens. (1)
In addition, "wired residents had significantly more contact than non-wired: 68
percent of wired residents reported that their overall level of social contact either
increased or remained the same as compared with only 45 percent of non-wired
residents." (2) Increased social contact means more interpersonal relationships.
Furthermore, the ease of computer-mediated communication only enhances the intimacy of
those relationships. Not only are computers bringing people closer together, they are also
getting people back into the habit of correspondence by writing. In fact, e-mail and
electronic greetings are complementing paper greeting cards, not replacing them.
For example, there will always be those occasions, such as weddings, sympathy or
Christmas, when sending an e-mail or electronic greeting is inappropriate. Paper greeting
cards, on the other hand, show one took the time to look for, consider and purchase a card
just for them. E-mail is just so easy, that its not really special.
Indeed, the Wellman and Hampton study concluded, "computer- mediated communication is
just another method of social contact to be used in forming new social ties and in
maintaining existing social networks." Actually, "Computer-mediated
communication seems especially useful for increasing contact and support for those who
previously had been just out of reach." (3)
If anything, the Internet is helping to foster the use of traditional forms of
communication by enabling a whole new generation to expand its network of family and
friends it wishes to stay in touch with over time. This study confirms that the increased
use of the Internet and e-mail will, in the long run, bolster the greeting card industry.
The Internet naturally promotes communication, and of course communication is what
relationships are about and an increased number of relationships is good news for
the traditional greeting card market.
(1) Hampton, Keith (2001). "Broadband Neighborhoods - Connected Communities." In
Kori Inkpen and Jean Vanderdonckt (eds.) CHI 201 Extended Abstracts. ACM Press.
(2) Hampton, Keith & Barry Wellman (2001). "Long Distance Community in the
Network Society: Looking at Contact and Support Beyond the Borders of Netville."
American Behavioral Scientist. Forthcoming.
Card Industry Information Today - is Courtesy The Greeting Card Association
2002 The Greeting Card Association Statistics
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