Christmas card magic and Chicago themed cards

By Caryl Clem:

During the Victorian era in the 1800’s, letter writing exemplified class and prestige. Christmas letters and notes wishing a joyous New Year were expected.  Overworked Sir Henry Cole had a growing mound of correspondence in unopened letters on his desk. The act of ignoring correspondences was inexcusable and inspired Sir Henry to have a reputation saving brainstorm. In 1843, he hired an artist to design and engrave 1,000 cards to mail that displayed a festive prosperous family gathering that was active in acts of charity towards others. Signing the cards was a fast way to solve his problem while staff carried out addressing and mailing.    

A few years earlier in Scotland, Thomas Shorrock had created a card showing a man’s grinning ear to ear smile as a toast is made with the message printed, “A Gude Year Tae Ye”.  Within 3 decades the custom of sending Christmas cards had grown to 11 million.

The demand for attractive cards expanded lithography techniques. Printing cards in color involved a process termed, Chromolithography, which required up to 20 plates to create multiple intense colors. A talented “Chromos” printer, Louis Prang from Poland immigrated to America to set up his own business in Boston.  He discovered techniques improving card appearance while lowering costs.  He has been credited as the Father of the United States Christmas Card.  He ran yearly contests to introduce new designs judged by known artists and community members.  For the first time, contests won recognition for females artists for 5 years in a row.

Sending attractive postcard size Christmas cards left little room to share thoughts or events. In 1915 Joyce Hall changed the format size of a card into the 4 inch by 6 inch folded card to be inserted into an envelope still in production today.  This Kansas City family new business venture company became Hallmark.

Christmas card demand was spurred by a new marketing approach linking cards to collecting money for a charity.  In 1949, UNICEF featured a card showing Hope and Help as drawn by a young Czech girl whose village had been saved from starvation .The first Christmas card stamp was issued in 1962. Keeping the consumer enthralled with Christmas cards ushered in designs produced by famous people. In 1963, Jacqueline Kennedy created Glad Tidings and Gift of the Magi for Hallmark to raise money for the Kennedy Center.

Chicago themed Christmas cards still raise money for various institutions. Cards for Causes are one of them. You can get cards with beautiful pictures of Chicago’s skyline. The effect that your purchase of Chicago Christmas cards and holiday cards from Cards for Causes will make: 20% of your total purchase will be donated to your charity of choice. Cards for Causes have several different locations across the US and celebrates are variety of holidays.

The nostalgia felt by opening a card can erase years. Touching one of a kind handmade Christmas card originals are just valuable as any retail form. Last year over 2 billion cards hit mailboxes ahead of the 50 million sent email versions. Spreads some Christmas Cheer, it’s safely contagious!

Season’s greetings

Mom ordered her Christmas cards from Miles Kimball with our names printed inside; John, Mavis and Karla. It was a months long project in November to select the perfect card. My father owned a business and Mother included clients on her list. Simple, but elegant was her theme. Miles Kimball still offers a unique card selection with free personalization. And the Christmas cards she would get from others through the 1950’s to the early 1990’s always decorated a closet door frame in the living rooms of two homes. That was how she displayed her friendships…making sure the cover would flap open so visitors could see who they were from.

One grandmother talks about displaying them on string over her bed so that she can dream about her friends and adventures of Christmas at night. Wreaths composed of Christmas cards became popular in later years. And creating Christmas trees with cards was another idea.

Seven billion greeting cards are purchased every year. Annual retail sales of greeting cards are estimated at more than $7.5 billion. Nine out of every ten households buy greeting cards each year. The birthday card is one of the favorites. Top selling seasonal cards are Christmas and holidays cards. These account for more than six percent of all seasonal card sales. Valentine’s day is the next greeting card seller followed by Mothers, Fathers day and Easter according to the Greeting Card Association.

Today, gather up your favorite type of ribbon, some form of wall adhesive and clips. You only need a few items to create this easy clip on Holiday card display. Using old window shutters or empty frames to display your Christmas cards will give your home a rustic holiday feel.

Some also use garland with cards added that will be displayed on a staircase or garland around a door frame. Strips of velvet ribbon or satin are also used to display cards and you can purchase tabletop Christmas card holders. Christmas tree memory boards are available for sale or you can create your own bulletin board decorated with fabric to display a collage of cards and photos.

Holiday photo cards of family have been extremely popular over the decades but ours as children were black and white. Many have interesting backgrounds,some families dressed in matching pajamas by the Christmas tree or encircled with holiday lights. There are hundreds of ideas for unique family photos. For me, family photo cards are a little scary. A school psychologist once shared a story that almost every family Christmas photo she received had a crisis behind the smiling faces of the family that sent the card.

I guess the best Season greetings cards for me are the ones that tell me a little about the sender if I am not in touch; those with the added notes in their own pen. Those that ask how you are, those that hope for the best, those that thank you for your friendship, those that wish happiness for your loved ones and most of all, those that share blessings for a safe, healthy and gracious holiday season. And, of course, a happy New Year. That’s all I need.