You’ve Got Mail

The time-honored tradition of holiday greeting cards.

Sending greetings of one form or another over the holiday season may seem commonplace today, but before printing was affordable and postal services were developed, it took much more effort to send those well-wishes. It is widely believed Sir Henry Cole sent the earliest Christmas cards in the United Kingdom in the 1840s.

Cards began to appear in the United States about a decade later, but really didn’t gain in popularity until the 1870s. Those earliest cards were typically designed with religious or nature scenes depicting an iconic Christmas or winter setting.

As the mass production of cards became more common and the infrastructure of the postal service throughout the United States was established, holiday greetings were a very typical and personal way to stay in touch with faraway loved ones. In more recent years, the Christmas letter and photo card have become a popular way to document the activities of the past year as families grow and circumstances change. Today, greetings are sent in a variety of ways including e-cards, text messages and other electronic methods.

Sara Markoe Hanson is the executive director of the White Bear Lake Area Historical Society. She is one of a handful of community representatives sharing history thoughts monthly on this back page.

For more information on the history of sending greeting cards, visit the WBL Historical Society website here.