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Christmas and Holiday Cards

Christmas cards made their début in America in the 1870's, when Louis Prang, the Boston publisher of lithographs, used one of his chromolithographed trade cards as a template to create a card that read "Merry Christmas." Many other publishers and printers followed suit, and the Christmas card industry grew. Most Christmas cards were designed anonymously or by unknown artists. However, a few famous artists produced cards, which are now highly sought after by collectors. It was very popular to quote passages from the Bible, Shakespeare, and other famous publications, for adding text to the cards. Writers were also used to create original Christmas greetings.

The design and type of cards made expanded very quickly. Like the Valentine's card, Christmas cards became more ornate, with use of lace, satin, embossing, gold and silver, and other fancy decorations. Specially shaped cards, and three-dimensional cut outs also became popular.

The American Antiquarian Society has a collection of cards in a range of styles, with the majority having been published locally, by Barnard, Summer & Co. of Worcester. Also included are several cards with verses written by well-known verse writer Frances Ridley Havergal. Card designs range from images of children and pets, to flowers and birds. Some cards picture religious symbols, such as angels, and other cards show Santa Claus. Included in the Christmas Card Collection are some other types of greeting cards, such as Easter and New Years cards. This collection is housed in two boxes in the Graphic Arts Department.

-Terri Tremblay, Assistant Curator of Graphic Arts

Source: Rickards, Maurice, The Encyclopedia of Ephemera. New York: Routledge, 2000.

Christmas Card
A Christmas card

  Christmas Card
A Christmas card published by Barnard, Summer and Co. of Worcester


For current information on the cataloging status of this and other AAS collections, choose "Collection Access" below. Access to


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185 Salisbury Street
Worcester, Massachusetts 01609-1634
Tel.: 508-755-5221
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Last updated September 2, 2004

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