Wednesday, 6 June 2018

Christmas in June!

Dare we mention the word ‘Christmas’ whilst we have over 6 months to go until Santa does his rounds? We promise there is a good reason...
Here at Hull History Centre we are looking for examples of historical Christmas cards and we need your help! In November, we are hoping to put on an exhibition looking into the history of Christmas Cards.

Christmas card from 1936 [C DEHG/9/1/1/12]

For the origin of the Christmas card we need to go back to 1843. Sir Henry Cole, best remembered today as the founder of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, had the misfortune of having too many friends. In Victorian England, it was considered impolite not to answer mail and Cole was an enthusiastic supporter of the newly introduced ‘Penny Post’ postal system. He devised a way of responding to all of his friends by approaching an artist friend, John Callcott Horsley, and asking him to design a card which included the generic greeting “A Merry Christmas and A Happy New Year To You.” This is thought to be the first Christmas card.

It took several decades for the practice to really catch on. Once it did, it became an integral part of Christmas and appreciation of the quality and the artistry of cards grew in the late 1800s. In more recent years Christmas cards have become big business. Despite the fact that they have become increasingly expensive to post and to buy, there are still plenty of people who love to send and to receive them every year.

The earliest example found at Hull History Centre so far dates from 1868. In almost perfect condition with nothing written inside, the design is extremely delicate having an intricate lacework pattern.

Earliest Christmas card to be found at Hull History Centre so far [U DDBH/26/11/225]

Here is where you come in...
Ideally we would like any Christmas cards that were not mass produced and could potentially be of historical interest.

To help you, we would be interested in the following:

  • Cards with a black background, these were in vogue in the 1870s; 
  • Single and double folded cards with silk fringes round the edges, these appeared in the 1880s; 
  • Comic and trick cards, such as two faces appearing in different moods depending on the way the card was turned, or cards that contain a hidden picture if you look at it long enough or sideways on;
  • Embroidered cards;
  • Oddly shaped cards;
  • Cards with embossed brightly colored celluloid covers; 
  • Cards sent or received during the First World War (whilst large quantities were printed, they are scarcely found today because of the paper salvage drive of 1914-1918) 
  • Cards sent by Prisoners of War;
  • Greetings sent from British Regiments;
  • Cards commissioned by Hull businesses; 
  • Cards with a famous Hull connection.

Escrick-London Command Depot Christmas card, 1917 [U DDFA3/6/44]

If you think you have anything of interest we would love to hear from you. Contact us at hullhistorycente@hcandl.co.uk giving your name and an image of the card. Alternatively, you can drop in to our building on Worship Street with any cards that you might have identified. Someone will be able to advise you on the next steps. Don't forget to tell us the story behind the card if there is anything interesting or unusual to tell.

Mayoral Christmas card, 1895 [L DLCI/1]

Any cards we receive will potentially be used in our exhibition. After this, the cards could be returned to you, or we would be happy to keep them as we will be creating an archive collection specifically for this project. This collection will be preserved so that future generations can enjoy and discuss the items therein.

Elspeth, Archivist (City Archives)

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