Chromolithographed Christmas Cards

The holiday rush has started for us all, so we hope you will forgive us at Past is Present for having taken a bit of a break recently.  To kick off the month of December, in the spirit of Christmas giving, please accept these chromolithographed Christmas cards as our present from the past.  Click on any of the cards below to view the larger image.  Or come by the AAS reading room in person and see the originals on display in our reading room exhibition case for the month of December.

Boston lithographer Louis Prang developed the Christmas greeting in the 1870s and 1880s, flooding the market with beautiful, mass-produced, chromolithographed Christmas cards. Many of the examples here are Prang cards. Some were single postcard-sized cards with small poem or greetings printed on the back.  Other cards were decorated with mica sparkles, like the sleigh ride scene at right above, or with fringed fabric trim, like the pug card at right below.

The Prang Company held yearly competitions for Christmas card designs, encouraging both notable and amateur artists to submit work.  The examples below were taken from a salesman’s sample book of the 1880s showing two contest entries. “Merwy Kissmas” was designed by Alfred Fredericks, a New York illustrator and artist, and won fourth prize in 1884. The card at right, designed by C.D. Weldon, shows a child’s idealized dream of Christmas and won first prize in the 1885 competition.

Businesses also gave out Christmas themed trade cards, such as the two at left advertising Holmes & Coutts famous biscuits, and the card below was given to patrons of Barnard, Sumner & Co’s. department store in Worcester. Other cards were printed in series, and could be collected, such as the last two which showcase children with their pets.

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Associate Curator of Graphic Arts, American Antiquarian Society

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