The first Christmas card was controversial because some people thought the sender was promoting drinking.
It is generally believed that Sir Henry Cole, a world traveller with many friends, sent the first Christmas Card during the holiday season of 1843.
It was an old custom in England to send Christmas and New Year’s letters. The recent expansion of the British postal system and the introduction of the “Penny Post,” allowed the sender to send a letter or card anywhere in the country by affixing a penny stamp to the correspondence.
Cole—best remembered today as the founder of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London—was a busy man. As he watched the stacks of unanswered correspondence he fretted over what to do. It was considered rude not to respond to letters
He approached an artist friend, J.C. Horsley to design an idea that Cole had sketched out in his mind. Cole then took Horsley’s illustration—a triptych showing a family at table celebrating the holiday flanked by images of people helping the poor—and had a thousand copies made by a London printer.
At the top of each was the salutation, “TO…..” allowing Cole to personalize his responses, which included the generic greeting “A Merry Christmas and A Happy New Year To You.”
It was the first Christmas card.