Americans bought around 2 billion Christmas cards in 2010, according to the Greeting Card Association. Despite women making 85 percent of greeting card purchases these days, we send and receive Christmas and holiday cards thanks to a British fellow (kind of like how men invented high heels). Mental Floss reports that in 1843 Sir Henry Cole was too busy to jot down season’s greetings to individual family members and friends and decided a mass mailing of uniform cards would better serve his hectic schedule, which would eventually include organizing The Great Exhibition of 1851.
Cole’s hand-colored, lithographed card wasn’t all that different from those 2 billion mucking up our mailboxes these days. He kept the verbiage short and sweet, simply wishing recipients “A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to You.” On a related note, 1843 was a pretty big year for Christmas culture in general, since in addition to Cole dreaming up his time-saving Christmas card, Charles Dickens also penned “A Christmas Carol.”
Holiday card sales are on the decline as more people opt for e-cards and social media to send forth their glad tiding, but some of Cole’s originals are still floating around. One of those cheerful cards, which originally cost around a pence to print, sold at auction last year for more than $34,400.