By Laura Reeves
With it now less than a fortnight until Christmas day we would like to share you with some festive favourites from our collections. We’re technically breaking the rules here because this blog is supposed to celebrate our stored collections and these objects are currently on display at Strangers’ Hall. However, they are usually in storage so bear with us.
In this display case you will find a selection of Christmas cards, and a Christmas children’s book – but did you know the history of Christmas cards and children’s books?
It was not until the 19th century that greetings cards became popular. It was during this time that there was a ‘communication revolution’ – printing methods were improving, new railway systems were being built and reformed public postal services all contributed to a fast and efficient movement of greetings cards.
The custom of sending Christmas cards started in Britain in the 1840s, and by the 1860s cards were being produced in large numbers. They could be posted in an unsealed envelope for one half-penny, which was half the price of an ordinary letter.
Modern children’s literature began to emerge in the mid-19th century. Much like Christmas cards, children’s books grew in popularity and availability as printing techniques improved, but also the rise in literacy rates created a demand for children’s literature. By the end of the Victorian era, children’s books were seen as an independent genre, featuring colour, illustrations and imaginative story lines. The book in this display ‘Jolly St. Nick’ is a picture book published by the McLoughlin Brothers – a New York based firm who specialised in producing affordable and colourful illustrative children’s books.
And there you have it, a brief history of some Christmassy collections. Happy Christmas and a happy new year!