The Transylvania Times -

Picturing The Past: Library Has Christmas Card Collection


December 11, 2017

The first Christmas card was created by Sir Henry Cole in England in 1843. Cole was looking for an efficient way to respond to hundreds of Christmas letters. He asked artist John Horsley to design a card containing three panels and a simple message. The outer panels pictured people caring for the poor, while the center panel showed a family Christmas celebration. He had a thousand copies printed.

Cole's peers liked the idea and soon began having their own Christmas cards designed and printed. The idea spread and anyone with the funds could purchase a Christ-mas card for a shilling each.

Christmas cards were first sold in the United States in 1875 by lithographer Louis Prang. Prang used chromolithography-color printing. The cards featured animals and nature scenes and a simple message. Within a few years Prang was selling 5 million cards a year.

The popularity of Christmas cards brought about competition in the industry. Cash prizes were offered for the best design. In the late 1800s elaborate Victorian style cards with snow scenes were the most desired. Around 1900 holiday postcards, which were less expensive to produce and mail, came into style.

The Transylvania County Library has a number of holiday postcards. Most of these came from the collection of Hattie Aiken. Born in 1886, Hattie Aiken grew up in the East Main Street home of her parents, William and Mary Lankford Aiken. After teaching at Brevard Institute for a few years, she taught at schools in Wilkes and Surry counties for 29 years. Upon retirement Miss Hattie returned to the family home in Brevard and operated it as a boarding house for many years. Legible postmarks on the cards dated them from 1908-1935. Miss Hattie passed away at the age of 96 on Christmas Day, 1982.

There are also a small number of Christmas postcards sent to Miss Jerdie Pressley of Glenville, N.C. in Jackson County. Jerdie Pressley was born in 1898 and married H. Jasper Wilson on Aug. 19, 1917. The postcards are all addressed to Jerdie Pressley, with the earliest postmarked 1910.

The library's postcard collection is available for browsing in the Rowell Bosse North Carolina Room on the second floor.

(Photographs and information for this column are provided by the Rowell Bosse North Carolina Room, Transylvania County Library. Visit the N.C. Room during regular library hours (Monday-Friday) to learn more about local history and to see additional photographs. For more information, comments or suggestions contact Marcy at or (828) 884-1820.)


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