Apparently the history of the greeting card goes back to Egyptian and Roman times, clearly they had a different format though. Papyrus and coins respectively and given at the start of the New Year.
Greeting cards, mostly in the post card format, started to become popular in the mid to late 1800’s and were hand made, therefore quite expensive and reserved for the upper class mostly. As the years rolled by, manufacturing and printing became commonplace and prices dropped. By the beginning of the 20th century cards were becoming more and more popular and similar to the cards we see today, with the amazing invention of the folded card. And then the even more amazing invention of the French fold, which is the card folded into four little squares, but it has since lost popularity.
I suppose you don’t know how good it is until someone comes up with the idea…after all, now Nanna can put in a few dollars for Christmas.
These days the greeting card business is massive. Prices can start at 50c and go up to some crazy prices. Unfortunately I’m one of those people that takes about an hour to pick a card and let me tell you, the price is no where near 50c. I usually escape with a $7 card, but on the odd occasion I have paid up to $12. I’m a bit of a sucker for the cards that have the extras attached, like a little bow or a card I got for my Christening when I was two, it had a little spoon threaded through the card, my Mum still has it somewhere.
In the mid 1940’s there was an explosion of popularity in the greeting card business, which featured the inclusion of humour and a bit of sass thrown in for the fun of it. In 1948 Rosalind Welcher of Panda Print, a greeting card company from New York, produced what is generally accepted as the first commercially produced studio card. The first studio card that Welcher produced was a standard square shaped card with a “tipsy looking” matron on the front with the phrase “Stay as sweet as you are”. By today’s standard not very clever, but in comparison to other greeting cards of the time this was a game changer. Rosalind Welcher continued to create cards for Panda Print and went on the write and illustrate many books too. Her style of illustration may be quite familiar to many. I’ve included some samples of her work but I have, unfortunately, not been able to find the game changer card.
If you would like to read more about the history of greeting cards I highly recommend clicking on the link below, it is a surprisingly interesting thesis on greeting cards of course. (It’s about 110 pages and takes longer than normal to load, but if you’re patient, it’s worth the wait).
STUDIO GREETING CARDS – WHERE THEY CAME FROM AND WHAT THEY LEAD TO
BY RICHARD H. WILSON
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA 1972
Most cards, like these beautiful specimens of olden days (those are always the days from when our parents were kids), usually include the illustrators name and the company name on the back.
As previously mentioned, Rosalind Welcher was but one of these talented people producing studio cards. Others, like Cohen and Pollock, who were inventing the gimmick type card by sticking a “Blarney Stone” of sorts to the front of a card. William Steig, who is thought to have earned a staggering $250,000 from one card design and the two car parkers by day (Bill Box and Bill Kennedy), that started Box Cards, the most significant of all studio card publishers.
All of these people and many many more contributed to the changing face of the greeting card industry and some will say that these holidays that we buy cards for, are just made up to sell sell sell. But guess what folks…everything is made up, isn’t it? Humans are good like that.
So why not go out a buy a card for someone special, fill it out and actually post it (that’s the hard part for me). There’s a lot of history and tradition, behind those little pieces of paper!
Oh…I think I have neglected to mention the most famous person in the greeting card industry, one Mr Maxwell Smart. Secret agent 86, husband to 99, friend to Fang and enemy to the badies. Okay so it was just a cover, but he was my favourite greeting card salesmen!
I hope greeting cards are a little less boring now. Night night xx.