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10 Must-See Vintage Christmas Cards from the New York Public Library Archives

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The first commercial Christmas card was designed in 1843 in London, an origin story you have to hear for yourself.


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Wishing someone a Merry Christmas never goes out of style, although the ways we do it have changed over the years. Today we can FaceTime with our loved ones who are far away or send a funny holiday GIF to our friends. For families of the last two centuries, the best way to spread holiday cheer was a Christmas Card. 

The first commercial Christmas card was designed in 1843 in London. Sir Henry Cole commissioned his friend, John Callcott Horsley, to design a card for him as a solution to not having enough time to individually write Christmas greetings to all his family and friends. 

Horsley designed a triptych depicting good deeds on either side and a warm family Christmas party in the center. The card was lithographed and then colored by hand. Of the 1,000 that were printed, twelve still exist today, including the one Sir Cole sent his Grandmother! 

Now that you have the backstory, let your heart be charmed by these 10 vintage Christmas cards from the New York Public Library digital archive. And if that’s not enough holiday spirit for you, there are many more! Enjoy the full archive here. 

1. ‘A MERRY XMAS, WHERE IGNORANCE IS BLISS’

Uh oh. Looks like some Christmas troublemakers.

10 Must-See Vintage Christmas Cards from the New York Public Library Archives
Photo Source: New York Public Library Archives
10 Must-See Vintage Christmas Cards from the New York Public Library Archives
Photo Source: New York Public Library Archives

2. ‘A MERRY CHRISTMAS’

A card for the more “straight to the point” types…

10 Must-See Vintage Christmas Cards from the New York Public Library Archives
Photo Source: New York Public Library Archives
10 Must-See Vintage Christmas Cards from the New York Public Library Archives
Photo Source: New York Public Library Archives

3. ‘A MERRY CHRISTMAS; THINE OWN WISH WISH I THEE’

This little girl hit the jackpot! 

10 Must-See Vintage Christmas Cards from the New York Public Library Archives
Photo Source: New York Public Library Archives
10 Must-See Vintage Christmas Cards from the New York Public Library Archives
Photo Source: New York Public Library Archives

4. ‘A MERRY CHRISTMAS AND A HAPPY NEW  YEAR’

A card for the more adventurous types. Look at the bottom right, George even had it personalized! 

10 Must-See Vintage Christmas Cards from the New York Public Library Archives
Photo Source: New York Public Library Archives

5. ‘A LOVEBIRDS MERRY CHRISTMAS’

This couple definitely had the Christmas spirit.

10 Must-See Vintage Christmas Cards from the New York Public Library Archives
Photo Source: New York Public Library Archives
10 Must-See Vintage Christmas Cards from the New York Public Library Archives
Photo Source: New York Public Library Archives

6. ‘A MISTLETOE MERRY CHRISTMAS’

Looks like someone’s having some fun under the mistletoe!

10 Must-See Vintage Christmas Cards from the New York Public Library Archives
Photo Source: New York Public Library Archives
10 Must-See Vintage Christmas Cards from the New York Public Library Archives
Photo Source: New York Public Library Archives

7. ‘WISHING YOU A PURRR-FECT CHRISTMAS’

A card for all the cat lovers out there.

10 Must-See Vintage Christmas Cards from the New York Public Library Archives
Photo Source: New York Public Library Archives
10 Must-See Vintage Christmas Cards from the New York Public Library Archives
Photo Source: New York Public Library Archives

8. ‘MAY YOU HAVE A ROOF-TASTIC CHRISTMAS’

… And let’s not forget the dog lovers. 

10 Must-See Vintage Christmas Cards from the New York Public Library Archives
Photo Source: New York Public Library Archives
10 Must-See Vintage Christmas Cards from the New York Public Library Archives
Photo Source: New York Public Library Archives

 9. ‘A SANTA-TASTIC MERRY CHRISTMAS’

Cause even Santa needs a little fun sometimes right? 

10 Must-See Vintage Christmas Cards from the New York Public Library Archives
Photo Source: New York Public Library Archives
10 Must-See Vintage Christmas Cards from the New York Public Library Archives
Photo Source: New York Public Library Archives

10.  ‘MERRY CHRISTMAS ANGELS’

And finally, this one, because nothing says Christmas like getting serenaded by a quartet of little baby angels. 

10 Must-See Vintage Christmas Cards from the New York Public Library Archives
Photo Source: New York Public Library Archives
10 Must-See Vintage Christmas Cards from the New York Public Library Archives
Photo Source: New York Public Library Archives