Christmas Greetings, 1884 Style

1884 Prang Christmas card

If you received this card in 1884, you were part of the new American practice of sending Christmas cards. The first Christmas card originated in England in 1843, but not until Louis Prang, a Boston lithographer, introduced them in 1875 did they become popular in America. By 1881 he was printing as many as 5 million cards a year. The earliest cards were simple flower designs with the words “Merry Christmas.” Later, the cards had more traditional holiday motifs and some were fringed with silk, as in the 1884 Prang card shown above. His cards used the new method of photolithography to produce the intense color and gradation that he was known for. This was a very labor-intensive process, and when cheap German cards flooded the market in the early 1890s Prang got out of the greeting card business rather than lower his standards. Perhaps you could have bought this card or others like it at the Dayton store, but if not, a good supply could be found in Ottawa at the millinery store of Mrs. Gregg, on Main street.

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