By Amy Mann
Many people have stopped sending out Christmas cards. Cards can be bought cheaply but seem like an afterthought to many. The first American-made Christmas cards premiered in the early 1850s in Albany, N.Y. Printer and variety store owner R.H. Pease created cards that made no allusions to poverty, cold or hunger as did the English forerunners of a decade earlier. Instead, cards captured the bounty and joys of the season.
Louis Prang, called the “Father of the American Christmas card,” came along a few years later. Prang was a recent German immigrant who had perfected the color printing process of chromolithography. Previously, printed materials were hand-colored, which was time-consuming and labor-intense. When the printer came back from a trip to Europe to learn about cutting-edge German lithography, he began to create high-quality reproductions of major art works, first on album cards and then on greeting cards. He saw these as small, affordable works of art. He began selling Christmas cards in his adopted country in 1875. They proved so popular that he couldn’t meet the demand.
In 1880, Prang held competitions to find the best new works for his Christmas cards. However, by 1890, cheap imitations from his country of origin, Germany, drove Prang from the Christmas card market and on to other pursuits, including a foundation supporting art education.
Commercialism has for many years downplayed the value of gifts made by the giver, but times of isolation and distance have seen the pendulum swing back toward the homemade offerings of simpler times. Maybe we can combine the sentiment of giving the “modest but suitable” gift of a Christmas card with the joy of offering something made just for the receiver. Warsaw Community Public Library teems with books and other resources that might help make the season a little brighter for those we will be able to see and those we won’t in 2020.
Pam Chenevert’s “Paper Pop-Up Art” might be a good place to start. It resides in the children’s non-fiction section and contains instructions to make several different kinds of pop-up cards. “Design and Make Cards” by Helen Greathead is another great resource in Children’s Services. You might want to try the holiday section as well for books on Christmas crafts and yummy holiday treats.