Holiday cards: back story and today’s beauties

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Sir Henry Cole’s first holiday card.

 

Credit or blame Sir Henry Cole for the tradition of sending holiday cards to family or friends.

The man who would go on to become the first leader of the Victoria and Albert Museum created what the Smithsonian magazine says is the first Christmas card in 1840. That’s when he realized he did not have enough time to send hand written notes to all his friends. It would have been impolite to allow their greetings to go unreturned, so he approached an artist friend, who drew a family celebrating the holidays surrounded by people helping the poor. His time saving tool was, the Smithsonian magazine said, the first Christmas card.

Very soon, others followed his lead, and the practice grew with the industrial revolution and as women took the role of connecting far-flung family members. Card quality improved along with image reproductions and an array of greetings featuring landscapes, sporting themes and more varied images, instead of merely showing cherub and children singing in snow storms.

By the late 1800s, people collected Christmas cards the way they collected coins as card makers organized competitions for new images.  

Mint Artists Guild’s first holiday card was inspired by an image by alumni Espacia Fotiu. She hand painted cards and gave one to Mint’s co-founders Vickie Elmer and Mark Loeb in appreciation for their help in launching her creative career.  The next year, in 2016, Mint debuted its holiday card featuring a tree surrounded by a community of peaceful people.

A year later, we celebrated the holidays in Palmer Park, with a card designed by intern and former Summer Worker Alana Rider. It depicted the historic Palmer Park Log Cabin, decked in snow and holiday lights. (The Log Cabin never uses electric lights, so that’s artistic license; it is being restored by our friends and partners the People for Palmer Park.).

Trees, starry nights and the historic Log Cabin in Palmer Park show up on our earlier Mint holiday cards.

Mint skipped a holiday card in 2018, but we’re bringing forth a beauty this year. Our new holiday card is based on a beautiful painting of poinsettias by Annie Kinney, who often paints floral pieces.  It is bright and bold and features the flower that blooms in millions of homes, churches and businesses at the holidays. (How the poinsettia became the flower of the holidays is a story for another time, though read this article for some cool history.)

The Mint poinsettia card  debuted in November at the TedXDetroit and Detroit Institute of Arts pop ups. It will be available during the holidays at the Detroit Artists Market, at Germack Cafe in Eastern Market and soon at WSG Gallery in Ann Arbor.  Or join us at  our Mint pop ups at Eastern Market on Dec. 1, Dec. 8 and Dec. 22 and at Noel Night on Dec. 7.

Sir Henry Cole wants you to send some Mint cards this year.

Mint’s new holiday card features the beautiful flowers of Annie Kinney.