Greeting cards for the Christmas season were very slow to gather popularity in the United States prior to the Civil War ( 1861-1865). The first commercial Christmas card was introduced for the season of 1843 in London, England. It wasn’t a success for several reasons. In the early 1870s, a German immigrant by the name of Louis Prang opened a color print shop in a suburb of Boston, MA. Prang could turn out prints using twenty-some varied color plates to produce a stunning product not seen before in the United States. By the mid- I 880s other print shops started using the same process and the appeal of the holiday greeting card grew each year. In the earlier years, the subjects followed the English style of subjects: flowers, elegant ladies, children, animals, and birds of every description, all posed with a bower of varied blossoms. The Christmas greeting was often in a small, simple line near the top or bottom. The fringed, embossed, and beribboned era was the fashion, with larger print styles from 1886 into the 1890s. Santa had appeared and was mentioned before the Civil War, but seldom appeared until the last years of the 19th century. The Christmas tree would also make its appearance then, but the Poinsettia was unknown until about 1901.
The cards of that early period were relatively expensive, depending on the size and extra “added fluff”. It might seem odd that most holiday cards were not mailed but hand-carried to the recipient’s door with a calling card attached. Only the out-of-town card with an added note would be mailed to Uncle Bert and Aunt Minnie who had moved to Michigan or Cousin Bertha now living in Auburn, near her daughter, Theodora. The 20th century and the coming of the colored postcard and penny postage brought the steady growth of the entire greeting card industry into al most the present day. Cards with envelopes again became the norm just before 1920. We now have greeting cards of all types offered online via computer. But why rely on just online Greeting card companies’ offers when you can create your own greetings and send them via the computer using a combination of email, and/or social media services like Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Whatsapp, Instagram, YouTube, Linkedin, Pinterest, Tumblr or the next big social media service that comes along that allows you to Christmas or other types of messages that you want to share with your online “friends” around the world. From hand delivering your Christmas greeting cards to relatives, friends, and neighbors in the 19th century to electronic delivery in seconds (well, sometimes a bit longer) in the 21st…….to the “friends” you might never meet!
Here are some cool Pinterest ideas for digital Christmas cards and posts and other Holidays as well from PosterMyWall Pinterest PinBoard.
Prior to the Civil War (1861-65) the farmers in Greece got the latest information concerning all aspects of farming from fellow farmers or a number of monthly publications such as The Genesee Farmer (founded in 1831) or Moore’s Rural New Yorker (founded about 1849). Both papers were published in Rochester and both were priced at $3.00 per year ($3.00 in 1849 would amount to $93.75 in 2015). Both were issued monthly. Advertisements were generally quite small and very often without an illustration of the product. Each issue might be carefully kept and in many cases were bound into book form. Our GHS archive has two bound volumes of Moore’s Rural New York from 125 years ago. The Greece farmer, if he had the money, could become a member of the Monroe (County) Horticultural Society, founded in 1830, or take off a day and attend the Monroe County Fair with his family to see the exhibits and mingle with local fellow farmers.
Just a few years after the close of the Civil War, especially in the northern states, manufacturers began to pro duce and distribute consumer goods on a national scale. The big problem was the lack of an advertising medium that was on a national scale. The few national magazines published then were comparatively expensive and not always widely distributed, except in larger urban cities. The mail order companies Montgomery Ward began as a tiny business in 1872 and Sears-Roebuck some 25 years later.
A bit of a “eureka moment” occurred in the early 1870s. Colored lithography had been invented in Bavaria, Germany in 1835 and by 1839 it was introduced in the United States. The process involved numerous printing plates, each having a different color of ink. By careful registration, amazing full-color prints could be easily and inexpensively reproduced. Copies of famous works of art, religious and secular scenes were now offered for framing. The “eureka moment” occurred when someone decided to print advertising cards of modest size as Chromolithographs to be inserted in package goods, mailed, and handed out…….and ….. they were FREE! A collecting craze soon started for these colorful gems, often traded and pasted in appropriate scrapbooks. Every shopkeeper had a group of handouts supplied by the wholesaler which carried a stamping of his business and address. National and international expositions, and county and state fairs, all joined in handing out trade cards by the thousands. The Greece Grange (The Patrons of Husbandry) #311 was founded in 1875 and through meetings and lectures, it brought the local farmers into a fraternal-like setting, making it an ideal place for lectures and demonstrations of the latest is farm improvements. The captive audience was perfect for the distribution of appropriate trade cards brought to the gathering by the friendly lecture salesman.
What was the attraction of the modest, Chromolithograph, trade card? The full-color image was the big draw. The ubiquitous Currier and Ives prints of the period were hand colored and often varied in the quality and variety of colors used. The mania for the vibrantly colorful giveaways lasted for almost twenty-five years and finally faded away in the early 1900s.
Shown here above is a group of typical trade cards all slanted toward the farmer. Some were clever as the fold-down of the couple showing their huge cabbages after a shot of Cracker’s Buffalo Phosphate or the moveable images of the W.H. Rowerdink Co. Several Rochester printing companies of the era produced trade cards as well as colored seed packets for the numerous seed companies in Monroe County. The two better-known local printers of that long-ago period were Mensing-Stecher Co. and the Karle Lithographic Co.
The colorful trade cards of 5 to 7 generations ago still turn up at local antique shows. Even an occasional worn scrapbook, when opened, explodes with the bright colors of the trade cards inside. Someone carefully saved and pasted the cards in an album that might have been purchased at the Phelp’s Store in N. Greece about 1885…….
The Henry Ford Museum at the Benson Ford Research Center has at least 3 catalogs of Hiram Seeds Catalogs from 1879, 1884, and 1886 as well as some of the original packages of the seed packs from the 1882-1888 time frame, and the seeds either shipped from Rochester, NY or Chicago, IL. and you can see the search on Hiram Silbey by clicking on this link here: Hiram Sibley search on Henry Ford Collections.
Coming to Monroe County in the early 1800s, the Britton Family were early settlers in what was then called Rochesterville.
Alanson Phizarro Britton, the ninth child of thirteen, was born in the tiny village in 1820. While in his teens he ran a line boat on the Erie Canal and later he managed a Toll Gate on the plank road in Brighton which became East Avenue. While boarding at the Toll Gate house he met and later married, in 1849, a school teacher named Laura Lewis. By 1853 he became interested in a plot of land in the town of Greece. The first dwelling, on about 1.02 acres he purchased from John and Lydia Beal, was a log house. A small portion of this land had already been deeded for use as a schoolhouse to Greece Common School District #9 by the Beals. Shortly after the Civil War, Alanson began building the present Italian ate style home on the property. The timbers were cut from trees on the property, hauled to a sawmill, cut into useable lumber, and brought back to the building site.
The Britton farmstead, completed about 1870, was well known for its Hubbard Squash. By 1875 the Brittons had sold about an acre of the southern portion of the land near Maiden Lane to the Methodist Church for $700. Laura and Alanson raised four children, of which the two eldest died fairly young.
Mr. Britton was the Town of Greece Supervisor five different times from the late 1870s until 1901. By mutual agreement, elected supervisors only served a two-year term and retired but could run again after a two-year gap. Of all the 19th-century supervisors, Britton seems to hold the record for the number of times served. Alanson had a long life, dying at the homestead in 1912; Laura preceded him in 1910 with an equally long life. They are buried in the Falls Cemetery on Ridge Road. The Britton homestead is now about 140 years old and is again up for sale with 1.6 acres of the original 102 acres from 1853 remaining. House # 1066 is listed on the “101 historic sites in The Town Of Greece” and awaits a new owner who loves being surrounded by “friendly ghosts” of an important Greece family!
Photos, Data supplied by Alan Mueller, Greece Historian’s Office, Greece Historical Society