When did the first Christmas card, Christmas tree, and department store Santa Claus appear in America? See when some of these Christmas traditions began!
The First Christmas Card
- The first American to print and sell Christmas cards was Louis Prang of Roxbury, Massachusetts, who began publishing cards in 1875. It was a British civil servant who pioneered commercially-produced Christmas cards. In 1843 Henry Cole saw that the postal service could help customers send their Christmas greetings. Making dozens or hundreds of your own personalized cards was very time-consuming. Why not make it easier? So he hired an artist named John Callcott Horsely, engaged a printer, and created the first Christmas cards. See below.
- President Dwight D. Eisenhower is given credit for sending the first “official” Christmas card from the White House. An art print also became the standard Christmas gift for the president’s staff, a practice continued to this day.
The First Christmas Tree
- Of course, Germany is credited with starting the Christmas tree tradition. However, the first American Christmas tree can be credited to a Hessian soldier by the name of Henrick Roddmore, who was captured at the Battle of Bennington (Vermont) in 1776. He then went to work on the farm of Samuel Denslow in Windsor Locks, Connecticut, where for the next 14 years he put up and decorated Christmas trees in the Denslow family home.
- The first Christmas tree retail lot was established in 1851 by a Pennsylvanian named Mark Carr, who hauled two ox sleds loaded with Christmas trees from the Catskill Mountains to the sidewalks of New York City.
- The first president to set up a Christmas tree in the White House was Franklin Pierce, and the first president to establish the National Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony on the White House lawn was Calvin Coolidge.
- On December 22, 1882, Edward Johnson, an associate of Thomas Edison, created the first string of Christmas tree lights. They were first sold in New York City.
Martha’s Great Christmas Cake
While cakes at the holidays have been around for centuries, it was America’s first First Lady, Martha Washington, who made the first famous Christmas Cake. Below is the exact recipe for celebrating what she called “a true Virginia Christmas” at Mount Vernon:
- “Take 40 eggs and divide the whites from the yolks and beat them to a froth, start to work four pounds of butter to cream and put the whites of eggs to it a spoon full at a time till it is well worked. Then put four pounds of sugar finely powdered to it in the same way, then put in the yolks of eggs, and five pounds of flower, and five pounds of fruit. Two hours will bake it. Add to it half an ounce of mace, one nutmeg, half a pint of wine, and some French brandy.”
Here Comes Santa Claus…
- The first department store Santa was James Edgar, who, during Christmas seasons beginning in 1890, would wander about his store (the Boston Store) in Brockton, Massachusetts, dressed as Santa Claus, talking to the children of customers.
More Christmas Firsts
- December 7, 1898: The first Christmas postage stamp was released in Canada
- December 7, 1907: Christmas seals sold for the first time
- Wednesday, December 1, 1909: The Christmas Club savings account began