As heard on the Good Stuff with Jim Thompson

Given the popularity of greeting cards, it's no wonder why it's a multi-billion dollar industry. The ancestor to modern greeting cards is the vintage Christmas card, which paved the way for the cards we send today, and opened the door to fun, everyday cards and thank-you notes. History in the making!

In 1843, the Christmas card was invented by a man named John Calcott Horsley, who lived Italy. He was hired by Sir Henry Cole in an effort to depict the desolate living conditions of the poor. The idea was to raise awareness and encourage people to help those in need.

Ironically, the result was a card portraying a happy family, including a child sipping wine. Scrawled across the front of the card was "A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to You." This led to criticism as it was not socially correct for a child to drink alcohol. Despite this, the Christmas card was a hit and manufacturers found it difficult to keep up with the demand. By 1880, the Christmas card business was big and growing rapidly.

The "trick card" era came next. Ranging from fans to puzzles, these cards quickly became popular. Common materials for these cards were satin and silk, making them quite elegant. They came in many different shapes such as bells, animals, and stars. The all-time favorites were pop-ups, tab-cards and cards that made sounds.

In 1862, Charles Goodall created cards that said "A Merry Christmas" and soon, religious-themed cards followed. Mangers, the baby Jesus, and Mary and Joseph were often the subject matter. Until 1815, Americans imported the cards from England. Later that year, Louis Prang opened his own shop to print off Christmas cards. By the year 1881, he had sold nearly 30 million cards, a booming success!

Today, greeting cards are still popular and evolving. Not only can we easily find Christmas cards, we can buy cards for special occasions such as birthdays and weddings -- and holidays, including Valentines Day, St. Patrick's Day, Easter, Halloween, Thanksgiving, and New Year's Day. Nonetheless, modern greeting cards will always resemble the classical ones invented in 1843. Who would want it any other way?