Listen to the audio file and read the text at the same time. Then make bullet point notes on the whiteboard of the main events in the history of greetings cards.

The History of Greetings Cards


Today over two billion greeting cards are sold annually in the UK. They cover all types of occasions from birthdays to Bar Mitzvah’s, new home to new job, good luck to graduation and much more. People in the UK send more cards per person than any other country.

The tradition of sending good wishes goes back many centuries. Probably beginning with the Chinese and Egyptians who sent good wishes at the start of each new year.

Sir Henry Cole created the first printed cards we know today. Cole asked his friend and artist John Calcott Horsely to create a painting that could be printed in large numbers for him to give to all his friends.

The introduction of the Penny Post service and improvements to printing and paper making quickly increased the popularity of printed Christmas cards. By the early 1900s the Royal Mail was sending 11 million cards during the festive season.

Card makers then began to make cards for other events such as Valentine’s day. The oldest example of a printed Valentine card is held in the British Museum.

The record for the largest number of cards sent to a single person is held by Craig Shergold, who was the victim of an early Internet chain letter. Craig was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer at the age of nine. His family sent a request asking people to send him a card, so he could get into the Guinness Book of World records. Unfortunately they didn’t put a time limit on the request and by the end of 1991 he had been sent 35 million cards. A businessman, John Kluge, heard about Craig’s illness and offered to pay for an operation for him. The operation was successful, but cards have continued to arrive at the Shergold’s address. At the last count over 350 million.