Cheers! Or not: ‘Scandalous’ 1st Christmas card up for sale

The first commercially printed Christmas card is up for sale – a merry Victorian-era scene that scandalized some who denounced it as humbug when it first appeared in 1843.

The card, being sold online starting Friday through a consortium run by Marvin Getman, a Boston-based dealer in rare books and manuscripts, depicts an English family toasting the recipient with glasses of red wine.

“A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to You,” it reads. But for teetotalers – and there were plenty of those in the 19th century – the imagery included a bit too much holiday cheer: In the foreground, a young girl is pictured taking a sip from an adult’s glass.

That didn’t sit well at the time with the puritanical Temperance Society, which kicked up such a fuss it took three years before another Christmas card was produced.

“They were quite distressed that in this ‘scandalous’

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Cheers! Or not: ‘Scandalous’ 1st Christmas card up for sale

“A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to You,” it reads. But for teetotalers — and there were plenty of those in the 19th century — the imagery included a bit too much holiday cheer: In the foreground, a young girl is pictured taking a sip from an adult’s glass.

That didn’t sit well at the time with the puritanical Temperance Society, which kicked up such a fuss it took three years before another Christmas card was produced.

“They were quite distressed that in this ‘scandalous’ picture they had children toasting with a glass of wine along with the adults. They had a campaign to censor and suppress it,” said Justin Schiller, founder and president of Kingston, New York-based Battledore Ltd., a dealer in antiquarian books who is selling the card.

Getman, whose brokerage had shifted online before the coronavirus pandemic disrupted traditional touring book fairs, said the hand-colored

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