5 November 2014
Our speaker on Monday, Sheila Sturrock, treated us to a history of 19th century greetings cards, starting with Valentine cards. They were big business and from quite simple, hand-made affairs, became bedecked with all kinds of flowers, paper lace, embossing and scraps. We were surprised to find that not all of them were of the loving 'hearts and flowers' type and the insulting or rude ones we see in the shops today had nothing on some of them! The girls who made the cards were employed in good conditions and although they worked long hours, had plenty of breaks. The pay was good as well, depending on the level of their skill. The invention of an envelope folding machine also revolutionised the kinds of cards that could be sent and many of them had 3D elements as well as moving parts. Suddenly the market for Valentines disappeared and the makers had to find ways to branch out and Christmas cards became popular in a small way, certainly it would have been hard then to imagine the big business it is today. They tended to use up materials all ready in stock, so they were not always very appropriate to Christmas and had some very dubious greetings as well. In among the unseasonal flowers were the occasional dead birds and other horrors! Sheila also brought a small selection of Word War I embroidered greetings cards for us to see. A very entertaining afternoon.