Sharpshooter ‘hits bull’s eye’ with card

Aiming for something different, sharpshooter Annie Oakley hit the target with a unique plan for a Christmas card in 1891.

Oakley was in Glasgow, Scotland, and she designed a Christmas card showing her in a tartan outfit and holding her gun. It was the first personalized Christmas card, according to “The History of Christmas Cards” website.

The Ohioan, who grew up in Darke County and whose maiden name was Phoebe Ann Moses, sent the card to family members and friends. The sharpshooter was in Scotland when she was the star of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show. Although her card drew attention before the turn of the century, photo Christmas cards didn’t become commonplace until much later.

In fact, when Oakley sent her card, the tradition of sending Christmas cards was less than a half century old.

Begun in 1843 in the United Kingdom, Christmas cards were originated by Sir Henry Cole, a civil servant (government worker) who teamed with artist John Horsley to produce the cards. Cards didn’t become popular in the United States until later in that decade, but most people didn’t send them because they were too expensive.

Over the years, the appearance of the cards has changed. Rather than the cards usually sent today, the accompanying cards are post cards. Like today’s cards, some feature a religious theme or a wintry scene as well as that popular jolly, old gentleman who keeps busy at the North Pole until his journey around the world on Christmas Eve.

Now, 174 years after the initial Christmas cards, this once-popular way of exchanging holiday greetings has been affected by postage rates and technological advances available on the internet. Hallmark reported in 2014 that a decade ago, Americans sent 2 billion Christmas cards, but the number of cards sent had decreased by 30 percent, according to the MarketWatch website.

Rising postal costs as well as Facebook and e-card have had a drastic effect on Americans’ card-sending habits.

Once armed with an address book, a person years ago would sit down and address card after card. Now, not as many people send these holiday greetings and those who do aren’t sending as many cards.

I remember once commenting in The Times Leader office about this time-consuming tradition, and a fellow in the sports department asked, “Why don’t you buy cards on sale after Christmas and then address one card a day in the new year?”

(No, I didn’t do that, but it did sound like quite a plan.)


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