Printed in Albany: The first Christmas card and the first Santa ad

Thumbnail image for Temple of Fancy post card.jpg

The Temple of Fancy.

Somebody would have done it eventually. We're pretty sure about that. But it happened to be Richard H. Pease who did it first. The owner of the Pease's Temple of Fancy, a famed 19th century Albany variety store and printing operation, appears to be the first person to put have used the image of Santa Claus in advertising.

He's also the person who printed the first Christmas card in the US -- right here in Albany.

Tom Nelson, an exhibitions and graphics designer with The Albany Institute of History and Art wrote a short book about Pease, and says the printer and owner of Albany's successful variety store was the first known person to use the image of Santa in an ad. According to Nelson's book -- Pease's Great Variety Store -- the ad was published in the Albany Evening Journal in 1841 and depicted a Dutch-style Santa "complete with a pack of toys on his back emblazoned with 'From Pease's Broadway'...In the act of descending a chimney to fill the children's stockings, after supplying himself with fancy articles, stationery, cutlery, perfumery, games, toys, etc. at Pease's Great Variety Store."

Here the ad:

santa ad 1842.jpg

Pease's store, which Nelson calls "kind of an upscale five and dime," or a "19th century Crate and Barrel" sold books, toys, games, and a variety of other items. He printed general interest books, children's books and, ten years after the Santa ad appeared, the first Christmas card in the United States.

Pease Christmas Card 1.jpg
Courtesy of Manchester Metropolitan University

Tom Nelson says credit for printing the country's first Christmas card often goes to Boston lithographer Louis Prang, but Prang's card wasn't printed until 1870. There are no longer any known copies of Pease's first Christmas card in Albany. The only known version of is in Manchester, England. A collector from England purchased the card and later donated it as part of a collection to the Manchester Metropolitan University. (When you consider that Dickens' original manuscript of A Christmas Carol is in the US, we're still probably ahead.)

The Albany Institute tried to bring the card across the pond for last year's "Temple of Fancy" exhibit, but it would have had to fly over with a courier, which was too expensive. Nelson says there's evidence that a copy was purchased in 1940 in New York City, and it's possible that it was donated to The Smithsonian. Curators there have promised to look for it.

The building where the card was printed -- 516 Broadway, "The Temple of Fancy" -- is still standing at Broadway and Pine. The former home of Pease's lithograph shop is being converted into condos. We're told there's a plaque inside that commemorates the printing of the first Christmas card in the US, but it's not accessible to the public.

Tom Nelson's book, Pease Great Variety Store, is available at the gift shop at The Albany Institute of History and Art.

Comments

Temple of Fancy

Looks like I'm going to have to start a band because that name needs to be brought back into circulation.

"Dutch Style Santa"--do Dutch children sleep well on Christmas Eve? i would be terrified of that person coming into my house with or without gifts.

Say Something!

We'd really like you to take part in the conversation here at All Over Albany. But we do have a few rules here. Don't worry, they're easy. The first: be kind. The second: treat everyone else with the same respect you'd like to see in return. Cool? Great, post away. Comments are moderated so it might take a little while for your comment to show up. Thanks for being patient.

The Scoop

Ever wish you had a smart, savvy friend with the inside line on what's happening around the Capital Region? You know, the kind of stuff that makes your life just a little bit better? Yeah, we do, too. That's why we created All Over Albany. Find out more.

Recently on All Over Albany

Crisp Cannoli storefront closing

The Crisp Cannoli in East Greenbush -- you know, the bakery that makes croissant donuts, including an apple cider version -- is closing its storefront... (more)

Local food gifts

We're into the stretch run for December holidays, so we asked Deanna for a few stocking stuffer-type local food gift ideas. Stockings are my favorite... (more)

Where to get latkes?

Xina emails with a seasonal question: Where can I get some excellent latkes in the Capital region? I have had no luck making good ones... (more)

Morning Blend

Andrew Cuomois headed to Schenectady today to congratulate the city on winning the bid for the Rivers Casino. [TU][AOA] Some reaction to the casino decision:... (more)

Holiday gifts: Erin Pihlaja

Gifts and giving are on most everyone's mind this month. So we thought we'd ask a few people to share some thoughts on presents, past... (more)

Recent Comments

... I tend to ask questions that make the person think about what they just said. I ask it sweetly and in a tone that notes confusion on my part. I have been called honey in the office and asked the person, " Can I ask what you mean when you call me honey? Because you don't call John honey." It calls out that he's treating you differently for being a woman. If he still doesn't get it, you can be more direct: "I appreciate that you respect my work and treat me equally, but I wouldn't want others to think otherwise based on how you address me."

Local food gifts

...has 1 comment, most recently from Bob

Where to get latkes?

...has 8 comments, most recently from David

A good endocrinologist?

...has 9 comments, most recently from Karen

Morning Blend for Dec 18

...has 1 comment, most recently from Scared on the Hudson

Miss Pearl: Who you calling honey, sugar?

...has 11 comments, most recently from AKM