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

Private dorm opposition, a big downtown residential conversion, and other exciting tales of the Albany Planning Board

Exciting Tales of the Albany Planning Board is a program recorded before a live studio audience in Albany City Hall once a month in which... (more)

Stuff to do this weekend

Welcome to that transitional weekend when we go from falling leaves to holiday lights. This is also the last weekend before the holiday craziness sets... (more)

Morning Blend

Trial in the death of Noel Alkaramla Update: The jury returned Friday and found Oquendo guilty on all counts, including second-degree murder. [TU] The jury... (more)

Today's moment of architecture

Architecture moods around West Capitol Park Thursday night: The Capitol: LOOK AT ME! The Smith Building: I just want to efficiently finish this file and... (more)

The Regrettes at The Low Beat

Garage rock band The Regrettes are set to play a show at The Low Beat December 6. Tickets are $10 and available online. The band's... (more)

Recent Comments

My grandmother has Alzheimers and sometimes comes to stay with us in Troy. Last week the absolutely highlight of her day was seeing the hundreds of crows that came streaming by the window at our apartment. I watched her go from completely unresponsive to engaged... stringing questions together and returning to her old joyful self for the half hour she watched those birds was enough to endear crows to me forever.

If you see someone running around throwing bird seed in Riverfront Park yelling "COME ON DOWN, BIRD FRIENDS!", it's me.

Private dorm opposition, a big downtown residential conversion, and other exciting tales of the Albany Planning Board

...has 1 comment, most recently from Julie

A few more details about the proposed mixed-use development near St. Peter's hospital

...has 19 comments, most recently from BS

Morning Blend for Nov 17

...has 1 comment, most recently from Summer

Today's moment of architecture

...has 3 comments, most recently from -B

The ethics of dropping your dog's poop in a neighbor's garbage can

...has 38 comments, most recently from Howz