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.

What's All Over Albany?

All Over Albany is for interested and interesting people in New York's Capital Region. In other words, it's for you. It's kind of like having a smart, savvy friend who can help you find out what's up. Oh, and our friends call us AOA.

Search

Recently on All Over Albany

Morning Blend

Top state official charged with child exploitation A special assistant to the Commission of the NYS Office of Mental Health was arrested is facing 29... (more)

Spooky, haunted, or creepy tours around the Capital Region this fall

We're already into mid September and that means ghosts are migrating back to the Capital Region from their summer homes and punching back in at... (more)

Friend connections across space and time

Over at the New York Times, The Upshot has an interesting interactive look at some research into Facebook friend links by place. Basically, the team... (more)

It was his idea to put Nipper up there

Longtime Albany architect Harris Sanders died this week at age 91. He designed a bunch of buildings around the area -- you've probably been in... (more)

What's up in the Neighborohood

Among the topics in this most recent spin around the Capital Region's online neighborhood: how Van Rensselaer Manor vanished, a sudden marriage, plastic, the old... (more)

Recent Comments

They should turn Maiden Lane into a stepped pedestrian street, like they have all over Europe. We don't need to reinvent the wheel, they do steep small streets pretty well across the pond, let's look for some precedents... Human scaled lighting is critical too, that goes for the whole city. And we don't need paint on the road, just signage perpendicular to the flow of traffic at the bridge entrance. I also echo the call for basic, ongoing maintenance to our current infrastructure. How about some weed removal in sidewalks, etc?

Silver Fox Salvage is closing

...has 1 comment, most recently from Daleyplanit

Where to buy Mexican-style chorizo?

...has 9 comments, most recently from WCF

Friend connections across space and time

...has 1 comment, most recently from h

A look around the Maiden House residential + retail conversion in downtown Albany

...has 8 comments, most recently from BS

Toy donations?

...has 9 comments, most recently from Anonymous