History of Christmas cards: Embroidered postcards of WWI.

Hopeful Hand-Embroidered Christmas Cards, Sent Home From the Front During WWI 

Hopeful Hand-Embroidered Christmas Cards, Sent Home From the Front During WWI 

The Vault
Historical Treasures, Oddities, And Delights
Dec. 23 2014 10:57 AM

Hopeful Hand-Embroidered Christmas Cards, Sent Home From the Front During WWI 

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A recent post on the photo blog The Passion of Former Days alerted me to the Australian War Memorial’s large digital collection of embroidered Christmas postcards, sent home from Europe during World War I. The items, which feature cheerful and patriotic messages worked out in silk floss, reminded me of the soldier-stitched sweetheart pincushions I featured on this blog last year.

But while men crafted those mementos on their downtime or while recovering from injury, these postcards, made year-round and bearing both holiday-related and more generic messages, were the work of local women. The small industry that sprang up around the cards was a way for French and Belgian citizens, many of whom were displaced from their homes during the war, to earn money doing portable piecework. Women would embroider a message or design on a strip of silk mesh or organza.

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The companies that mounted the finished strips on paper postcards churned the items out in factories. The Library of Birmingham estimates that, in total, around 10 million such cards were produced during the war. As a result of this overproduction, many samples of embroidered cards still exist a hundred years later. (The Australian War Memorial alone has digitized 625 examples.) 

1Postcard

Australian War Memorial.

2Postcard
Some cards had pockets on the back, where smaller cards could be tucked.

Australian War Memorial.

3Postcard

Australian War Memorial.

4Postcard

Australian War Memorial.

5Postcard
A cherub takes trench dictation.

Australian War Memorial.

6Postcard

Australian War Memorial.

7Postcard

Australian War Memorial.