Tuesday, October 22, 2019

V- Victorian Gifts

Victorian Christmas gifts varied, mainly among the classes. For years games, dolls, and toys were only affordable by the well to do. Thanks to the industrial revolution and the mass production of toys, for the first time these toys were available for the middle class. However, for the poor, it was still apples and oranges in the stockings. 

Although exchanging gifts had been practiced for centuries, it was the Victorians that really made it a hard and fast tradition during the holidays. In the late Georgian period, gifts were exchanged on New Year's day. However, during the Victorian period, it was moved to Christmas Day.

While gifts were initially small and left on the branches of the Christmas Tree, as they became larger and could no longer fit 'on' the tree, they were placed under it - starting that tradition.

Gifts for women may have been a sewing box.

Or a silk fan:

 Men may have received a silver cigarette case:

or nice walking cane.

The gift may have been a cucumber night cream, oatmeal soap, goats milk soap, or fragrance from the Caswell Apothecary, today known as Caswell-Massey. The company was established in 1780. Fun Fact: Over the years many famous people have enjoyed their products, from the Astors and the Vanderbilts to George Gershwin, Judy Garland, Katharine Hepburn and Greta Garbo and later the Kennedys and the Rolling Stones. One of their specialties were custom fragrances uniquely developed for each customer.

Or it could have been a gift of fine papers and stationary from Crane and Co. Hershey and Cadbury had been able to refine the manufacture of commercial chocolates by then (called 'eating chocolates') that were smooth and tasty. Books were also popular. Some titles from that period include Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte,  Wuthering Heights, also by Bronte, Great Expectations and Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens, The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde, and Little Women by Emily Dickens. 

Gift wrapping papers date back to 800 AD and the Egyptians. In the 1800's the well to do wrapped their gifts in wall paper. However, the thick paper was unwieldy and difficult to work with. That and the fact that wrapping tape wouldn't be developed for many years (as in Scotch tape circa 1940's). Following the wallpaper, thin tissue paper was used to wrap the presents. Of course that had its own problems. 

Then there was brown paper - definitely easier to work with and less likely to tear. However, not very festive. Some used the brown paper to make their gifts look a bit, well, understated. And to hold all this together - wax was placed in strategic places. 

It was the Americans in 1917 who first used, what we now know as 'wrapping' paper. And it all started in Kansas City with Joyce Hall, of Hall Brothers in Kansas City  (yes - the beginnings of Hallmark). According to their web site: "America's gift wrap industry had humble beginnings in Hallmark founder Joyce C. Hall's downtown Kansas City, Mo., store in the early 20th century. Hall is known for being the founder of the greeting card industry, but he can also be credited with the 'invention' of present-day gift wrap. Hallmark's launch of printed gift wrap came about almost by accident.

Before Christmas in 1917, the Hall Brothers' store had sold out of the white, red and green tissue and the one holly pattern customers used to wrap holiday packages. After that decorative envelope lining papers from France were brought in and quickly sold for  10 cents a sheet. The following year, the sheets were offered three for 25 cents and, again, sold out.  After that, Hallmark ventured from their greeting card business and added gift wrap to there offerings.” (So now you know the rest of the story.)

Today's wrapping paper business brings in 3.2 billion annually - with a majority of that being Holiday paper. 

Some examples of Victorian Christmas Wrapping paper:

Image result for early designs of victorian christmas wrapping paper

Image result for victorian christmas wrapping paper

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