Above are three postcards published by A. M. Davis Co. with the same greeting credited to Henry Van Dyke. Below is a copy of another variation illustrated in the book The Romance of Greeting Cards by Ernest Dudley Chase. This card is reproduced in black but is described as being “heavy buff tinted cardboard printed om black, green, red, and gold.” According to Chase, this card was issued in many styles over a period of ten or more years and became one of the biggest selling sentiments in greeting card history.
The sentiment on these cards was also widely quoted in various publications of the early twentieth century. There were many variations with slightly different words and/or additional lines.
The author, Henry Van Dyke, was an American author, educator, and clergyman. The sentiment appeared in a book Copyright, 1905, by Charles Scribner’s Sons (Published, October, 1905) in the second part of a “little essay,” CHRISTMAS-GIVING AND CHRISTMAS-LIVING. The book was The Spirit of Christmas by Henry Van Dyke (online version 1911). The first part of the chapter used the life of Jesus as an example of the unselfish interest in the happiness of others with the great gift of Jesus to the world being himself. According to Van Dyke, “All true Christmas-giving ought to be after this pattern” and “The finest Christmas gift is not the one that costs the most money, but the one that carries the most love.”
Here is how the sentiment appeared in context in part II:
If every gift is the token of a personal thought, a friendly feeling, an unselfish interest in the joy of others, then the thought, the feeling, the interest, may remain after the gift is made.
The little present, or the rare and long-wished-for gift (it matters not whether the vessel be of gold, or silver, or iron, or wood, or clay, or just a small bit of birch bark folded into a cup), may carry a message something like this:
“I am thinking of you to-day, because it is Christmas, and I wish you happiness. And to-morrow, because it will be the day after Christmas, I shall still wish you happiness; and so on, clear through the year. I may not be able to tell you about it every day, because I may be far away; or because both of us may be very busy; or perhaps because I cannot even afford to pay the postage on so many letters, or find the time to write them. But that makes no difference. The thought and the wish will be here just the same. In my work and in the business of life, I mean to try not to be unfair to you or injure you in any way. In my pleasure, if we can be together, I would like to share the fun with you. Whatever joy or success comes to you will make me glad. Without pretense, and in plain words, good-will to you is what I mean, in the Spirit of Christmas.”
Below is another postcard with a variation of the same sentiment. This card is the same size and on heavy stock like the A. M. Davis cards. There is no publisher listed on the back, but it is by the Mutual Book Co. of Boston. Burnett Lewis was the owner of the Mutual Book Company, publishers and jobbers of books and greeting cards.
The similarity of the Mutual Book Co. postcard to A. M. Davis postcards is no coincidence. A. M. Davis was a manager at Mutual Book Co. before he started his own company in 1908.