By the 1850s, the greeting card had been transformed from a relatively expensive, handmade and hand-delivered gift to a popular and affordable means of personal communication, due largely to advances in printing, mechanisation, and a reduction in postal rates with the introduction of the postage stamp. This was followed by new trends like Christmas cards, the first of which appeared in published form in London in 1843 when Sir Henry Cole hired artist John Calcott Horsley to design a holiday card that he could send to his friends and acquaintances. In the 1860s, companies like Marcus Ward & Co, Goodall and Charles Bennett began the mass production of greeting cards. They employed well known artists such as Kate Greenaway and Walter Crane as illustrators and card designers.
Technical developments like colour lithography in 1930 propelled the manufactured greeting card industry forward. Humorous greeting cards, known as studio cards, became popular in the late 1940s and 1950s.
In the 1970s Recycled Paper Greetings, a small company needing to establish a competing identity against the large companies like Hallmark Cards, began publishing humorous "whimsical" card designs with the artist's name credited on the back. This was away from what was known as the standard look (sometimes called the Hallmark look). By the 1980s there was a thriving market for what were now called "alternative" greeting cards, and the name stuck even though these "alternative" cards changed the look of the entire industry."