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Henry Cole - Famous Inventor

: Henry Cole
: 15-July-1808
: 18-April-1882
: United Kingdom
: Christ's Hospital
: Civil servant and Inventor

About Inventor

Sir Henry Cole, who lived between (15 July 1808 – 18 April 1882) was an English civil servant and inventor who facilitated many innovations in commerce and education in 19th century Britain. Cole is credited with devising the concept of sending greetings cards at Christmas time, introducing the world's first commercial Christmas card in 1843.

Early Life of Henry Cole

Henry Cole was born in Bath, and educated at Christ's Hospital in London. He began his career at the age of 15 at the Record Commission. His criticisms of the Commission's activities were an important factor in the debates that led to the Public Record Office Act 1838, and the establishment of the new Public Record Office, in which Cole was appointed an Assistant Keeper.

From 1837 to 1840, he worked as an assistant to Rowland Hill and played a key role in the introduction of the Penny Post. He is sometimes credited with the design of the world's first postage stamp, the Penny Black.

In 1843, Cole introduced the world's first commercial Christmas card,commissioning artist John Callcott Horsley to make the artwork.

Legacy and  Honours

Cole was instrumental in the development of the National Art Training School (renamed the Royal College of Art in 1896) and played a part in the establishment of many other South Kensington institutions, such as the Royal College of Music and Imperial College London. In fact, the Imperial College Mathematics Department was formerly based in the Henry Cole Wing on Exhibition Road, before the premises were donated to the Victoria & Albert Museum.

Cole was awarded the CB for his work on the Great Exhibition and was knighted by Queen Victoria in 1875.Often referred to in the press as "Old King" Cole, he was known to have the closest personal backing of the Queen and especially of the Prince Consort, who when he needed a facilitator for one of his pet projects, was heard to remark: "We must have steam, get Cole".

An English heritage blue plaque commemorates where Cole lived and worked at 33 Thurloe Square, South Kensington, London, opposite the Victoria and Albert Museum.

In 2001, one of Cole's first Christmas cards, which was sent to his grandmother in 1843, sold at auction for £22,500.


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