Saturday, April 20, 2019  

Calling Cards

Did you know that the custom of giving and receiving calling cards became very common during the mid 1800's, and by turning down any one corner of the calling card the carrier could signify the reason for his or her visit?

Of course there were various customs for different cities regarding which message each corner represented, but here are a few examples:

  • an unfolded card - a servant was sent by the carrier to make a "call"
  • a folded upper left corner - the visitor is making a routine call in person
  • a folded upper right corner - the visitor sends a congratulatory greeting, to celebrate a marriage or birth.
  • a folded lower left corner - good-bye
  • a folded lower right corner - an expression of sympathy

Example of Calling Card (Circa 1890)

Card styles and colors were selected by carriers to convey special meanings to the receiver. For example, a black border may indicate that the carrier was in mourning. The cards may have been engraved, hand-written (personally or professionally), tinted, or color printed with a variety of fancy designs (roses, doves, angels, cherubs, etc.) Sometimes the edges of the cards were decorated with borders, scalloping and other fashions.

When the visitor made a "call", he or she would leave their calling card in a tray, dish or calling card receiver. These receivers were usually placed on a table or a stand in the main entry hall of the home. The card could also be given to a servant to relay to "the Lady or the Gentleman of the House" that someone had paid a visit.

PostCard, postdated 1909
Unfortunately, calling cards lost their popularity just after the turn of the century, when the postcard "era" began. They are, however, charming little pieces of the past that make wonderful additions to any Victorian collection!

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