Calling Cards

19th Century

  Calling Cards

Are you looking for a little extra help with the ladies? Most guys need all the help they get when it comes to getting dates and it’s been that way for a long time. In the 19th Century they used calling cards. Instead of business cards to help seal a business deal, these aristocrats and members of nobility handed out cards – also known as invitation cards - to attract ladies in a dignified way. Who knew it was so difficult to get a date back in the day?

Formal Introduction

Calling cards were extremely popular as a form of formal introduction. However, they weren’t just designated for making introductions to women, they were also used to acquaint one’s self with a new acquaintance. This standard practice made a great first impression on many people, particularly women. 

Acquaintance Card

They were also used to gain notoriety. Gentlemen that that were looking to meet casual women in a more informal way used acquaintance cards. This type of card - slightly different from a traditional calling card - was also called an escort or invitation card. Many of the messages on these cards were short, to the point and flirty. This much more casual approach was most popular between 1870 and 1880. 

Crossed the Line

Over time calling cards became more similar to a business card, making the more formal card, by contrast, chivalrous and appropriate. They often used overt humor and broke the rules of suggested etiquette: men knew what they were asking and women knew what they were looking for. The message very rarely was lost in translation. 

Check Yes or No

In some ways calling cards are similar to the school notes that young children pass today. They provide a way to make contact that – the sender hopes – will be approved of and accepted.

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