About Me

Monday, November 19, 2012

Hi...here's my card

Ordered some new business cards for myself from www.vistaprints.com this week. Their ‘free’ offer amounted to a substantial investment, but that’s another story. I’ll just say beware of hidden fees. Anyway, it started me thinking about this convenient means of introducing yourself and what you do.

It’s funny how we use the phrase “calling card” with no idea of where it came from.  I assumed it was a different term for business card, so went looking the history of this social custom.

Calling cards evolved in England and were an essential part of introductions, invitations, and visits. In the 19th and early 20th century, social interaction was a richly cultivated, well-mannered affair. The tool that facilitated these interactions was the calling card. Its purpose is to signify that you visited, and you may find a silver tray at an embassy or officer's home to deposit calling cards. Not until after the Civil did calling cards became a highly ritualized social grace where both men and women used the cards at all manner of social occasions.

During the 1800′s and early 1900′s the practice of “calling” upon or visiting one’s relatives, friends, and acquaintances was a middle and upper class social ritual governed by countless rules and traditions. Central to visiting etiquette was the use of the calling card. The giving and receiving of calling cards developed a very elaborate set of rituals and rules that every gentleman tried to master. In most Victorian homes, in the entry hall was always a table where parcels could be left and more importantly, where a silver tray or porcelain receptacle sat for receiving calling cards.

Leaving cards served as a means of social advancement.  Most afternoon social life was spent making calls, allowing 30 minutes per visit, and leaving a card at each house. There was even a code of communication that evolved. A visitor folded down the upper right hand corner if she came in person. A folded upper left corner indicated she stopped to leave her congratulations. A folded lower right corner said goodbye. A folded lower left corner offered condolences. It’s like calling card short hand. 

When the household servants moved out, and Alex Bell’s new-fangled talking machine moved in, the practice and etiquette surrounding the sending and receiving of calling cards suffered a slow death. During the heyday of calling cards, using a business card for a social purpose was considered bad manners. Calling cards were larger than today’s business card, at once more impressive and much simpler in design.

So…how many times in a conversation does someone tell you about their website or their blog, and you swear to check it out, but then can’t remember its name when you get home? A calling card is the answer to all of these situations.  A calling card can come in handy in any social situation in which you want to exchange information with someone. Your calling card should reflect your personality. In our modern society, technology has provided a myriad of ways for a new acquaintance to contact you, and your card should reflect this. Remember, you may use the blank back of the cards to write notes and invite someone to meet up with you again.

Calling cards…a lost art that still has a place in the ‘now’ of today’s society, where technology runs the majority of our lives.


  1. What a cool article. I'd heard of calling cards, but never all this detail. Very informative, thank you.

  2. Thanks for commenting - I really enjoy digging out these tidbits of info.