Calling cards started out being simple monograms handwritten by calligraphers, but as the 1800s progressed, the cards became more and more fancy. The Victorians added embellishment like elaborate fringed and scalloped edges, intricate borders, and layers that you could lift to reveal the callers name or a picture beneath.
There were also gelatin cards, transparent cards, and in the late 1800s photographic cards. Generally the more elaborate and expensive the card, the higher the person's social status.
A caller would deliver the card, when calling on another person, or get a servant to deliver it, leaving it on the calling card tray in the front entrance. The trays could be as just as elaborate as the cards. Wealthier households would use silver trays, and poorer ones would sometimes just have a china dish.
There was elaborate etiquette surrounding calling card customs. One would fold the top left corner if they sent it with a servant, the bottom left to say farewell, the top right to express congratulations and the bottom right to express condolences. Even the colors of borders could deliver a message, such as black borders which showed that you were in mourning for a close family member.
As they became more popular, many calling cards were mass produced. These cards, called common cards, made this social custom more accessible to the masses. People even collected the cards and put them in special scrap books.
In a way I wish this was still going on (I guess it is in the form of business cards, but let's face it, that's not as fun). It would be kind of neat to collect cards from friends, especially if people designed them to express their personalities. I think I am going to design my own and give them to friends anyway.
On another note, I saw some really cute card cases on Etsy. I am enjoying these two.
If you had a calling card, what would it look like?
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