In the early
part of the 19th Century another tradition arose very quickly on the
scene. That of the ritual society which had formed a way of
contact for their small Victorian circles - the leaving of Calling Cards.
way of leaving cards formed part of a
social etiquette which ranged in separate meanings. They were an
imperative part of introductions, invitations and welcomed visits. Calling cards fashionably
spread throughout Europe, including England as a way for people to get
into the elite social circle, and to keep out
the unwanted socialites. Calling Cards kept social aspirants at a distance
until they could be properly screened.
Just over a
century ago, one of the favourite pastimes was to collect these
ingenious, yet petitely illustrated advertising cards that we now call
"Trade Cards or Calling Cards". These cards evolved from
the cards of the 1700's, where tradesmen used them to advertise their
services. Early samples of cards from the late 1800's, were
brought to America ranging from stunning to that of brightly coloured
cards which were generally pasted in Victorian keepsake scrapbooks.
The fashions of
many of the calling cards were diverse, depending on the immediate
trends. Some were found to contain initials, fanciful artwork or
romantic poems which were commonly fashionable. Others were of a
strictly business nature, more common used for the
The lady's card
was larger in size versus the small breast pocket size of the
gentlemen's. Cards during the Regency Era were smaller than that
of the Victorian Era which were approximately 6 x 9 cm. A lady's card may be glazed, while her
husband's was not. Victorian cards were larger than their earlier
counterparts, so only a few were carried at a time.
The need for
Cases was soon established which offered easy transport of such cards.
These were made of various different materials, including ivory, silver, and
a lighter papier-mâché. The top of the lids during
the 1830's often resembled prominent castles views, such as Warwick or Windsor.
By the 1840's, after Queen Victoria's purchase of Bal moral, Scottish
views became popular. The cases during the Regency were primarily of
filigree, leather and tortoiseshell. Victorians preferred ivory,
tortoise shell and woodwork. Only the wealthy could afford such
cases made of gold and other metals which were very
was in unelaborate font, generally small and without flourishes, although
ornamental scripts soon became widely used as the century went on. A simple 'Mr.' Or 'Mrs.' before
the name was sufficient, except in the case of acknowledgement of rank
(Earl, Viscount, etc.). The earlier Victorian Cards contained only a person's
name, household name and/or title. By
the end of the century, the address was then displayed on card, and when
applicable, a special occasion, such as a lady's reception day.
Calls and Leaving Cards
inviting front entrance with wood floors was an essential part of all
Victoriana homes. A proper entry hall was considered the first
impression and most important to all its visitors. The entry hall
was narrow, but allowed enough room for a couple of chairs or a bench,
mirrors, a coat and umbrella stand, and maybe even a hat rack or hall
tree. In addition, the calling card stand
with bouquets of flowers, accompanied by the silver calling card
receiving tray which elegantly displayed the most prominent names on
top. Most receiver trays displayed classic features of popular
aesthetic styles. Although not all could afford the sterling
silver trays, the less fortunate households displayed glass or china
dishes, which were used for the same purpose.
A lady would start making calls
immediately upon arriving in town. This would notify everyone that her family had arrived. She
remained in her carriage while her groom took her card and handed it to
the appropriate parties.
The card was conveyed to the mistress of the
house, who would then decide whether or not to receive the caller.
Out of respect, no questions or inquiries as to the whereabouts of the
residents or the mistress were asked during the initial
the mistress was 'not at home', it was a rejection of the visitor. A
reciprocal card may be given to the caller, but if none was given formally,
this generally indicated less desire to further the
acquaintance. However, if formal calls were given, there was hope for the relationship to grow.
By mid-century, a wife could leave her husband's
card for him. She left her own card, plus two of her husband's--one for
the mistress of the house, and one for the master. Other names
which also appeared on the calling cards were offspring which included
daughters living at home who accompanied her on a
A message could
be left without actually greeting the family by turning down a specific
corner or folding the card to express sympathy, congratulations or
affection. This generally indicated that the card had
been delivered in person, rather than by a servant. Some more elaborate cards
noted phrases, some of which were in French. They were generally
imprinted on the reverse-corner side of the card, stating words such as:
Visite, Felicitation, Affaires, and Adieu. The card would then be
turned side up, showing the explanation for the visit.
Calls should be
made only on at home days. Days and times for these were engraved on
visiting cards. A newcomer waited until she received cards from
neighbors. It was then good manners to call on those neighbors who left
Formal calls were made following ceremonial events
such as engagements, marriages or childbirth, and also as acknowledgement of
hospitality. After a specific event, it was courteous to make a call
within a week for all condolences and congratulations. A visitor may ask for
a more personal admission. If not so intimate, they inquired to
the servant as to the person's well-being.
Each visit had
a significance and were noted with specific times. Ceremonial
visits were made the day after a ball, between three and four o'clock, when it sufficed to simply leave
a card. Or the semi-ceremonial calls were made within a day or two after a dinner
party between four and five o'clock, and within a week
of a small party. It was part of general routine to set aside
times for these types of visits.
the beloved, 'Mourning calls' were made in the afternoon.
Victorian mourning artifacts offered women with a means of creating a
particularly feminine historical memory that allowed them to preserve
and communicate their stories, and those of their families, while
engendering and transmitting a meaningful sense of feminine identity and
never a day of visit, this day was reserved for close friends and relatives. Visits were
brief, lasting less than thirty minutes. During the visits, it was
courtesy to leave within a few minutes if another caller
practice of all calls were returned the same as presented. Example
of a call, a card with a card, within one
week, or at the most, ten days. If a family was temporarily
leaving the area, they wrote P.P.C. (pour prendage conge) on their cards
when they called.