I have been going through a cigar box of collected calling cards from my great grandmother and I am astonished by the variety of pretty designs combined with the elegant scripts. It just seems such a lovely convention and I am rather sorry we don't do it anymore. Now we hand out "business cards" which have every conceivable method of contacting us crammed on the card -- and while it's true the designs can be quiet striking -- their function is so different than these beauties, which was simply to announce or memorialize one's visit. That my great grandmother gathered them together and stored them says something too about her visual delight in keeping them, not just as mementos but small slips of domestic art. I love too that they were used equally by both men and women.
So I thought I would share them with you and have created a little gallery of all the cards which you can find here -- or in the right hand column for future reference. Seeing them all together really makes me want to design a few for myself -- and to hell with the clever, efficient business card!
Here are some of my favorites (though I confess to being besotted by all of them):
The last calling card is especially unique as it is made from a small rectangle of birch bark inscribed with the visitor's name -- A. G. Robinson.
You can view other terrific collections online, such as the accumulated calling cards of the Washburn Family of Camps Mills, Town of Hounsfield, Jefferson County, New York, or read about the etiquette of using the cards on the Jane Austen website, or rather wistfully have a look at this gorgeous antique silver and mother-of-pearl calling card case here.