Skip

Victorian Calling Cards: Let's get acquianted, for fun and results
February 16, 2014 1:39 PM   Subscribe


 
I now desperately want to have cards made up just like those of Charles Krout, Wholesale and Retail Dealer in Love, Kisses, and Up-to-date Hugs.
posted by Sequence at 1:46 PM on February 16 [3 favorites]


*leaves a card with an index finger going into a circle in this thread*
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 1:47 PM on February 16 [1 favorite]


Somewhat related... Steve's Martin's Business Card
posted by JoeZydeco at 1:56 PM on February 16 [1 favorite]


The "who the [Devil] are you?" cards shown on a couple of these pages are quite cute, though I'm not sure anyone with any sense would consider leaving them after a social call.

But are the cards in these galleries actually Victorian? A lot of the jokey ones, especially, look like they could be as recent as ca. 1920s-40s to me, between the type and the design and the tone of the gags. I'd love to know if there's a collector or historian out there who's done some dating on these (and ideally it'd be awesome to see a timeline of the designs' history).
posted by RogerB at 1:56 PM on February 16 [1 favorite]


"Omg I LOVE your fringed calling card!"

(aside) "That is the ugliest effing calling card I've ever seen."
posted by book 'em dano at 2:05 PM on February 16 [4 favorites]


I could have sworn I had a bookmark that had information about standard sizes for gentlemens' calling cards (larger and less oblong than modern business cards, I think) but I'm not finding it. Dempsey and Caroll offer a few options. No doubt each different size once signified some minute Victorian distinction that every well-bred person could recognize on sight.

I have a friend who has promised to let me compose and print some calling cards in his letterpress shop, but until I get around to calling in that favor I made these with an inkjet printer and some cardstock. In a non-business setting it is nice to have them, and the minimal information lets you share as much or as little contact information as you want; just jot down particulars as needed.
posted by usonian at 2:06 PM on February 16


Ooh, thank you. I'm still enamored of Laura and Almanzo's calling cards in the Little House books.
posted by mynameisluka at 2:09 PM on February 16 [5 favorites]


there's a million dollar hipster startup business idea in here, amirite?
posted by Bwithh at 2:14 PM on February 16 [7 favorites]


These are fantastic! Thanks for posting.
posted by effluvia at 2:16 PM on February 16


Ooh, thank you. I'm still enamored of Laura and Almanzo's calling cards in the Little House books.

Yes. complete with reproductions in the book!
posted by orange swan at 2:16 PM on February 16 [2 favorites]


Oh man, I need to update my calling cards......
posted by The Whelk at 2:21 PM on February 16


I love the concept of calling cards - for a long time I've been toying with the idea of buying a custom set from Victorian Trading Company.
posted by Anima Mundi at 2:22 PM on February 16 [1 favorite]


I am intrigued by Anna "Butch" Engle.
posted by not that girl at 2:31 PM on February 16 [1 favorite]


Classic French joke: use "abonné au gaz" (town gas subscriber) your sole title on your business card.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 2:43 PM on February 16




If you live in an unmolested Victorian house, the whole floor plan is set up to accommodate the whole calling card ritual. The house is partitioned off into very distinct public and private sections and has a sort of airlock system for allowing people from outside to only be allowed so far into the house. Whoever answers the door, maybe a servant or an older child of the family, would size the caller up and decide how far into the house he or she might be allowed. You might be left to cool your heels at the door or be invited to sit in the vestibule. If you looked like a good enough gentleman or lady, you'd get all the way into the front parlor to sit and maybe have a coffee while the lady or gentleman of the house read your card and decided whether to visit with you or not.

It's sort of a pain in the ass to have to go through three sets of doors just to get into your damn living room but it's neat to sit there and think about how it was designed around the social structures of the people who built the place in the 1860s.
posted by octothorpe at 3:09 PM on February 16 [31 favorites]


Oh dear god, yes I've always been fascinated by the concept of public and private spaces with regards to the home. A proper Victorian Home was like this series of keeps containing ever increasing levels of privacy within them ( see also, various palaces and the like) and these rituals set up both made people socially accessible in a very different way than I think most Americans are used to.

Like one huge argument against the telephone is that it would let people you didn't know INTO YOUR HOUSE, so of course the telephone had to go live in the hall, the "public" area of the home where visitors would be expected.
posted by The Whelk at 3:15 PM on February 16 [19 favorites]


The Victorian calling card began in French social custom. In line with Victorian graphic/artistic taste (ie; more is more) they became progressively more complex. What began as a simple calligraphic or engraved name became cards decorated with all sorts of (mostly) sentimentalized artwork. By the mid 19th century the more affluent began to include gem-sized (0.5 x 1") photographs on the cards.

In 1853 the French photographer Andre Disdéri patented a system where 8 photographs could be shot on a single wet plate. Cut up and mounted on cards these photographs became known as the carte-de-visit. Initially the CDV served the exact same purpose as the calling card and well-to-do families would have albums of CDV's collected from visitors.

So, photographically speaking the calling card became the CDV, which became the cabinet card, which became the silver gelatin print.

The custom of calling cards still lives on. Silver gelatin or color prints have obviously become larger (8 x 10" e.g.), but small photos (like those you buy in your child's school photo packages) are designed to give to family and friends. They are the calling cards of the 21st century.
posted by codex99 at 3:18 PM on February 16 [6 favorites]


Mind you this was all just for people who came to the the front door. There was a whole separate set of protocols for the back door where the servants, tradesmen and delivery boys came through. Most neighborhoods here had a whole separate set of parallel alleys that ran between the main streets so that the lower classes could go to the back doors of city houses without bumping into the proper folk on the main streets.
posted by octothorpe at 3:24 PM on February 16 [2 favorites]


You still see the separate alleyways in some parts of the US and Canada, they allow for a great cross breeze if you open the windows in the heat of summer.
posted by The Whelk at 3:35 PM on February 16 [1 favorite]


In 1853 the French photographer Andre Disdéri patented a system where 8 photographs could be shot on a single wet plate. Cut up and mounted on cards these photographs became known as the carte-de-visit. Initially the CDV served the exact same purpose as the calling card and well-to-do families would have albums of CDV's collected from visitors.

Interesting, thanks.
posted by ersatz at 3:36 PM on February 16 [1 favorite]




Re the alleyways thing, while NYC doesn't really have "alleys" per se, if you look at any neighborhood with fine grand houses for the wealthy, you will notice that the two streets bordering that street are narrow and mostly full of carriage-houses or back outbuilding type structures.

For example for a long time I lived on Clinton Avenue in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn, which started as a popular place for summer homes and later turned into an upscale suburb. Clinton Avenue is broad and lined with Victorian mansions and maple trees. A block north is Waverly Avenue, narrow and mostly carriage-houses and back entrances.

In more bustling areas (I'm especially thinking of the Upper East Side), the next avenue over is for the sorts of businesses the servants would access, like cobblers, laundries, groceries, etc. For example you've got Park Avenue (mansions) and Lexington (small servant-facing businesses).
posted by Sara C. at 5:00 PM on February 16 [3 favorites]


Oh, these are great. I was just re-reading A Tree Grows in Brooklyn for the first time in ages, and I loved the description of Katie getting her once-a-year calling card:
January second was Ladies' Day at Democratic Headquarters. On that day and no other, ladies were received into this strictly masculine precinct and treated to sherry wine and little seeded cakes. All day, the ladies kept calling and were received gallantly by Mattie's henchmen. Mattie himself never showed up. As the ladies went out, they left their little decorated cards with their names written on them in the cut-glass dish on the hall table.

Katie's contempt for the politicians did not interfere with her making her yearly call. She put on her brushed and pressed gray suit with all the braid on it and tilted her jade green velvet hat over her right eye. She even gave the penman, who set up temporary shop outside headquarters, a dime to make a card for her. He wrote Mrs. John Nolan with flowers and angels crawling out of the capitals. It was a dime that should have gone into the bank, but Katie figured she could be extravagant once a year.
posted by scody at 5:58 PM on February 16 [3 favorites]


carte-de-visit

Now there's a sockpuppet.
posted by de at 8:01 PM on February 16


Def. been thinking about getting some baller cards with solely my name on it, which is unique in the world and finds all my real name Internet stuff. Baller letterpress, subtle off-white coloring, tasteful thickness, all that ... problem is I might end up making my own paper & doing my own printing if I go too far.
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 8:06 PM on February 16 [1 favorite]


I'm fascinated by the acquaintance cards, particularly the ones about paying for the washing. That doesn't seem a very fruitful approach, but as the collector notes. there's clearly some context we're missing.
posted by immlass at 8:43 PM on February 16 [1 favorite]


This fascinated me, so I did some looking around in Google Books. Turns out that these acquaintance cards were for sale in the kind of back-of-the-magazine ad that some of us remember art school and onion gum being sold in. You could buy them in packs of 10.

The "Last week's washing" fascinated me. I've been reading mentions of last week's washing - everything from raising your skirts a little to reveal last week's washing (your undergarments) to using the paper bill for last week's washing to write and send love notes. In fact, I suspect that might be the reference - that the back of a piece of paper that leaves your house is a way to communicate with a secret lover.
posted by Miko at 9:11 PM on February 16 [3 favorites]


That kissing rogue card was pretty slick, Hugtite Lane, Squeezemburg and all that. These were what my generation had coming up :(
posted by mcrandello at 12:47 AM on February 17 [1 favorite]


I had that edition of Emily Post as a kid! (It came in a $1.00 mystery box of books from the thrift store.) I used to pore over it for hours - it was like a window to another, more gracious world where everything was less ambiguous.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 5:11 AM on February 17


And, of course, this was the origin of the Facebook "poke:" an unmannerly young person poking you with his or her acquaintance card to gain your attention.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 5:20 AM on February 17 [1 favorite]


"CONSULT ME ON SPOONING BUSINESS"
posted by NoraReed at 6:17 AM on February 17


The Whelk: You still see the separate alleyways in some parts of the US and Canada, they allow for a great cross breeze if you open the windows in the heat of summer.

Boston's Back Bay is maybe the easiest to see. There are still "Public Alleys" between Boylston, Newbury, Comm Ave, Marlborough and Beacon. (Also for map nerds, note that the cross streets are named alphabetically starting at Arlington).
posted by Rock Steady at 6:31 AM on February 17


Ah, yes I was kind of deliberatly thinking of Back Bay there. I remember thinking it seems so convenient
posted by The Whelk at 6:53 AM on February 17


Yeah, I used to work at a basement-level retail shop on Newbury St. and I'm not sure how we could have received our deliveries if it wasn't for the alley.
posted by Rock Steady at 8:22 AM on February 17


Anyway, this intricate network of left cards and visits owed reminds me really strongly of social networks, especially stuff like Twitter and Instagram, with the fine points of etiquette regarding follows, re-tweets, sub-tweets, "stealing" images, etc. For all the inefficiency (to our eyes) it seems like a really effective way to keep track of your literal social network in a pre-electronic age.
posted by Rock Steady at 8:25 AM on February 17 [1 favorite]


Yeah, there was even the popular book The Victorian Internet, abut how super fast mail service and paper networks and telegrams allowed for a kind of paper and post based "social networking" we'd recognize.
posted by The Whelk at 8:29 AM on February 17 [3 favorites]


This weekend I had a long, heartfelt conversation with my 21 year old son, who had just broken up with his "girlfriend" of only a couple of months. We talked about how, because of the internet (snapchat, facetime, hot or not) and the propensity of young people to conduct their relationships via text message, that things happen too fast, too intensely. Courtship is a thing of the past. People become very comfortable sharing vast amounts of emotional conversation via text, mostly because they don't have to be looking directly at the person when they say these incredibly intimate things. Creates a false sense of having a serious relationship, when, in reality, it's been anything but. I would love to see young people learn how to "court."
posted by Kokopuff at 8:33 AM on February 17 [1 favorite]


OTOH: Balzac had a grand emotional affair by post with a married woman that died the instant her husband died she came to live with him. You can't engineer around heartbreak ( unless you are Metallo and HAVE NO HEART.)
posted by The Whelk at 8:49 AM on February 17 [1 favorite]


Written correspondence was very important because it didn't do to be seen together with one person too much without being engaged. To keep exclusive company for longer than six months without an engagement was considered to be wasting someone's valuable time when he or she could be out looking for someone more serious.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 10:06 AM on February 17


For a classic un-modified Victorian house experience in Boston's Back Bay, check out the Gibson House Museum.

A while back, I got very plain business cards with just my name and my most-public contact info (google voice number rather than my real cell number, for instance) from vistaprint, set up so there was plenty of white space to add notes. I find them very useful for everything from "here's my contact info" to "here's a note from me". Not as awesome as some of those calling cards, but useful.
posted by rmd1023 at 8:56 AM on February 22 [1 favorite]


« Older How Wolves Change The Flow of Rivers   |   Putting off writing Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments



Post