Calling Cards – How to Revive a Vintage Custom

Calling Cards – How to Revive a Vintage Custom

Calling cards, or carte de visite, as they are called in France, were at one time the Social Media of the day.  Without telephones or computers, your choices for communication were relegated to letter writing or home visits.

In Victorian England, it was considered a gross breach of manners to just stop in.  Instead, the accepted form of visiting was by stopping by, dropping off a calling card, and returning home.  

To do so, your card was delivered either by you or one of your servants.  It was handed to a butler, who in turn placed it on a silver tray.  Your part of the visit was then concluded.

The butler would take the card to the lady (or gentleman) of the house, and he or she would instruct the butler how to respond.

Reviving a Vintage Custom - Calling Cards

Three Responses to a Calling Card

The butler would be given one of three options:

The Sealed Envelope

If your calling card was returned to you in a sealed envelope, it was fait accompli.  You would not be visiting that person, as this method was a polite way of stating you would not be welcomed.

No Response

Calling cards weren’t just to let someone know you would like to visit.  It was also a manner in which to state your visit would be welcomed.  To not receive a return calling card meant the same thing as having yours returned.

The Called Upon’s Calling Card

When someone you originally called upon was willing to accept a visit from you, then they in turn would send you one of their calling cards.  On it would be a day and time that would be convenient, and a notation of tea, if it was being served during the visit.

As you can imagine, the higher the social status, the more control you wielded over who could visit, and who would never cross the threshold.

Calling Card ‘Storage’

Calling cards were usually kept in a silver tray that stood sentinel by the front door.  The more prominent a caller, the closer to the front of the stack their calling card would be. 

This was used to signify the ‘importance’ of not only the caller, but also the one being called upon.  To be called upon by royalty or high society members increased your status tremendously in society.

The Design of a Calling Card

Initially, calling cards were simple.  The only thing on them were a name.  Titles were rarely used, unless it was the calling card of a physician or member of the military. 

The background was either white or cream.  The names were often hand-printed. The sizes were rather large, with women’s ranging from 2” x 2.75”, to 2.75” x 3.5”.  Men’s tended to be a bit smaller, from 3” x 1.25” to 3.4”x1/25”.

With the invention of lithography, calling cards began to be more ornamental.  Scrollwork, flowers, bluebirds and other adornment were added.   The names were being printed, rather than hand-written, and the more ornate the better.

Calling Cards

Business Cards vs Calling Cards

Even during the height of Victorian England, business cards were in use. However, these were used strictly as a business tool.  Never was a business card used for a social occasion.  To do so meant to violate the strict usage of calling cards for social reasons, and could ostracize you from society.

Why Use Calling Cards today?

With telephones, emails and social media, there no longer seems to be a need for calling cards anymore.  However, I still believe they are one of the most useful tools in a Homemaker’s arsenal.

Calling Cards - Garden Theme

Calling Card Designs

Calling cards today can be as simple or as elaborate as you choose.  It is best to choose something that fits your personality, rather than your business persona.  I have met professional people who have turned out to be potters.  Me?  I want to get to know the creative person inside that business suit!

The best calling card is one that has some design and your name, and possibly a phone number.  If you need to offer more information, simply write it on the back of the card. 

This way, you give out only the information you want them to have.  If and when a relationship builds, then you can choose what other information you want them to have.

Calling Cards for Pets

Calling Cards for Pets

It is also a fun idea to have a calling card for your animals.  If they get out, then a neighbor will know who it belongs to and can quickly contact you.

Obviously, your pet doesn’t have pockets to carry a card. But you can give them out to your neighbors before a problem arises.

If you are new to a neighborhood, leash your pet and take them to the neighbors to introduce yourself. Offer them a card, so they will know up front they can call you if there is a problem.

Calling Cards for Children

Although I think this could be a positive thing in case a child gets lost, it is also an idea that could have serious consequences.  Think long and hard before you do this. 

One way to insure your child can quickly be returned to you is to sign them up with a Child Identification program.  Contact your local police or sheriff office to determine if this is offered in your area.

I will say this, though.  Having a child’s calling card does make for a great gift tag.  Need a gift for a teacher?  Add one to the bag.  Does your child attend birthday parties?  Just stick one with the gift!

Usage for Calling Cards

Surprisingly, there are quite a few ways you an use your new calling card. Here are a few examples, but with a little thought, I know you can come up with others!

Calling Cards for Children

Moving to a New Neighborhood

If you find yourself in a new location, one of the best ways to introduce yourself is through a calling card.  This is especially true if you have a dog or children. Simply visit your new neighbors with a calling card in hand. 

Introduce yourself, your children and your dog. Let the new neighbor know that if your dog gets out, they can simply call you and you will come get them.  (And if the pet makes a mess in their yard, assure them you will clean it up quickly!) This also works for cats and other pets. (Ahem…like cows.  I am seriously thinking about getting all of our cows calling cards…)

If you have children, the neighbors are aware of them and can help keep an eye on them.  When they are where they shouldn’t be, you can quickly come retrieve them. 

If they break something, assure the neighbor you will replace it.   (Even better, make the children use their allowance to pay for the damage, call the repairman, and stand with them while the repairs are being done.  This should quickly alleviate any further damage!)

Gift Tags

If you find yourself in a position of offering a gift, tuck one of your calling cards with it so the recipient knows who sent it.

When you take food to a funeral, tape a calling card to the bottom of the dish.  If the dish needs to be returned, the family knows where it should go.  It also let’s them know where to send a thank you note.

Sometimes, our gardens produce more than we can use.  In that case, we often send a box, bag or basket of the excess to a neighbor.  Stick a calling card in with the goodies, so they know who to thank if they aren’t home to receive them initially.

Design your own Calling Card

Meeting New People

A calling card is an excellent way to exchange information when you meet someone new.  Offer them a card with your information written on the back – whether that be a phone number, email address, or other social media information.

As a blogger, I am often asked about my website.  This is a perfect opportunity to share that information without either of us having to find a pen and paper. It also protects a bit of my privacy, as I don’t have to worry about strangers showing up unannounced.

Create Your Own Calling Card

There are so many software versions that can help you create a calling card.

My favorite place to design images is Canva.com.  You can sign up for the free version, and find most everything you need to design your calling card. 

However, if you find you love creating designs for other usages, you just cannot go wrong with their pro version.  For someone like me who uses is frequently, it is a price well paid.

You can also choose to hire someone to do it for you.  I love fiverr.com for this type of thing.  If I may be so bold, I had phoebe_g at fiverr.com design my logo. She is an excellent graphic artist, and seemed to be able to read my mind with what I wanted in my design.

With phoebe_g or any other graphic designer on fiverr.com, it is strongly advisable to read what they have to offer.  Usually, they offer three different prices.  Each price comes with different options. 

And please be advised:  There is a small fee you pay to fiverr.com with each invoice. Once you have completed your transaction, fiverr.com will also ask you if you want to leave your designer a tip.  Between the fees, and tip, you do pay a small amount over the cost of the invoice.

This payment goes to the creators of fiverr, which is at least partially how they make their money.  This amount is usually small at 10% or less, depending on the initial amount.

But still – it is well worth it to have professional work done. And the cost you pay on fiverr.com is so much less than having an independent designer do it for you.

One other issue I have had with fiverr.com is that it is difficult to search for a specific artist.  It is easy to search for what you want, just not necessarily who you want, as there are so many.

I recommend choosing 5 star, Level 1 or 2 Sellers. Check the reviews (the more, the better). And if you want to check phoebe_g out, let me know and I will send you a link to her.

Calling Cards

Are You Ready?

Sometimes, we just need to do something special for ourselves.  We need a creative outlet, but don’t necessarily want to pick up a crochet hook. Instead, dip your toe in the waters of graphic arts, and design your very own calling card.

You will quickly find how indispensable these become.  And when you make yours, please share it here in the comments.  All of us are going to be wanting to see what everyone else comes up with for theirs!

Julie Murphree is a blogger, newspaper columnist, and speaker on all things ‘Living a Simple Life on the Farm’. She is the author of \'The Farm Wife – Living a Simple Life on the Farm. She and her husband have 60 acres in NW Louisiana where they actively work on living as sustainable as possible.



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