Texts, instant messages, emails, Facebook messages, DMs on Twitter, cell phone calls.
We make use of all those means of keeping in touch today.
The Victorians had snail mail, telegrams, and calling cards.
The precursor to business cards, calling cards were used by men and women for a number of social occasions. Men usually kept their cards in their vest pockets. Women carried their cards in elegant cases. A man’s card was somewhat smaller than a woman’s for this reason.
Both men’s and women’s cards often included flowers. The heroine of my debut novel, Elenora Watkins, loves violets, so she might have chosen a card like the one above.
A person’s name could be found on the back of the card, on the front, or hidden under an attached flap on the front. A man might include his address, but a woman would not.
One use of a calling card was to convey a message when making social calls. A particular corner on the card was turned down before the caller handed the card to the servant who answered the door. Which corner was bent depended on the reason for the call.
A folded upper left corner indicated a visitor came in person.
A folded lower left corner said goodbye.
A folded lower right corner offered condolences.
What message do you think a folded upper right corner sent?
• • •
Leave your guess in a comment. To make this more fun, use only your current knowledge rather than performing a search on Google or making a dash for your reference books.
At the end of the day, I’ll update the post to include the answer and leave it in a comment. If you want to know the answer, you could subscribe to the comments on this post.
Have fun guessing!
• • •
Update and Answer
I had such fun reading the guesses left in the comments.
One person, Dianne, guessed correctly. She said she thought the folded upper right corner indicated congratulations. That’s it exactly. Having that corner folded was the way a person congratulated the recipient of the card on an engagement, a wedding, a birth, etc.
A number of you wondered if a gentleman would use his card to convey romantic interest. No. The main reason is that it wasn’t proper for a gentleman to call on an unmarried woman who was alone. His card would have been taken to the girl’s mother, who would have determined if he was to be admitted or not. Therefore, he would have turned down the upper left corner to indicate that he’d come in person and desired to pay a social call. Then he would have hoped like crazy that the girl’s mother was willing to admit him.
If a gentleman asked to escort a woman home from an event, he would have handed her his card. If she wanted to accept, she could have returned it with a certain corner up to indicate yes. Although I didn’t find out which corner that would have been, the man and woman would have known, since the Victorians were well versed in the language of the calling card. Another way for her to say yes would have been to give him one of her cards.
After reading this, which is only a small sampling of the rules involved in the use of the Victorian calling card, aren’t you glad we don’t have to know all this? I sure am. 🙂