The History of the Calling Card

To honor our Annual Calling Card Event,  we wanted to share the history of the calling card and how its purposes have evolved over time. We hope that this piece inspires you to put your best card forward! 


Before the age of the telephone, the calling card (or carte de visite in French) had a significant role as a social tool. In the days when ladies might receive visitors during hours they were known to be “at home,” the calling card served to announce a visitor to the house. Thought to have originated in China in the 16th century, the calling card flourished in France and England before coming to America, reaching its heyday during the Gilded Age of the late 19th century.



A visitor would present his card to the butler, who would place it on a silver tray and, leaving the visitor to wait, take it to the lady of the house. Different corners of the card would be turned down to indicate the visitor came in person, or that the call was intended to express congratulations or condolence.

On an initial visit, a gentleman would give a card to the butler and leave; if the recipient wished to start a friendship, a card would be returned in the same manner; but no response or a card returned inside an envelope indicated the recipient did not wish the acquaintance to continue.

Although business cards existed, they were never used in social situations. Just as today it is usually considered rude even to ask a new acquaintance what he or she does to earn a living, the idea that a person might produce a card with business information in a social setting was inconceivable until the early twentieth century. So the calling card would have served that social function, and any information missing, or perhaps a short note, would often be written directly on the card.


The most formal calling card format features only a person’s full name, complete with title: Mr., Mrs. or Miss. “Doctor” is spelled out, as is “junior.” A home address, as brief as possible, is sometimes added to the lower right corner of the card; men’s cards sometimes include the name of a club.CallingCardEvent-OrangeClutch-03-Edited

Traditional calling cards are always engraved, using only black ink, the finest paper stock, and one of a small selection of conservative typefaces. Interestingly, the ornate social codes of American Society developed standard sizes to denote sex and marital status. These “proper” sizes were in use well into the twentieth century, though today it is acceptable to throw these rules out the window and choose a size – or create a different size – that suits your taste.


Single Men:                                        1-9/16” x 3-1/4”

Married Men:                                     2” x 3-1/2”

Single women:                                   2” x 2-7/8”

Married women and widows:          2-3/8” x 3-1/4”

Married couples:                               2-1/2” x 3-1/2”


The Calling Card Today

 Calling cards, sometimes referred to as personal cards, are experiencing a renaissance, particularly among younger people, who change jobs more frequently and may want to present themselves socially with a less work-related face. Though a standard business card size is still popular for calling cards, a more unusual size may be a surprise to the recipient. Ink color and typeface are other ways to make the card have more personality. And today, there is sometimes more contact information put on the card; a cell phone number and personal email address are very common, as they don’t change when a person changes jobs or home addresses. Still, many clients prefer the simple elegance of engraving only their names on the center of the card.


How to Use Your Calling Cards

Calling cards are the perfect “blank slate” for today’s social and business interactions. It is perfectly acceptable to jot a little note or a bit of information directly on to your calling card. For example, after a business meeting you might add your work email and hand it to a new acquaintance. After running into an old friend you might write “call me” and include your mobile telephone number. How you use your cards is entirely up to you. You should be comfortable and confident that your cards are a sophisticated reflection of your personality and are completely adaptable to any situation. Calling cards also make fabulous gift enclosures – simply write “Happy Birthday” or “Congratulations” on the card and enclose it with a gift.

We’re sure you’ll find hundreds of ways to use your cards. Be sure to visit our website or call us at 212.570.4800 to learn more!


The History of the Calling Card

The calling card is deeply rooted in the tradition of social etiquette. The calling card first appeared in China during the 15th century and continued to be used throughout the 17th century. During the Victorian Age, the calling card became an essential for all social events, as a way to call new acquaintances at these gatherings. At a social gathering hosted in someone’s home, the host was able to collect calling cards to recall who his or her guests were. The calling card also represented one’s social standing; if a person receives a calling card in lieu of a personal visit, it suggested that the person offering the card came from a place of wealth and high society.

Historically, the gentleman could have his address engraved on his calling card, but it wasconsidered improper for a lady to do so. There are also discrepancies in the sizes for both women and men. It was more often that a man’s calling card was a smaller size than a woman’s because he had to carry his cards in his pocket. Although employing motifs or additional flourishes was seen as gaudy when calling cards were first used, they eventually became representative of the owner’s personality and unique flair. As calling cards were often employed in courting, they also acted as a way to preserve one’s mystery since contained only the individual’s name.

Today, the tradition of the calling card is undergoing a metamorphosis. The etiquette of the calling card is honored and preserved yet calling cards are an extension of one’s style, featuring designs and color palettes that complement the person. They can also contain any kind of information the individual wishes, ranging from his or her phone number to a personal twitter handle. In the age of technology, the calling card acts as the perfect wayto capture the attention of a new acquaintance, and ultimately, make your impression.blog1

Illuminate Your Signature: The Story and Etiquette of Monograms

Monograms are more than just initials. It is a name stripped to its essence. A monogram tells a tale of our identity, who we are and who we want to be. The first monograms were seen on coins as early as 350 B.C. in Ancient Greece. The monograms on the coins were the first two letters of the Greek cities, which indicated where the coins came from. At the height of the Middle Ages, artisans began to use monograms as a signature to their work. A monogram became a way for an artist to take ownership of her work. The painter Rembrandt’s signed initials, RL, are iconic and ultimately allowed his work to become instantly identifiable during the peak of the Dutch Golden Age. The Victorian era propelled the use of monograms to symbolize aristocracy. Monograms were the perfect way to adorn their linens, but they were soon etched onto personal treasures, such as lockets. JF-Monogram

While monograms come in an array of typestyles and shapes, they always contain a person’s or couple’s initials. The most popular monogram for a man or a woman consists of the initials of the first and middle and that of the surname, which is always located in the center of the monogram.

  1. A 3-letter monogram captures the individual’s entire name. The first name is represented by the letter on the left and the middle name is represented by the letter on the right. The surname is always the initial located in the center.
  2. An individual can also create a 1-letter monogram, which can represent the first or last name.

Couples can get in on the fun, too. A monogram is the perfect way to capture your commitment and also create your own symbol as a couple. Today’s modern couples can choose from many variations on monograms to accommodate name changes, including a hyphenated last name, a bride keeping her family name, and brides and grooms keeping their family names.

  1. The most common monogram for a couple with a sole last name is to position the wife’s initial on the left, the husband’s initial to the right, and their last name in the middle. Same sex couples can choose the arrangement of their initials based on the aesthetic of the letter arrangement.
  2. For couples who decide to keep their given surnames, a 2-letter or 4-letter interlocking monogram is the perfect solution. Interlocking monograms are a beautiful way to capture the symmetry of the letters visually, and, more profoundly, the balance and harmony of a couple’s dedication and love.

DandC monogram

Although there is an etiquette to monogramming, monograms are an expression of one’s identity. They represent elements of your personality all while highlighting the most significant parts of your name. The monogram is a timeless expression, one that is subject to the intricacies of your personality, making it truly yours.

Madeleine Garone,

Madeleine Garone signature