Skip to content

Calling Cards

August 23, 2020

Each week, I receive an email from with interesting snippets that can be found in old newspapers. I was very interested to read an article about Calling Cards.

“Want to take a peek into a fascinating social custom from the Victorian era? Calling cards (also called visiting cards or visiting tickets) were all the rage in the 19th century and represented an indispensable way to communicate. The cards did much more than just announce a visit, they relayed important social messages. For example, a calling card with a folded corner, or a card in a sealed envelope sent clear messages that accompanied strict etiquette protocols. By the early 1900s, calling cards fell out of fashion. Today’s business cards are a leftover relic from the calling card era”.

With that information, my first thought was to check if this custom was part of Australian life in the 1800s, expecting of course, that it would have been.

It seems that there was a a slight difference between the cards being used in England and those in Australia. They information in the email said in England the cards were often embellished with art work such as is below.

The article I found on Trove lists the rules and etiquette of calling cards. Having read them, I’m sure that I would have struggled to remember and follow them correctly.

This article was featured on The Ladies Page and Fashion Chat  by Housewife

from: The Sydney Mail and New South Wales Advertiser, Wednesday 27 October 1909, page 41


The everyday etiquette of card-leaving and sending never changes, and it is only the size of the cards themselves which varies to any extent. Just now the favourite size for a woman is’ 3 1/2 inches by 2 3-8, and to be quite up-to-date, they should be fairly thick, and have script letters, engraved as finely as possible, with no embellishment of any kind.

Still, a woman does not commit any social enormity by writing her card for herself, for it is rather an expensive matter to have them printed, especially when the address and the ‘at home’ day be added. Most printers charge about half a crown for fifty, this covering cards as well, but for this sum, as a rule, the name only is allowed, extra being charged for the address. Cards should be engraved thus: —

Men’s cards usually have, ‘Mr- John Blank,’ and if ‘Mr. Blank’ be a bachelor, he may have his address at the bottom. If he is a married man, the address is omitted; but if he is the member of a prominent club, then the name of this club may be added, as it gives his friends the opportunity of knowing where he is to be found in his leisure hours. Any reliable stationer would supply .the correct size cards which should be printed:

On cards which are used strictly for business purposes the ‘Mr,’ is often omitted. In every case, a man and a woman have separate’ cards, for to couple ‘Mr. and Mrs.’ together is considered to be a social crime. Daughters’ names are always put below their mother’s, or, if they keep their father’s house, their names should follow his. If a girl is visiting, either in the town or country, her name should be put below that of her chaperon, whether she be a relative or friend. A single woman of middle age would have her own cards if she were mistress of her own home, and was considered sufficiently elderly to dispense with a chaperone.

When making calls, a woman is sometimes exercised in her mind over two matters — how many cards she is to leave, and what she is to do with them. The best plan is to have the cards ready, and as the house is entered, to either give them to the maid, who will probably hold the tray in anticipation, or else to leave them on the hall table. In these days, when gypsy and other tables have been consigned to oblivion, it is not always easy in the modern drawing-room to find a place where the cards may be placed. If you are calling on a married woman, you leave one of your own and two of your husband’s cards. Your own card and that of your husband’s are for the mistress of the house; while the extra one of your husband’s is for the master. When calling on a widow, you naturally leave but one of your husband’s. This also applies to single women; but, if living with a brother, the first rule is correct. If you are calling on visitors staying in the house, the same formula holds good. After the first call, there is really no need to leave cards at all, unless the friend on whom you are calling happens to be out, when it is better to leave your own card than to trust to the memory of the housemaid.

It is, however, not necessary to leave any of your husband’s cards, unless, of course, it is the first visit. Cards of condolence are oftentimes substituted for letters, the words ‘With deep sympathy’ being written across the lefthand top corner. Cards of return ‘With many thanks, etc.,’ are usual, but generally small slips are used, these being obtainable at any printing house. Indeed, in cases of births and marriages, cards of congratulations are forwarded, for, after all, if one has a long list of acquaintances, this class of letter-writing becomes a tax when allied to one’s correspondence.

Lastly, come the ‘P.P.C.’ cards. These initials stand for ‘Pour Prendre Conge’ (pronounced conjay), and, translated from the French, mean ‘to take leave.’ If you intend leaving your home for any length of time, you notify your friends of this by posting cards with these initials, either at the top or at the foot. You send exactly the same number as if you were calling in the ordinary way. If you intend being absent for less than six months ‘ it is not necessary to send them at all. But it stands to reason that you would like your friends to Know that you are not receiving, so these cards are sent as an intimation. With a large circle of acquaintances, it would be impossible to visit them simultaneously, so the ‘P.P.C.’ cards are used as a substitute, which is quite invaluable, and saves one from being considered impolite.

CALLING CARDS (1909, October 27). The Sydney Mail and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW : 1871 – 1912), p. 41. Retrieved August 24, 2020, from

The original blog post from Let Me Leave You My Calling Card

From → Uncategorized

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Barroworn Succulents

Succulents, Geraniums, Iris and much more. All grown on our local property

Loretta Travels

Travel tidbits and vicarious adventures

Best Bookish Blog

Independant Book Reviews and More

Trisha Faye

Cherishing the Past while Celebrating the Present

Removing the labels one pair of pants at a time

Celebrating and Loving our bodies

Stepheny Forgue Houghtlin

"If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need." Cicero

Finding Family

One woman's obsession with family history.

Kerryn's Kin

A Tribute to my ancestors by Kerryn Taylor

Next Phase In Fitness & Life

Over 60 and living my best life

'Genealogists for Families' project

Family History and Genealogy


Family History and Genealogy

Western District Families

Stories of Pioneering Families From the Western District of Victoria