The history of the business card

Hidden behind other cards in your wallet, these small cards usually sit in your wallet for weeks on end only to appear if you have met someone you would like to share your contact details with, either a business acquaintance or potential client.

Deemed as inconsequential pieces of paper business cards have a long established history which most of us don’t appreciate in modern times?
Born in 17th century Europe, business cards were used to advertise and announce aristocratic people arriving in their town. Shaped similar to a playing card they became well used by the middle of the century by aristocrats or prosperous folk. Techniques changed through time with cards becoming more luxurious, engraved gold, lavish fonts and highly decorated. The middle classes all had business cards; you were practically non-existent without one.

Homes had card trays specifically placed for callers to leave there cards in, ornate in construction these trays became the norm, any visitors would simply leave there card before they departed company.

19th century
Cards were presented visiting a house (social cards) the card tray was presented to the visitor and cards were placed in the tray as a matter of etiquette. The card tray is taken away to be delivered to the head lady of the house. She would examine the card and its content/presentation to get a first impression of the visitor. Design and fold of the cards illustrated who the card was for. Folder corners were for a specific person of the house, folded in the centre were for all family members. Lettering on the card had meanings, P/C stood for condolence call, P/F for a congratulatory visit. Cards were also used in trade meetings across the UK.

Formality changed in the industrial revolution, visiting and trade cards merged and giving out on informal meetings as well as trade or business The UK upper class had a diversion to informal card, however in the USA there use increased and became widespread.

Modern times
Business card snobbery became dissected in time, etiquette had vanished but some rules still apply today. Cards are not presented loose, no writing on the card face and presented in the left hand.

Today’s business cards are expected to display the name of the card holder, title, company with which they are employed or director and any relevant contact information (Address, telephone, fax numbers and email address/s.) Business logo are used with marketing strapline’s.

Traditionally business cards are printed black onto ivory or white board, modern business cards are heavily graphic designed, some even using a double sided print to make use of the cards reverse for other company information.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *