The late seventeenth century saw the introduction of the formal invitation. Prior to that, invitations were usually written to a specific person for the purpose of notifying him about a funeral and asking that the invitation be presented as a ticket. Formal invitations became popular because they were usually not addressed to individuals, but instead served as a general announcement of an upcoming event. They often began with a heading such as: "Your attendance is respectfully solicited by," and addressed to sir or madam.
The American Antiquarian Society has a collection of several hundred invitations, dating from the 1750's through the 1880's. They are mainly from New England for events such as the 1850 Fireman's Festival in South Framingham, Massachusetts, and the 1871 Woman Suffrage Bazar in Boston. Other items included are wedding invitations, notices of political events, civic and school celebrations, and memorials. Also part of the collection is the Edward Larocque Tinker Collection of Carnival Ball invitations issued in New Orleans during Mardi Gras.
The collection, with the exception of the Tinker material, is fully cataloged online in the General Catalog.
All invitations in the collection, with the exception of the Tinker material, are also digitally available in Readex's American Broadsides and Ephemera, Series I under "invitations." This resource is available onsite at AAS and via subscription from Readex.
-Terri Tremblay, Assistant Curator of Graphic Arts
Rickards, Maurice, The Encyclopedia of Ephemera. New York: Routledge, 2000.