Calling and Sentiment Cards

Calling cards were popular in the nineteenth century in middle and upper class society. These small cards (usually about 1.5" x 3") were used as part of the often elaborate visiting and social calling practices of the era. Cards were exchanged between new acquaintances and were used further social connections. The Society has a collection of over 600 calling cards, many homemade in manuscript and watercolor, others engraved or letter-press printed.

Sentiment cards, small, single-sided cards printed with greetings or messages on morality, were popular in the United States during the nineteenth century. The tradition of trading or sending these early greeting cards began in Europe in the 1820s, and soon crossed the Atlantic to America. The cards, about the same size as calling cards, were intended to be given to friends and associates as tokens. Many cards expressed feelings of love or friendship, others bore religious or moral verses intended for the improvement of their recipients. The cards were quite inexpensive, with sets of one hundred cards costing between $0.75 and $2.00. Many of the cards in the Society's collection are signed in manuscript and are often further decorated by the giver with watercolor. Some served double duty as calling cards or as rewards of merit for young children.

Calling Card Inventory

Box 1

Manuscript Calling Cards, A . Z (240 cards)
Printed Calling Cards, A . J (319 cards)

Box 2

Printed Calling Cards, K . Z (270 cards)
Calling Cards, initials only (5 cards)
Calling Cards, illegible inscriptions (36 cards)
Calling Cards, with photograph inset (6 cards)
Calling Cards, blanks and samples (142 cards)
Calling Cards, escort cards (10 cards)

Box 3

Calling Cards, folio (12 cards)

Sentiment Card Inventory, arranged by topic

Floral (Language of Flowers) (33 cards)
Friendship (111 cards)
General Good Wishes, Thanks (26 cards)
Landscape, Ships, Domestic (scenes with various sentiments) (22 cards)
Love (109 cards)
Music (secular and religious) (26 cards)
Religious sentiment (61 cards)
Remembrance (70 cards)
Virtues (Hope, Charity, Constancy, etc.) (67 cards)

Item Collection Format