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in: Dating, Featured, Relationships & Family

February 13, 2014 Last updated: April 23, 2020

May I See You Home? 19th Century Calling Cards Guaranteed to Score You a Date

vintage 19th century 1800s calling card

Source: Alan Mays

In the 19th century, gentlemen used calling cards to formally introduce themselves to new acquaintances and to call upon friends and relatives in a dignified way.

But there was another type of card used when a gentleman wanted to get the ball rolling with a lovely lady in a more casual way: the acquaintance card. According to The Encyclopedia of Ephemera, the acquaintance card was, “A novelty variant of the American calling card of the 1870s and 1880s,” and was

“used by the less formal male in approaches to the less formal female. Given also as an ‘escort card’ or ‘invitation card,’ the device commonly carried a brief message and a simple illustration….Flirtatious and fun, the acquaintance card brought levity to what otherwise might have seemed a more formal proposal. A common means of introduction, it was never taken too seriously.”

The cards were designed as a comical way for a gentleman to break the ice, start a conversation, and flirt with the opposite sex. Sometimes the humor was overt, and sometimes it derived from the way the messages parodied the formal rules of etiquette — it wasn’t actually considered appropriate to ask for your calling card back or volunteer your escorting services so directly, as some of these cards do. Their humor and directness is kind of awesome; as an icebreaker, it seems like they’d be easier for the guy, and more enjoyable for the gal, than a lot of the awkward pick-up tap and dance of the modern day.

Flickr user Alan Mays has amassed a delightful collection of these old acquaintance cards, along with some similar novelty cards from the mid-20th century, and has allowed us to feature them here. Enjoy and hand them out to all the lucky ladies you meet today. They’re guaranteed to get you a date!*

vintage 19th century 1800s calling card

Ah, here we have the 19th century equivalent of the “Do you like me? Check yes or no” middle school love note. In old fashioned slang, “to give someone the mitten” meant to reject them or end the relationship. One wonders how the card was used…did you give it to a lady and she returned it folded to reveal her answer? Source: Alan Mays

vintage 19th century 1800s calling card

This is the only acquaintance card Mays has come across where the man’s name is printed on one side, in the manner of a calling card. Perhaps Mr. Pfleogor had a bunch made and handed them out liberally to all the ladies. Source: Alan Mays

So ladies, how do you know if a fella is flirting with you? He gives you a card that says so. Duh. Source: Alan Mays

So ladies, how do you know if a fella is flirting with you? He gives you a card that says so. Duh. Source: Alan Mays


I hear the weather is wonderful in Squeezemburg this time of year.  Source: Alan Mays


For the bad boy, naturally, who wishes to get right to the point. Source: Alan Mays


And finally, should your acquaintance card distribution win you a date, here’s a card to hand out to those who are always digging for details on your romantic conquests. Source: Alan Mays

 *Guarantee valid for time machine users only. Expires February 15, 1889.

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