Victorian Calling Cards – English visiting etiquette in the late 1800s

Posted on October 3, 2014 in Textiles

In England in the late 1800s, visiting one’s friends and relatives required a calling card. These Victorian equivalents of text messages were rectangular cards with the visitor’s name engraved or printed onto one side and covered with a highly coloured and decorated die-cut flap of paper. These designs incorporated many motifs and symbols including meaningful flowers such as roses and forget-me-nots, sailing ships (to indicate going on a journey), the ubiquitous ‘hand of friendship’and other symbols of love and amity.

Victorian visiting cards

A selection of Victorian Calling Cards from the late 19th Century.

One’s card was handed over (usually by one’s servant) to the servant at the receiving household and was received on a silver platter but the messages didn’t stop there: The upper left corner turned down signified a congratulatory visit, lower left corner for condolence, lower right hand corner to indicate taking leave (going on a trip) and upper right corner meant the visitor had left the card in person (rather than sending their servant). To formally arrange the visit, the recipient sent their card in return however to receive no card in return or inside an envelope indicated that your proposed visit was not welcome.

Victorian calling card

Note the top left corner has been turned over.

Mary Cady Visiting Card

The engraved name under the decorated flap is Mary Cady who gave this card away in a congratulatory visit (as indicated by the folded top left corner) to persons unknown.


Hunted and Stuffed have used this fascinating historical quirk as the inspiration for our new HandS collection.
 Victorian cushions
My Love To You cushion
Left: Shows the back of the cushion. Right: Shows the front. The design wraps all the way around.
Peace For Ever cushion
Sail Away Cushion

Each cushion is 43cm x 43cm and is designed, printed, sewn and stuffed in the UK with a British made luxury feather pad (made in Yorkshire).

The design is digitally printed onto 100% cotton and continues over the seams and onto the back, cleverly giving a wrap around effect and creating a double sided design that you can simply flip over if you fancy a change.

Perfect as gifts for friends and loved ones (or as a treat to yourself) because we firmly believe that offering the ‘hand of friendship’ should never be out of fashion.

With love,

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