In Celebration Of: The Calling Card

Pearl White Calling Card with Dotted RuleSpeakeasy-inspired cocktails. Old fashioned shaves. British aristocracy. What’s old is new again, and, as purveyors of classic correspondence, we are quite delighted about this trend toward slowing down.

And so in the spirit of stopping to smell the roses, today we’d like to celebrate the calling card.

In Europe, the first known use of a calling card occurred in Italy during the latter part of the sixteenth century. The custom spread to France, Great Britain and, eventually, the United States.

Calling cards were originally made for the nobility to hand to a footman when paying a call or to leave at the home when the person called upon was absent. Their use was popularized during the reign of Louis XVI when the custom developed in France to use them when paying New Year’s calls.

Calligraphers made the early calling cards, which bore the name of the individual and his hereditary titles. The cards were further embellished with borders, floral designs and other ornamentations.

Early in the 19th century, these embellishments were abandoned in favor of a fine card on which only the individual’s name appeared. When making a social call, you left a calling card for each adult on whom you were calling. Never, however, exceeding three cards.

A man may call on a husband and wife, in which case he leaves two cards. A woman may only call on another woman, so she leaves only one card. You may turn down the corner of your card to signify that it is intended for all the ladies of the house.

Calling cards are still occasionally used for their original purpose, but are often used as gift enclosures. The traditional way to personalize a gift enclosure card is by drawing a line through the imprinted name and writing a brief message with your signature.

The calling card is also used in lieu of a business card at social occasions. After all, who wants to be reminded of offices and conference calls while enjoying witty conversation and a French 75?

For the social mother, calling cards are a lovely way to pass along information to plan play dates, schedule lunches and solicit advice on the new tennis instructor.

Completely customizable, the calling card should be an expression of your personality, whether you fancy letterpress on ecru, engraving in gold or beveled in bright red.

Below are the more traditional guidelines to follow when choosing the format of your calling card.


Men’s Cards
Boy’s Cards
Women’s Cards
Widow
Divorced Women
Use of Ms.
Single Woman
Husband and Wife
Medical Doctors
Male Doctor
Single Female Doctor
Married Female Doctor
University and College Titles
General Use
College and University Use
Clergy

Men’s Cards
A man’s full name, preceded by his title, is always used. His middle name is always spelled out, never abbreviated. While “Mr.” is always abbreviated, other titles, such as “Doctor” and “Colonel”, are spelled out.

Suffixes, such as “junior”, may follow the name. A man is a junior when he shares the same name as his father. He uses junior until his father passes away. Then, he drops it from his name.

If, however, his father were a well-known figure, he would continue to use “junior” to avoid any confusion. It may appear in its abbreviated form as “Jr.” or, when space permits, spelled out as “junior”. When abbreviated, the “J” is capitalized. When spelled out, the “j” is lower case.

A man uses “II” when he is named after an older relative other than his father. “III” is used when a man is named after somebody who uses “junior” or “II”. They are usually preceded by a comma, although some men omit the comma.

Traditionally, both formats are correct.

Mr. Griffen Alexander Greylock
Mr. Griffen Alexander Greylock, junior
Mr. Griffen Alexander Greylock, Jr.
Mr. Griffen Alexander Greylock, III

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Boy’s Cards
A title does not precede the name of a boy under the age of 18.

Thomas Arthur Hancock

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Women’s Cards

A married woman uses her husband’s full name, preceded by “Mrs.” Her husband’s middle name is always included and is never replaced by his middle initial. If her husband’s name is followed by a suffix, such as “Jr.”, that suffix appears on her calling cards as well.

Mrs. Harrison Raiford Booth
Mrs. Harrison Raiford Booth, Jr.

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Widow

A widow continues to use her husband’s name on her calling cards. If her son is a junior who has dropped the “Jr.” from his name, she adds the suffix “senior” to distinguish herself from her daughter-in-law. “Senior” may be spelled out with a lower case “s” or abbreviated with a capital “S”.

Mrs. Harrison Raiford Booth
Mrs. Harrison Raiford Booth, senior
Mrs. Harrison Raiford Booth, Sr.

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Divorced Women
A divorced woman uses her first name, maiden name and married name, preceded by “Mrs.” She may also use her first, maiden and married names without a title.

Mrs. Lydia Renner Booth
Lydia Renner Booth

A divorced woman who resumed the use of her maiden name uses her first name, middle name and last name, without a title.

Lydia Anne Renner

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Use of Ms.
“Ms.” does not properly appear on calling cards. If a woman feels uncomfortable using “Miss” or “Mrs.”, she may omit her title.

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Single Woman
A single woman typically uses her first name, middle name and last name, preceded by “Miss”. She may also omit her title.

Miss Lydia Anne Renner
Lydia Anne Renner

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Husband and Wife
A calling card used jointly by a husband and wife has “Mr. and Mrs.” followed by the husband’s first name, middle name and last name. His middle name is always spelled out, never abbreviated. If the husband has a title other than “Mr.” that title isused instead.

Titles other than “Mr.” and “Mrs.” should not be abbreviated. When a name is too long to fit on a calling card, it is preferable to omit the middle name rather than to abbreviate a title or use an initial.

Mr. and Mrs. Harrison Raiford Booth
The Reverend and Mrs. Harrison Booth

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Medical Doctors
Physicians, surgeons and dentists use the prefix “Doctor” or “Dr.” on their calling cards. Professional degrees, however, should not appear on cards for social use.

A single woman who is a medical doctor or a married woman who has retained the use of her maiden name or who uses a professional name uses her first name, middle name and last name, preceded by “Doctor” or “Dr.”.

A married woman who is a doctor traditionally uses her husband’s first name, middle name and last name, preceded by “Mrs.”. Today, she may instead choose to use her first name, maiden name and married name, preceded by “Doctor” or “Dr.”.

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Male Doctor
Doctor Jeffrey Allen Glenwood
Dr. Jeffrey Allen Glenwood

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Single Female Doctor
Doctor Leslie Jean Carpenter
Dr. Leslie Jean Carpenter

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Married Female Doctor
Mrs. Jeffrey Allen Glenwood
Doctor Leslie Carpenter Glenwood
Dr. Leslie Allen Glenwood

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University and College Titles
Calling cards for general social use for college and university faculty members show no academic titles or degrees. However, calling cards intended for college and university use do show academic titles. The titles are never abbreviated. If there is not enough room on the card due to a long name and title, the middle name may be abbreviated. Letters indicating advanced degrees do not appear.

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General Use
Mr. Gregory Winston Hughes

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College and University Use
Doctor Gregory Winston Hughes

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Clergy
Members of the clergy use their full names preceded by their title on their calling cards. Titles are never abbreviated. The middle name may be omitted if there is not enough space on the card. No initials indicating divinity degrees appear on the card.

Rabbi Nathan Weisman

The Reverend John Kenneth Rhoads

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Have more questions about calling cards? Email our Crane Concierge at concierge@crane.com. 

5 thoughts on “In Celebration Of: The Calling Card

  1. Pingback: In Celebration Of: Engraving «

  2. Pingback: How to Leave Your Calling Card | Crane & Co.: The Blog

  3. Pingback: How to Leave Your Calling Card | Crane & Co.: The Blog | Calling Cards

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