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New Year's Calling Cards

An important part of the bygone custom of paying New Year's calls was the presentation of an appropriate calling or visiting card by the caller to the hostess. Inscribed with the caller's name and perhaps an accompanying message or greeting, the cards varied in style from season to season. The Lincoln Daily Call of December 19, 1890, noted that a young man "who a week ago was confronted with perplexity over choices of a Christmas present for his lady friend is fretted over what kind of a card he shall have prepared for his round of New Year's calls."

The Call went on to inform its young male readers of the appropriate style for that year: "Now as to cards. The most correct form for New Year's calls, as for all others, . . . has been the simplest. Perfectly plain white cardboard bearing the name in perfectly plain copperplate script is what a gentleman is expected to present.

"For New Year's, of course, the sizes of the cards and the arrangement of the names-for it is permissible to place the names of a party of callers on a single card-vary from the orthodox forms, but the rule of severe plainness in card and lettering always holds good. If the caller is going by his lonely self, his card should be of the size known to the stationers as 'No. 10.'-that is, about l_x3 inches. It should bear his name with the prefix 'Mr.' in rather heavy-faced but absolutely flourishless letters. It will interest the thrifty to know that 200 of these cards, together with a copper plate from which they were printed, will cost $2.50. But most men will want a sentiment of some kind on their cards. Nine in ten will want 'A Happy New Year,' and it is permissible to arrange such words on the card in any manner to suit the individual, even to arching them over the name.

"For parties of callers, the arrangement of names is left by the stationer to the taste of the party members. The cards, of course, are larger, but the pure white and simple script are inevitable. One card for a party of five, which was shown a Call young man, had a name in each corner, one in the center, while the compliments of the season appeared in two lines underneath the lower names.

"'We are trying our best to cast out the stereotyped phrase,' said a stationer. 'I always advise my patrons who have plates made to substitute, "The compliments of 1891," or something that is not quite so threadbare. I do not find the demand for New Year's cards very active this year, but the most of it is yet to come. Men generally leave that kind of thing until the last moment and then rush in by the dozen, just like they did before Christmas.'"

(January 2007)



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Last updated 11 October 2007

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