Business cards have a long and colorful history, dating back centuries to their use in social settings and moving all the way forward to their professional purpose today. These cards have been a mainstay to help individuals identify themselves when they visited someone's home or went into business for themselves. Enjoy this brief history of business cards to find out just how far these small printed pieces have come over the decades.
Early Visiting Cards
The original business cards originated in the 17th century, and they were originally used for social, rather than professional, purposes. It was customary in polite society for a visiting card to be presented to the lady of the home prior to admittance into the house for a visit. These cards were about the size of today's playing card and often featured elaborate coats of arms or engravings. Visiting cards were typically left in a silver tray near the home's entrance to serve as a reminder of social calls that must be returned.
The visiting business cards evolved over the next two centuries into etiquette cards, complete with their own set of rules and protocol by which all members of polite society abided. For example, most considered it to be the height of rudeness to examine other cards in the homeowner's tray while waiting for entrance into a home. Cards were also folded in a specific manner to display the type of visit that had been paid; cards folded at the corner meant the visitor had presented the card in person, while those folded in half indicated the visitor came to see multiple members of the household.
The Industrial Age
During the Industrial Age at the end of the 19th century, new business owners began to use business cards to market their companies. Unlike the visiting cards of the past, these business cards were usually printed in black block letters on a plain white background. They were commonly handed out at exhibitions, although members of the elite class tended to turn up their noses at the practice. The business cards became particularly popular in the United States at this time, raising the image of the cards considerably.
Today, business cards are a mainstay for modern corporations, with salesmen and secretaries alike sporting their own unique cards. Business card printing has evolved into an art form, with computer technology allowing businesses the chance to easily add their own unique corporate branding to their cards. Business cards come in a host of colors, styles and materials, from basic cardstock to refrigerator magnets. Companies customize business cards to exude their own personal style and to stand out from the crowd.
Business cards have a lengthy history, as they have proven themselves quite valuable for introducing new businesses to the rest of the world. Cards are exchanged at corporate events and coffee shops, between executives and entrepreneurs alike. Whether you are a brand new business owner or a seasoned sales rep, business cards are an essential part of your professional image today.