Calling Cards

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It finally happened. Melinda kept telling me a young lady needs her own calling cards when and if she goes visiting (they are also called “visiting cards”). I didn’t figure I needed anything so fine and proper, but even Mother said I might want them eventually. So, down to the Fresno Expositor office I trooped. The newspaper office does all the printing in town.  I had high hopes that I could have a calling card with horses printed on them. No such luck.

Mr. Marshall dragged out a bunch of designs in all sorts of colors. “The more colors, the more it costs,” he warned.

I looked them over and my heart sank to my toes. “No horses?”   

“Sorry, Miss Carter. Not a lot of call for horses on young ladies’ cards, I’m afraid.” He chuckled. Very funny.

“And the fellas prefer a plain card with just their name,” Mr. Marshall continued. “Could I interest you in these nice butterflies? Or some lovely doves?

The boys’ cards were pretty plain, true enough. But the cards for young ladies were all a-swirl with roses and flowers and more flowers and butterflies and . . .  yes . . . even bees!

One calling card had the brashness to proclaim: “You have the key to my heart.” Yikes! The card read “Herman,” and I wondered how he could be bold enough to pass around a card like that! (Come to think of it, Jeffrey Sullivan might be that brash.) Take a look at a few of the cards I pored over at the Expositor office (they print the cards).

In case you don’t know what calling cards are for, they are an indispensable tool of Victorian etiquette (so Mother and Melinda inform me). I already knew this, but visiting Cory at his father’s livery has . . . so far . . . not required a calling card. Thank goodness!

Whether or not to use a calling card depends on the home you are visiting. If they have servants, the butler takes your card and lets the mistress (or master) of the house know you want to visit.

Aunt Rebecca is the “queen” of calling cards, let me tell you! While these little cards are not so important in a small town like Fresno, nobody but nobody goes visiting in San Francisco (at least in the upper class) without carrying along their visiting cards. If the people you are hoping to visit do not want to see you, they return the card. Talk about a brush-off!

Back to my tale: I looked the cards over, and I almost started laughing when I saw another young man’s card. It said, “Fair lady, May I have the pleasure of seeing you home this evening? If so, keep this card, if not, please return it.” Then it added, “If I can’t see you home, may I sit on the fence and see you go by?”

That is the truth. See for yourself. I would prefer somebody (even Cory or Jack) to ask me to my face if they wanted to see me home, rather than play the silly card game. I reckon this shows that most folks out West (at least in small towns and on ranches) are much more practical than the rich city folks who put on “airs” and do everything just right.

Come to find out, calling cards go all the way back to ancient Egypt, which shows that it’s not just our generation that thinks up silly ways to act proper. The Egyptians left ceramic tiles as “calling cards” in their temples of worship. It had their names and titles engraved on them. Hmmm . . . I wonder if Father Abraham left a calling tile when he was in Egypt during the famine back in Genesis. Abraham was rich (though not yet famous), and I wonder if he had some made (in case he wanted to call on Pharaoh).

Oh, yes, back to the calling card. I finally landed on one I didn’t dislike too much. I actually do like flowers, don’t get me wrong. Here’s my card. What do you think?

Published by Andi Carter

I'm the main character in the Circle C Adventures series. I live on a huge cattle ranch in 1880s California. These are my adventures.

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