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Ice-breaking Acquaintance Cards From The 1870s and 1880s

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Long before tweets and pokes, the way to instant message a dame and break the ice in the 1870s and 1880s featured an acquaintance card and possibly a gloved hand and top hat tilt. The Encyclopedia of Ephemera tells us that the acquaintance card was,

“A novelty variant of the American calling card of the 1870s and 1880s, the acquaintance card was used by the less formal male in approaches to the less formal female. Given also as an ‘escort card’ or ‘invitation card,’ the device commonly carried a brief message and a simple illustration… The cards were available as assignation notes, wuith space for name, time and place to be filled  by hand…

“Flirtatious and fun, the acquaintance card brought levity to what otherwise might have seemed a more formal proposal. A common means of introduction, it was never taken too seriously. Often kept as a token of subsequent friendship…”

The messages are quick, sometimes quirky and often rhyming: “If you have no objection ‘ll be your protection”; and “Dear Miss: I’m just your size and complexion, I’m going in your direction. So, if you have no objection, I’d like to be your protection. P.W.S.”

Some are a little pathetic, but might be intended so as parodies on more formalised wooing: “Dear Miss: You are sensible and good, And have all the charms of womanhood; Your eyes resemble the stars above you; I shall be miserable if I can’t love you.”

Others are brazen: “Let’s get acquainted for fun and results. I am a millionaire’s only son, not married. Looking for someone to love. License to knock and butt-in. Office hours, 7 p.m. to 1 a.m. in some young lady’s parlor.”

Alan Mays’ Flikr has a fine collection:

 

 

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  • Barry Rivadue

    Interesting, though some of these cards extend well into the 1920s.