The etiquette of calling cards (1918)

The etiquette of calling

by Edna Egan

Often you have heard women remark on occasions when they are asked whether or not they have called upon some new arrival in the community. “Oh, I’d just love to call on her. But, my dear, I’ve heard that she is so terribly formal and stands on ceremony that I don’t dare call for fear I will commit some frightful faux pas.” And yet the etiquette of calling is not nearly so complicated as it is popularly conceived.

Formal calling, except in the most conventional society and diplomatic circles, is rather going out of vogue. It is largely being displaced by the disarming custom adopted by so many hostesses of serving informal afternoon tea to callers. This has dispensed with a great deal of the purely formal technical points which have heretofore been considered essential to the etiquette of calling, and has made the time-honored in stitution a much more friendly affair.

Purely formal calls are usually paid between three and half past five in the afternoon; it is a matter of judgment on the part of the caller as to exactly what time she shall spend with her hostess. It is a safe rule to follow, however, not to spend more than half an hour. Indeed, it is not always necessary to tarry any length of time at all, or even to alight from one’s motor or carriage. Cards may simply be sent in by footman or maid.

Calling in small towns or suburban communities is much more a matter of real friendship-forming pleasure than the conventional custom of large cities. A new arrival is called upon not so much out of conventional courtesy, but from a real desire to make her acquaintance. In the case of a bride or a newcomer, the calls paid them by their neighbors arc usually returned immediately, or within the expiration of a fortnight at the latest.

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In the case of a matron who has moved into a new neighborhood, it is proper that the residents and neighbors call on her to extend their welcome and the various courtesies current among neighbors. Some people are deplorably lax in this same particular. While they call on new arrivals eventually, the tardiness with which their courtesy is extended deprives if of half its spontaneity and good will. The woman who recognizes the virtue which lies in “doing it now” in the social sense, is the one who may feel the complete satisfaction of having done herself justice the payment of her social obligations.

A call that is well-timed and appropriate in its nature is always appreciated by the recipient, and regarded as an act of spontaneous good-will and friendship. But one that is made long after the expiration of the customary number of days is open to the suspicion of having been made a matter of social necessity.

The matter of leaving cards is one of the purely technical points of calling etiquette, and one which varies widely in different communities and under different circumstances.

For the first year after her marriage, a bride may use cards engraved “Mr and Mrs S,” for during that time, she is still supposed to be paying off obligations incurred in both their names. A matron leaves two of her husband’s cards and one of her own with her hostess, unless there is an unmarried daughter in the house who bears part of the burden of entertaining, when she substitutes two of her own and one of her husband’s. During the first year following her bereavement, a woman in mourning does not use any cards at all, as she may receive but not return calls. After the expiration of the year, cards with a black border of any desired width are used during the conventional period of mourning, usually an additional year.

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A young girl, even though she may still be in school, must have her cards engraved with “Miss” followed by her name. On the other hand, a young unmarried man, unless he has some professional title, has simply his full name engraved on his calling cards.

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