Before Tinder and Texting, There Were Acquaintance Cards

Once in a while I like to venture off the mid-20th century pop culture path and explore the nooks and crannies of truly vintage times. Since Valentine's Day is only a couple of weeks away (repeat after me, husbands and boyfriends: "Thank you, GoRetroPam, for reminding me and saving my a$$!") I thought it might be fun to have a look at what they used to call acquaintance or flirting cards back in the day.

Way back in the 1800s and early 1900s, before there was such a thing as texting and that God-awful Tinder app, gentlemen that were taken by a lady would slip her one of these cards as a way of indicating interest or infatuation. Two interesting things I noticed when perusing these cards online: it seemed appropriate for women to use these cards as well, although they also didn't seem to have a rejection card available for their disposal. It kind of makes you wonder how they were supposed to let down someone gently.

Just a distinction: these cards are a little different than calling cards that were being used at the same time. Those were left at someone's home as a polite way of trying to be introduced for the purpose of social or business arrangements. Acquaintance cards were for making a, scoring a date. They were also known as escort or invitation cards and were meant to help break the ice with a member of the female sex.

And just like pick-up lines from any other era, some of these are cute and charming while others are borderline creepy.

Just one quick note before we delve in...these are all credited to a Flickr user named Alan Mays. I reached out to him and asked for permission to use them, since another site has featured them as well. He never got back to Alan, if you see this, I hope it's OK to display your fine collection of vintage acquaintance cards and link back to you.

Just a tidbit of trivia that these cards were once made and found pretty much all over the country. You could buy a box of 1,000 of them for around $1.35 at the time. I guess you would need that many if you were being continuously shot down.

Speaking of shot down, this one was apparently dispensed only by the bravest, besotted man who's willing to risk his life for a date.

If you turn me down, I'm just going to sit on the fence and stare at you as you walk past. Nope, not creepy/stalkerish at all.

Red flag alert: "our" new lamp/sofa? Really makes it sound like the man is not living alone, just saying.

Whoever wrote this one is a real poet (and probably does know it.) But considering you could buy a thousand of these cards for a buck, it seems they were the Victorian equivalent of the carbon copy messages women sometimes get online, where a guy just copies and pastes the same introductory message over and over again. Not exactly the way to make a woman feel unique and special.

For those that met and married later in life...for those old maids that defeated the odds. (It also reminds me of Mr. Carson and Mrs. Hughes on Downton Abbey.)

I found this one to be a little creepy, and I wonder how vintage it is considering I thought "spooning" was a relatively modern term. And what's up with the "special attention paid to other fellows' girls" line? Yeah, this one is for creeps...let's keep going...

Now we're talking, ladies: a ragtime millionaire! And he's single! But I'm guessing that "knockers" had a different meaning in the 1800s then it does now.

I think it's amusing that there was once a time where women were referred to as creatures.

My goodness, there were a lot of millionaires and millionaires' sons looking for love back in the day, huh? This one is obviously from the 20th century judging by the more modern clothing on the characters.

Anna the "Butch" wants to know who the devil you are. You may want to proceed with caution here, fellas.


  1. Actually the term spooning is quite old. I remember it from a turn of the century (1900's) song from old movies. "By The Light Of The Silvery Moon" The song was published in 1909. - By the Light of the Silv'ry Moon
    Doris Day
    By the light of the silvery moon
    I want to "SPOON"
    To my honey, I'll croon love's tune
    Honey moon, keep a-shinin' in June
    Your silvery beams will bring love's dreams
    We'll be cuddlin' soon
    By the silvery moon.......

    1. Thanks for the info, John. A follower on the Facebook page told me the same thing when I posted the link yesterday; that spooning was basically a term for hugging and light kissing back in the day.

  2. I've never heard of these before but am immensely taken with them! Will have to add to my Pinteres. I wonder if we had them in the UK? Thanks for sharing!

  3. In my letterpress shop I still have an original copper etched printing plate of the "Who the Devil are you?" image with Anna's name. The center of the box (with the left side still attached) is mortised out so that you can easily put new metal type inside with the name of whoever purchases the card. Not sure how old it is but 80+ years I imagine.


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