New Michigan Paper!

Do you have ancestors from Michigan or an interest in Michigan history? We’ve added the Homer Index to our archives of Michigan papers bringing the total number of digitized Michigan papers to 93! Homer is about 30 miles southeast of Battle Creek, and the Index covers news in Calhoun and Hillsdale counties.

The Index is a weekly that has been in publication since 1872 when the first issue promised an independent paper that would “further the interests of the community.” The Index reported on Homer pioneers that settled this Michigan township established in 1862. 

The Homer Index May 31, 1876

In 1876, the Index reported on the Centennial International Exhibition. It was the first World’s Fair held on the nation’s 100th birthday in Philadelphia. Some Homer locals traveled to attend the Exhibition and described pavilions filled with wonders like machines to wash clothing and dishes. The Declaration of Independence was transported back to Independence Hall for the event, and many of the nearly 10 million visitors got to see it.

In the late 1800s, the Index reported on a bird problem. Flocks of English sparrows had arrived in town, damaging crops, eating all the chicken feed, and chasing away other songbirds. The birds were introduced to the United States in the mid-1800s to eat harmful insects. They multiplied and were quickly spreading across the continent. Michigan enacted laws to get rid of the birds. Killing sparrows became a pastime for many young boys in Homer. They could bring sparrow heads to the county clerk and receive a bounty for each one. The Index reported on payouts for young men like James Lane, who brought the heads of 1200 sparrows to the clerk’s office in 1900, and received $24 (the equivalent of $750 today)!

The Homer Index September 3, 1890

In December 1941, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, and America entered WWII. A few weeks later, Homer residents learned that one of their own died in the attack. Over the next several years, many soldiers from Homer and surrounding towns stepped up to serve. The Index published their letters home and reported on additional local casualties.

You’ll find lighter topics covered in the Index over the years. For instance, this 1951 front-page story complaining about a driver’s poor parking skills made us giggle. But you’ll also find sweet stories of neighbors helping neighbors. In 1976, a group of farmers set aside their chores to help an Eckford neighbor during a time of crisis. Carl Harris was at the hospital with his seriously ill son, but it was time to plow his 350-acre farm. Several dozen local farmers showed up to get the job done. After they finished at the Harris farm, they moved to another farm and did the same thing.

If you have ancestors from Homer, or surrounding areas like Clarendon, Albion, and Tekonsha, search the pages of the Index for things like obituaries and local news. Start searching the Index today on Newspapers.com!

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Uncovering Hidden Treasure

Who doesn’t love a good hidden treasure story? The newspapers are filled with stories of ordinary people who uncover extraordinary treasures in the most unusual places. Whether found in a hidden secret compartment or buried in the ground, these stories might leave you wondering if there is a hidden treasure in your house! Here are a few fun treasure stories we’ve uncovered.

In 1924, the owner of a house built in 1860 made plans to demolish it. The house was originally owned by a bank president. During the demolition, workers found a concealed compartment containing $100,000 in gold coins. That is equivalent to $1.5 million today!   

In 1928, George Maher invented a metal detector. While scanning the ground on a farm near Natchez, Mississippi, he discovered a cache of coins buried two feet deep. The money was buried shortly before the fall of Vicksburg during the Civil War. Maher’s find validated his invention and allowed him to deposit more than $1,000 in the bank.

In 1986, two workmen found a hidden room on the third floor of a 140-year old Italianate home overlooking Cayuga Lake in New York. The door to the room didn’t have a handle and was disguised by wood paneling matching the room. A desk and shelves further guarded the doorway. Once inside the secret room, the men discovered three steamer trunks filled with 19th-century toys, historical items, and at least $10,000 in coins.

In 1935, after the death of an Oklahoma pioneer, his four daughters inherited his valuable estate. An attorney representing the daughters visited a farm owned by the pioneer to take an inventory. An aged caretaker told the attorney that additional valuables were hidden in an old office building in Wheeling, West Virginia. The treasure, he said, dated back to the Kings of France. Traveling to West Virginia, the attorney discovered a partition and false fireplace inside the office building. He removed them and found a dim passageway to an attic where he discovered three brass chests filled with a fortune in gold and silver. The treasure once belonged to Louis S. Delaplaine, the U.S. consul in British Guiana. Delaplaine kept a luxurious apartment in the West Virginia office building. The discovery added to the valuable estate inherited by the four daughters who were related to Delaplaine by marriage. They also received an island in Lake Huron gifted to Delaplaine by Queen Victoria.

Abraham Lincoln and Mary Todd Lincoln daguerreotype

Not all treasure is money. In 1929, a man was examining the contents of an old wooden chest found in the attic of a home in Westport, Connecticut, when he came upon a rare daguerreotype. Further examination revealed the image was that of Abraham Lincoln and his wife, Mary Todd Lincoln.

Another historical treasure was discovered in 1998 by C.P. Weaver. She had papers and documents passed down through her family stored in her attic. After seeing the movie Glory about a troop of Black Civil War soldiers, it stirred something in Weaver’s memory. She went to the attic and retrieved the stash of papers and discovered the fragile diary of Union Col. Nathan W. Daniels, commander of the Second Louisiana Native Guards, one of the first Black regiments organized in the Civil War. The diary was eventually published and provided priceless historical understanding.

In 1998, a Florida couple bought a painting at the thrift store for $1.99. The painting turned out to be an original by Auguste Rodin, sculptor of the masterpiece, The Thinker. Their $2 investment was valued at $14,000 and earned them an invitation to appear on an episode of the Oprah Winfrey Show about uncovered hidden treasures.

Have you ever discovered a hidden treasure? Tell us about it in the comments below, and search Newspapers.com for many more treasure stories.

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Search the World’s Largest Archive of Historical Wedding Announcements

We are thrilled to announce the launch of the first phase of our Newspapers.com Marriage Index collection. The Marriage Index collection is a searchable archive of more than 50 million U.S. wedding announcements! We’ve teamed up with Ancestry® to train machine learning algorithms to scour more than 600 million pages of digitized newspapers to extract wedding announcements.

Wedding announcements often contain detailed genealogical information, including the names of family members, biographical details, addresses, and more. These key details can break down genealogical brick walls and open up new research avenues.

How Does it Work?

Using OCR (optical character recognition), we’ve converted our archive of newspapers into machine-readable text. We’ve trained computers to identify keywords often associated with wedding announcements. The computer then draws a text box around that announcement. If you hover over the announcement and then click on the text box, you will see a dialogue box pop up. It has the information we’ve indexed. That indexed information is searchable in our Marriage Index. Occasionally you might notice an incorrect date or misspelled names. This is a result of the OCR conversion process. You can correct the facts by clicking on “Add alternate info” within the dialogue box. Your updates will then become searchable for other users. You then have the option to electronically clip the announcement and save it or attach it to your Ancestry® tree.

The first phase of this release contains information from more than 200 million records from over 50 million lists and wedding announcements from the United States dating from 1800-1999.

  • List marriage announcements were usually a weekly list of couples that had applied for a marriage license that week. The lists usually contained the names of the bride and groom only. See an example of a list announcement here.
  • Non-list marriage announcements might contain detailed information about the bride and groom, photographs, addresses, the names of relatives, the wedding officiant, and wedding guests. See an example of a non-list announcement here.

You will soon see wedding announcement hints to your Ancestry® tree. These hints can lead to personal discoveries and genealogical breakthroughs! We will continue to update this index with additional wedding announcements and international wedding announcements in the future. Start searching our Marriage Index collection today on Newspapers.com.

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New Papers from the Cornhusker State!

If you have ancestors from Nebraska or an interest in the history of Nebraska, we are excited to share our big news. We’ve recently added more than four million new pages to our Nebraska archives, for a total of almost nine million pages of content from 1,616 papers – and there’s more to come! We have partnered with History Nebraska, a state agency tasked with preserving the history of Nebraska, to make this important archive easily accessible for all. Many of these papers are short-run titles from small towns, and they contain a goldmine of information!  

Our papers in this archive date back to 1854, more than a decade before Nebraska achieved statehood. As the American frontier expanded westward, settlers moved to, and through, Nebraska. Emigrant trails, including the Mormon Trail and the Oregon Trail, opened up the Western United States to settlement. Chimney Rock became a prominent landmark mentioned in many journals as travelers crossed the plains.

In 1862, Abraham Lincoln signed the Homestead Act, bringing a wave of settlers to Nebraska. The first homestead claim was filed in Nebraska in 1863. That claimant, Daniel Freeman, became the sheriff of Gage County, and his original homestead became Nebraska’s first National Park, and later Homestead National Monument.

The farmland of Nebraska proved rich, and farmers successfully grew healthy crops including fields of corn. That corn was the inspiration for the University of Nebraska’s mascot, the Cornhuskers. A sportswriter from the Nebraska State Journal coined the term in 1899, and the school officially adopted it the following year.

The pages of these papers contain fun Nebraska trivia. For example, did you know that SPAM was invented in Nebraska in 1937? Hormel created a spiced canned ham product and then sponsored a contest to come up with a catchy name. The winning entry was SPAM – short for spiced ham. The meat became a favorite of soldiers during WWII because of its indefinite shelf life. Another nostalgic American favorite, Kool-Aid, was invented in Hastings in 1927 and is the official state soft drink.

You’ll also learn about famous Nebraskans like legendary dancer Fred Astaire. He was born Frederick Austerlitz in Omaha in 1899. As a child, Astaire performed in a vaudeville act along with his sister Adele. Their popularity grew, and by 1908, the Austerlitz siblings were performing on tour. Other famous Nebraskans include Johnny Carson and President Gerald Ford.

Though it’s fun to search for famous Nebraskans, we know that it pales in comparison to finding the names of your ancestors. When searching for your family, check the social news, obituaries, wedding announcements, and birth announcements.

Start searching our expanded Nebraska archives today. We are adding new Nebraska content each day, so check back often to see the latest additions on New spapers.com!

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Newspaper Marriage Announcements: Using the Language of Love to Break Down Genealogical Walls

Have you found a marriage announcement on Newspapers.com that led to a genealogy breakthrough? For some of us (like me), uncovering long sought after information is like opening a gift on Christmas morning! Marriage announcements can be short and succinct or long and rich in detail. As a genealogist, I’ve spent hours poring through marriage records on Newspapers.com. I have some tips that might help you read between the lines of your marriage announcements and might help you make new personal discoveries within your family tree.

The Bride’s Maiden Name: A marriage announcement is often a great way to uncover the holy grail of genealogy for women – her birth name! A birth name can open the door to further research for the bride and her family. Here’s a marriage announcement from London revealing the bride’s birth name that dates back to 1701!

Parents’ Names: Marriage announcements often include the name of the parents for both the bride and groom. Now you can go back one more generation in your research!  

Photographs: The first photos started appearing in newspapers in the late 1800s, and by the 1900s, many papers included a picture of the bride. What a treasure to find a photo of your ancestor!

Address: It’s hard to imagine now, but it used to be common to give an address for the bride and/or groom, like in this announcement from 1875. An address allows you to search land records, census records, and nearby relatives – remember families often stuck together back then. (Pro tip: enter the address in Google Earth to see if the house still stands. If it does, you can explore the neighborhood virtually)!

Wedding Announcement 1933

The Wedding Party: I love a wedding announcement full of lots of juicy details like this one. I mean, who doesn’t want to know how many yards of silk it took to make the wedding gown? A detailed wedding announcement often mentions everyone in the bridal party, and sometimes even guests. Chances are, many of those named are relatives. I’ve gone so far as to build a tree for everyone mentioned, and each time, I have discovered new cousins and siblings. It takes effort, but if you’re up against a brick wall, it just might lead to a breakthrough. Pay special attention to those who have traveled from out-of-town to attend the wedding. They are probably family!

Who Performed the Wedding? Marriage announcements usually give the name of who officiated at the wedding. You aren’t likely to find church records in the newspapers, but if you have the name of the person who performed the wedding, you can research the congregation, and that can lead to church records. Church records often list the name of the bride and groom’s parents and sometimes the mother’s birth name. This can unlock new research possibilities.

The Seattle Star: January 18, 1917

Then and Now, Weddings Can be Full of Drama: While searching for family wedding announcements one day, I came across this dramatic clipping! It shares the story of a young immigrant who left Greece for an arranged marriage in America. The groom ended up rejecting her, and she sued him for $5,000 for breach of contract. The article is full of genealogical information for the family – both in Greece and in the United States. This article is more of an announcement for the wedding that didn’t happen!

One Final Tip: While searching for wedding announcements, we sometimes tend to search in a limited range of dates. You might be missing out on so much more. For example, I’ve come across dozens of clippings like this that describe women’s groups getting together to model old wedding dresses. These women modeled their mother’s, grandmother’s, and great-grandmother’s dresses. In many cases, they give the names of the original bride and the year she was married. Who would have thought to search for a wedding more than a hundred years after it happened? What a treasure trove of information!

Ready to dive in and find your ancestors’ marriage announcements? Start searching Newspapers.com today!

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G.I. Bill Gives Back to Soldiers Returning from WWII

In 1944, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed into law the new Servicemen’s Readjustment Act, otherwise known as the G.I. Bill. The G.I. Bill created sweeping new benefits for millions of veterans returning from WWII. Those benefits included money for education, job training, low-interest home loans, and unemployment benefits. Within its first seven years, about 8 million veterans took advantage of these benefits. The G.I. Bill led to a jump in university and college enrollment, a housing boom, and helped usher in an era of prosperity.

President Roosevelt signs the G.I. Bill: Press and Sun-Bulletin June 23, 1944

During the war, government officials realized that when the war eventually ended, 16 million men and women serving in the armed forces would return home unemployed. That level of unemployment had the potential to create financial instability within the country and could lead to an economic depression. In a bipartisan effort led by the American Legion, planning got underway for new legislation that could help returning veterans and benefit the economy. The Servicemen’s Readjustment Act was passed by Congress in January 1944 and signed by President Roosevelt the following June.

The Tampa Times: October 11, 1945

One of the landmark provisions of the G.I. Bill was funding for education. Before the war, a college education was out of reach for the average American. The G.I. Bill, however, flung the doors to universities and vocational schools wide open with benefits that covered tuition, books, supplies, and offered a living stipend. A college education was now within reach and many veterans took advantage of the opportunity. Educational funding had the added benefit of preventing too many veterans from flooding the job market all at once. In 1947, nearly half of those admitted to college were veterans, and between 1940-1950, the number of college and university degrees earned doubled.

Another popular benefit offered through the G.I. Bill was low-interest home loans. The VA Home Loan benefit granted 4.3 million low-interest, zero down payment home loans between 1945-1955. Veterans starting families snapped up the home loans and moved to the suburbs. New neighborhoods sprang up in mass-produced subdivisions all around the country and veterans became the largest single group of homeowners.

Berwyn Life: December 17, 1944

The building boom helped usher in an era of unprecedented prosperity and growth for the middle class. Homeownership “cemented the stability of millions of veterans’ families,” fueled job growth, and added substantially to personal income and consumer demand. WWII rations and shortages gave way to abundance and prosperity that helped shaped the country for decades.

Other benefits offered through the G.I. Bill included unemployment benefits, money to start a business, additional veterans hospitals, and veteran job counseling and employment services.

The original G.I. Bill ended in 1956, though it was extended several times. More recently, the Post 9/11 G.I. Bill and the Forever G.I. Bill have passed to help veterans.

Did someone in your family benefit from the G.I. Bill? Share your stories in the comments below and search Newspapers.com to learn more about the 1944 G.I. Bill.

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New Papers From South Carolina!

Do you have ancestors from Sumter, South Carolina, or an interest in the history of South Carolina? We’re happy to announce that we’ve added The Sumter Item and The Watchman and Southron to our archives, with issues dating back to 1881. The Watchman and Southron was a weekly (later a semiweekly) paper that was published through 1930 when it was absorbed by the Sumter Daily Item, which in turn became The Sumter Item.

The city and county of Sumter are named after Gen. Thomas Sumter, a Revolutionary War hero. South Carolina history is also closely tied to Civil War history. It was the first state to secede from the Union in 1860 and the state where the first shots of the Civil War were fired on Fort Sumter in Charleston harbor in April 1861. It’s also the place where some of the last shots of the Civil War took place. The Battle of Dingle’s Mill was a Civil War skirmish that took place when Potter’s raiders confronted Confederate forces on April 9, 1865, in Sumter County. This fighting is especially noteworthy because the Civil War officially ended the same day, but the word of the Confederate surrender had not yet reached Sumter where fighting continued until April 25th.

The Sumter Item is the oldest continuously family-owned paper in South Carolina, and one of the oldest in the country. It has been run by the Osteen family for five generations and was started by patriarch Hubert Graham Osteen. The Osteen family has chronicled the changing news in Sumter over the decades.

When the first automobiles arrived in Sumter in the early 1900s, The Sumter Item reported on several attempts by residents to climb the courthouse steps in their new automobiles. After several accidents, city leaders realized that they needed to enact safety measures and speed limits.

Prohibition took effect in Sumter in 1916 (four years before Congress mandated Prohibition nationally). Despite impassioned arguments against the use of alcohol, some Sumter residents operated underground, producing liquor despite the constant threat of police raids.

In April 1924, a tornado with a path 135 miles long struck Sumter causing multiple casualties. The tornado destroyed buildings, burying people in rubble and carving a path that resembled “a forest after an artillery barrage.” 

When the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor in 1941, The Sumter Item published a special edition announcing the attack. In the following days, Sumter was on a high state of alert. Soldiers stood guard over public buildings and a Sumter bridge. The Item kept residents informed about local soldiers serving in the war.

If you have ancestors from Sumter, search the pages of this archive for things like death notices or wedding announcements. The society columns are another place to search for colorful details about your family. Start searching the pages of The Watchman and Southron and The Sumter Item today on Newspapers.com!

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Boomers and Sooners: The Oklahoma Land Rush of 1889

In 1889, as many as 50 thousand settlers poured into Oklahoma hoping to stake claim to a portion of nearly two million acres opened for settlement by the U.S. Government. Many had campaigned the federal government to open the land for settlement and were known as Boomers. The land, formerly occupied by Native Americans, was considered Unassigned Lands after the federal government forcibly relocated many Native American tribes. On April 22, 1889, at noon sharp, a bugle sounded, and hopeful settlers surged across the territory line. The number of settlers surpassed available land and they soon realized that some snuck into Oklahoma ahead of the April 22nd open date. This gave them a leg up on the law-abiding settlers and first in line for the most desirable land. Those early homestead seekers were known as Sooners.

In 1887, the Dawes Act was one of many federal laws that slowly stripped Native Americans of their tribal lands and paved the way for the Oklahoma Land Rush. It authorized the government to break up the tribal lands and allot them to individual Native Americans in parcels of 40, 80, and 160 acres. Only Native Americans who accepted the land could become U.S. citizens and any remaining land would be made available for public sale.

The Indian Appropriations Act of 1889, also known as the “sooner clause,” opened these Unassigned Lands to settlers, but specified that anyone who entered Indian Territory ahead of time would be denied land. There were, however, a group of “legal Sooners” who had permission to enter the territory ahead of time. This group included government employees, railroad workers, and others with special permission. In some instances, legal Sooners took advantage of their position to drive off early settlers, sending them back to the line, only to turn back and stake claim to the same property.

In the weeks leading up to the land grab, wagon trains snaked through neighboring states, many making their way to border towns. One newspaper reported a line of wagons 60 miles long! It wasn’t just men hoping to stake a claim, women were among those hoping to establish a homestead on some of the best unoccupied public lands in the country.

The mood was jubilant in border towns as crowds awaited the noon hour on the 22nd. Some abandoned their horses in favor of trains, hoping to get there faster. One newspaper reported that men packed the roofs of rail cars after the coaches filled up. Settlers had two ways to initiate a claim. The first was to file a claim at the land office, the second was to personally settle on a piece of land. If a conflict arose between two parties trying to claim the same land, priority went to those physically on the land.

When the clock struck 12:00 on the 22nd, the mad rush began. Those who snuck into the territory early concealed themselves in ravines and bushes, and when the bugle sounded “seemed to rise right up out of the ground” to claim the property. Thousands poured into Guthrie, Oklahoma, which saw it’s population go from 10 in the morning to 15,000 by nightfall.  Oklahoma City experienced similar growth and there were more than 11,000 filings for homestead land by the end of the day. Bitter resentment arose towards Sooners who entered the territory early. This led to many court cases for years to come where litigants protested hundreds of claims. The loss of tribal lands further marginalized Native Americans who saw additional land rushes take more tribal lands in subsequent years.

In 1890, the Unassigned Lands became the Oklahoma Territory and in 1907, Oklahoma became the 46th state. To learn more about the Oklahoma Land Rush, search newspapers.com today!

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The Deadliest Natural Disaster in U.S. History: The Galveston Hurricane of 1900

On September 8, 1900, the deadliest natural disaster in U.S. history occurred when the low-elevation island of Galveston, Texas, was struck by a category four hurricane that resulted in 135 mph winds and a deadly tidal surge. The hurricane, also known as the Great Galveston Storm, leveled 3,600 buildings and killed an estimated 6,000 to 12,000 people. Primitive forecasting techniques and ignored warnings contributed to the high number of fatalities.

Salt Lake Herald 9.10.1900

Galveston was the largest city in Texas at the turn of the century. It had a bustling shipping port and was among the richest urban areas in the United States. It had a population of 37,000 that swelled each summer when vacationers flocked to the island to enjoy the beaches.

Hurricane forecasting science at the turn of the century was not very sophisticated. The U.S. Weather Bureau relied on warnings from arriving ships or telegraphed warnings from islands in the Caribbean. In early September 1900, Cuban meteorologists sent warnings of an impending storm headed for the U.S. which were largely ignored. The U.S. Weather Bureau eventually issued a hurricane warning but predicted the storm would pass over Florida and continue north along the Eastern Seaboard. The storm headed into the Gulf of Mexico, however, and the first storm warnings in Galveston were not issued until September 7th. Few people heeded the warnings.

The morning of September 8th dawned cloudy and with a powerful surf. Soon the skies turned dark and the winds picked up. The Furniss family of St. Louis, Missouri was vacationing at the Beach Hotel in Galveston with their three daughters, unaware that a deadly hurricane was taking aim at the city. Galveston sat just nine feet above sea level and as the hurricane came ashore, a 15-foot storm surge rolled in.

The Atlanta Constitution 9.9.1900

When the storm hit, the hotel was completely demolished, and the Furniss family presumed dead. Their only other child, an 18-year-old son, was home in Missouri when he received news of the disaster. He quickly traveled to Galveston to search for his family. Upon arrival, a local militia involuntarily enlisted him into service to search for survivors and bury the dead. Thousands of bodies were strewn about the island and mountains of debris piled everywhere. The heat and humidity created a terrible stench and workers initially tried to bury vast numbers of the dead at sea. However, the tide just washed the bodies back to shore. Eventually, they burned the dead instead. The bodies of the Furniss family were among those finally found and buried at sea.  

St. Louis Glove-Democrat 9.15.1900

Another tragedy occurred at the St. Mary’s Orphans Asylum, which sat directly on the shore. It was built to take advantage of the fresh sea breezes which nuns hoped would protect the children from Yellow Fever and other illnesses that had killed their parents. As the storm intensified, the nuns gathered all 93 children and moved to the second floor to escape the rising water. As an added protection, the nuns tied themselves to small groups of children. Eventually, the storm ripped the orphanage from its foundation, trapping the children. Tragically, all were lost except three boys who clung to a tree.

As the stories of the devastation emerged, a nationwide relief effort sprang up to help the people of Galveston. To prevent a similar tragedy from happening again, Galveston built a 17-foot seawall and brought in tons of sand to raise the city’s elevation as much as 18 feet near the seawall, with a downward slope toward the bay. Buildings that managed to survive the hurricane were lifted to the new ground level.

If you would like to learn more about the Great Galveston Storm of 1900, search Newspapers.com today or see additional clippings on the Galveston Hurricane in our Topic Pages.

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Let Me Leave You My Calling Card

Want to take a peek into a fascinating social custom from the Victorian era? Calling cards (also called visiting cards or visiting tickets) were all the rage in the 19th century and represented an indispensable way to communicate. The cards did much more than just announce a visit, they relayed important social messages. For example, a calling card with a folded corner, or a card in a sealed envelope sent clear messages that accompanied strict etiquette protocols. By the early 1900s, calling cards fell out of fashion. Today’s business cards are a leftover relic from the calling card era.  

Calling Card of Mrs. Ulysses S. Grant

Calling cards first became popular in Europe in the 18th century and were favored by royalty and nobility. Their popularity spread across Europe and to the United States and soon calling cards became essential for the fashionable and wealthy. Society homes often had a silver tray in the entrance hall where guests left their cards. A tray full of cards (with the most prominent cards on top) was a way to display social connections.

Both men and women used calling cards and they were distinguishable by size. Men’s cards were long and narrow so they could fit in a breast pocket. Women’s cards were larger and during the Victorian era, became more ornate and embellished. According to this article from 1890, a typical society woman handed out nearly three thousand cards each year.

Victorian Calling Card

When wishing to arrange a visit, a caller generally waited in a carriage while a servant delivered the calling card to a household. If delivering the card in person, it was customary to fold the upper right-hand corner. This indicated that the caller made the effort to deliver the card personally. The visitor then returned home and within a few days would likely receive a calling card in return, sometimes with a short note written on the back. This usually extended an invitation to visit. Visits were generally short, formal, and at designated visiting hours. If a calling card wasn’t acknowledged, or worse, returned in a sealed envelope, it meant the offer to visit was rejected.

When leaving a calling card, different messages could be communicated by folding different corners of the card.

  • The lower left-hand corner to express condolences
  • The upper left-hand corner to express congratulations
  • The lower right-hand corner indicated the caller was planning a long trip and did not expect an acknowledgment

If the household contained more than one woman, a gentleman caller folded a corner to indicate he intended to visit the entire household. A woman also followed strict protocol when leaving calling cards. She never left her card at a home where a bachelor resided without also including her husband’s card. When leaving after a visit, a woman generally left two of her husband’s cards – one for the master of the house and one for the mistress.

The social rules were enough to make your head spin, but upper-crust society was schooled in the practice, and newspapers published calling card etiquette rules for others to navigate.

By the early 1900s, calling cards began to decline in popularity just as the use of business cards was on the rise. A change in formal social customs and new-fangled telephones led to a steady decrease in arranged visits. Businesses, which adopted the calling card custom, continue to use them today. If you would like to learn more about calling cards and their impact on the social customs from earlier days, search Newspapers.com!

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