Business cards evolved from a fusion of visiting cards and trade cards. Visiting cards ( or calling cards) appeared in China in the 15th century and in Europe in the 17th century.
The footmen of aristocrats and of royalty would deliver these cards to the servants of their prospective hosts solemnly introducing their arrival.
Visiting cards became an indispensable tool of etiquette to any 19th-century upper or middle class lady or gentleman, with sophisticated rules governing their use.
Visiting cards included refined engraved ornaments and fantastic coats of arms and provided a streamlined letter of introduction.
Trade cards first became popular in the 17th century in London.
These functioned as advertising and maps, directing the public to merchants’ stored as no formal street address numbering system existed at the time.
Later, as the growing demand for the cards boosted the development of color printing, more sophisticated card designs appeared, making the cards works of art.
The trend toward fanciful trade cards was balanced by the pragmatic need of a growing group of private entrepreneurs who had a constant need to exchange contact information.
These users often started to print out their own cheaper business cards.
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