Business cards began in the 17th century in Europe, where they were used to announce the impending arrival of prosperous or aristocratic people to their local town or even their home. They were shaped and sized in a similar way to a playing card and became a staple of the elite by the middle of the century. In time the cards became engrave with gold and exciting typefaces and by the 19th century the cards were a must have by anyone, who was anyone in the middle class circles of the day. Houses even had card trays, ornate in construction, made so those visiting your house could leave their card in.
By the 18th and the 19th centuries these ‘social cards’ were taken from each lady upon her first visit to a house. People were offered the card tray upon the opening of the door to the door and had to place their card in it as a matter of etiquette. This card was then delivered to the lady of the household, who would examine it – in many ways it created the first impression of the person.