LET ME GIVE YOU MY CARD – A Brief History of Early Business Cards

Louisa Cornell

These days anyone in any sort of business knows the advantage and efficiency an attractive and well-worded business card can provide. These small embossed pieces of card stock are a relatively inexpensive and quick way to get the word out about the services one offers. Tucked away in a potential customer’s wallet or kitchen drawer they offer a chance of repeat customers or of custom from someone who discovers themselves in need of a particular service.

Brilliant idea, right? But where did the idea come from? We will likely never know precisely, but here are some things about early business cards in England, or rather trade cards, as they were more frequently called, that we do know. Their history is quite fascinating and presents a microcosm of the development of business and trade in the British Isles.

Trade cards first came into current use after 1700. There are a few examples from as early as 1630, but their consistent use is not documented until after 1700. They were originally sheets of paper ranging up to folio size. They were called by a variety of names – tradesmen’s cards, tradesmen’s bills or shopkeepers’ bills. By the nineteenth century, with the advent of so many printing techniques they ranged from calling card size to highly colored handbills known as counter cards.

The cards of the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries featured some aesthetic qualities to rival and even surpass those of today. They reflect the skills of artisans through two centuries. The lettering is well-drawn and spaced with machine-like precision. The designs and devices that appear on the cards are direct and eye-catching. These early cards belonged primarily to those in professions or those of the merchant class. Their designs were created to appeal to the educated classes.

Many of the early trading cards show the influence of Thomas Chippendale, especially his work in the popular Chinese style. This was especially true once the public menace of ornate hanging signs to denote a business location was replaced with the street numbering of addresses around the year 1762. The focus of the cards also changed. The script of the cards came to include the type of goods advertised and directions to the establishment.

Richard Severn, Jeweller and Toyman

The corner of Paul’s Grove-Head-Court

near Temple Barr, London

 

John Suffield was an engraver and desiger of lettering, although he was also known through his signed metal work and made a medal commemorating the election of Sir Charles Cockerell to Evesham in 1819. Suffield is also listed in the 1817 Johnstone’s London Commercial Giude, and Street Directory.

 

 

Trade Card for R. Ackermann, Printseller and Art Dealer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trade card of Thomas Waring, bow and arrow maker

 

 

 

 

For those who want to learn more on this intriguing subject I suggest the book:

London Tradesmen’s Cards of the Eighteenth Century by Ambrose Heal.

If you are interested in the role trade cards have played in discovering the role of women in business in 18th and 19th century England, stay tuned. I will be adding a post dedicated to that subject quite soon!

 

 

The Book of Fashionable Life – Drawing Rooms

From The Book of Fashionable Life by A Member of the Royal Household (London, n.d.)

REGULATIONS
TO BE OBSERVED AT
HER MAJESTY’S DRAWING ROOMS.
 
 
All ladies attending Her Majesty’s Drawing Rooms are requested to bring with them two cards, with their names legibly written thereon—one to be left with the Queen’s page in attendance in the Presence Chamber, and the other to be delivered to the Lord in Waiting, who will announce the name to Her Majesty. And those ladies who are to be presented are informed, that it is absolutely necessary that their names, together with the names of the ladies who are to present them, should be sent into the Lord Chamberlain’s Office two clear days before the Drawing Room, in order that they may be submitted for the Queen’s approbation, it being Her Majesty’s command that no presentation shall take place, unless the name of the lady presenting, together with that of the lady to be presented, shall appear on the card delivered as before directed, corresponding with the names sent into the Lord
Chamberlain’s Office; and it is especially requisite that the Ladies who present others, should be actually present at the Drawing Room. One card must be left with the Queen’s Page, in the Presence Chamber, and another be delivered to the Lord-in-Waiting, who will present the Lady to the Queen.
At a Birthday Drawing Room, no presentations take place; but, nevertheless, each Lady and Gentleman, who proposes to attend, should send a card to the Queen’s Lord Chamberlain a few days before the holding of the Drawing Room Afterwards, when you attend, take care that your carriage arrive at the Palace before two o’clock. You should be provided with two cards, to be delivered as before mentioned, one to the Queen’s Page in the Presence Chamber. Afterwards you enter Queen Anne’s Chamber, where you wait until the door is opened at the end of the room, looking down from the fire-place. You should enter within the rails near the fire-place, and go in procession to the Anti-Drawing Room. Ladies carry their trains on the left arm until they come near to Her Majesty, when the train is dropped, a card delivered to the Lord-in-Wailing, who will announce the Lady’s tide or name, when she makes a graceful courtesy to Her Majesty, and then retires. The Ladies who attend Drawing Rooms will be pleased to observe that there is an established regulation with regard to their dresses. Court Etiquette requires that they should not appear in hats and feathers, or turbans and feathers, but in feathers and lappets, in conformity with the established orders.
It must be particularly observed, that no persons are permitted to remain in the Throne Room, having passed Her Majesty at the Drawing Room, but the Ministers and their ladies, the great Officers of the Household and their ladies, the Foreign Ministers and their ladies, and the Officers of the Household upon duty.

ARTISTS / CARICATURISTS OF THE REGENCY ERA – HENRY ALKEN(1785-1851) – PART ONE

Louisa Cornell

Henry Alken was an English painter and engraver best known for his caricatures and sporting and coaching scene illustrations.Whilst his work is not as well-known as that of others who specialized in similar artistic endeavors, his talent was every bit as great and his influence on the British art of the sporting world cannot be measured.

Henry Alken as Ben Tally-O

He was born on October 12, 1785 in the Soho neighborhood of Westminster London. His father was Samuel Alken who was a sporting artist. His brother, Samuel Alken the Younger, also became an artist. The father’s success as an artist enabled the family to move to Bedford Square when Henry was around four years of age.

Henry first studied art with his father. He showed such promise, he was soon under the tutelage of the miniaturist, Thomas Barber Beaumont (1774-1841,) who was also known as T.J. Barber. In 1801, at the age of sixteen Henry submitted a miniature portrait of Miss Gubbins to the Royal Academy Exhibition. He would exhibit a second miniature at the Academy before moving on from miniature painting to regular painting and illustrating. Early in this part of his career he painted sporting subjects under the name of “Ben Tally-O.” It is believed he used this name until 1816.

From How to Be a Meltonian – A series of works satirizing aristocrats posing as sportsmen. Signed Ben Tally – O

From 1816 forward Henry Alken produced an innumerable number of paintings, drawings, and engravings of every variety of field and sporting activity. His soft-ground etchings were often colored by hand. His success was such that he moved his wife and children over a shop in Haymarket which was owned by a print publisher, Thomas McLean. McLean published the Repository of Wit and Humor in which many of Alken’s satirical prints first appeared. He paid Alken a salary of thirty shillings a day, considered an excellent income at this time.

Alken worked in oils and watercolors. He was a skilled etcher as many of his prints show.

Hunt Scene
Etching by Henry Alken
1820

In 1816 he issued the first major collection of his work under his own name. The beauties & defects in the figure of the horse / comparatively delineated was published by S. & J. Fuller, at the Temple of Fancy, 34, Rathbone Place, London. It contains a series of hand- colored soft-ground etchings which are essentially studies in equine anatomy. One can view this work at the link below.

https://collections.britishart.yale.edu/catalog/orbis:12524527

From 1816 until 1831 he created many sets of etchings of sporting scenes and subjects. They were colored for the most part and some were quite humorous in nature. These sets included:

 Humorous Specimens of Riding – published in 1821

Symptoms of Being Amazed – published in 1822

Symptoms of Being Amused – published in 1822

Flowers from Nature – published in 1823

A Touch at the Fine Arts – published in 1824

Ideas – published in 1830

He also published a number of books. These included:

Illustrations for Landscape Scenery – published in 1823

Scraps from the Sketch Book of Henry Alken – published in 1823

New Sketch Book – published in 1824

Sporting  Scrap Book  – published in 1827

Shakespeare’s Seven Ages – published in 1827

Sporting Sketches – published in 1831

Illustrations to Popular Songs – published in 1831

Illustrations of Don Quixote – published in 1831

Alken’s work was appreciated in his day to such a degree he provided the plates that pictured hunting, coaching, racing, and steeplechasing for The National Sports of Great Britain published in 1821. In fact, he is best remembered for his hunting prints, both serious and satirical, many of which he engraved himself until the 1830’s. He created prints for Ackermann. In 1842 Ackermann published Life of a Sportsman by Charles James Apperley (1779-1843) who was also known as Nimrod. The book included 32 etchings by Henry Alken.

From Nimrod’s Life of a Sportsman
From Nimrod’s Life of a Sportsman

 

 

 

 

 

Alken died in April 1851. He left behind a widow, Maria Gordon Alken, and five adult children. Two of his sons followed in their father’s footsteps and had careers as artists – Henry Thomas Alken and Seffererien Alken.

IN PART TWO – We will explore Alken’s work in a difference areas in a bit more detail.

CHRISTMAS AT HOME – CHATSWORTH

Louisa Cornell

For our next Christmas visit we will stop to marvel at the glory that is Chatsworth in the Derbyshire Dales. Home to the Dukes of Devonshire, it has belonged to the Cavendish family since 1549. The house is home to some of the most important collections of art, furniture, books, Old Master drawings, and neoclassical sculptures in the world. Beneath Chatsworth’s half-a-hectare lead roof there are over 300 rooms, 17 staircases, 459 windows and 2,084 light bulbs.

The house has been featured in numerous period films, including the 2005 version of Pride and Prejudice where it played the role of Mr. Darcy’s Pemberley. I visited Chatsworth in 1968 when I was ten years old. I will admit I was so awestruck I could not really fully appreciate everything about this amazing home. Hopefully the next time I visit I’ll be much better able to appreciate it!

 

 

 

 

The dining room.

 

 

Now THIS is dining in style!

 

 

 

 

 

                                                                        

 

I have included several views of the painted hall in different years as the people who come up with the themes each year do an amazing job! Wouldn’t you agree?

Chatsworth is another house featured in Number One London Tours Country House Tour (September 16-24, 2022. Check this link for more information!

http://numberonelondontours.com/tours/upstairsdownstairs-country-house-tour/

 

CHRISTMAS AT HOME – HADDON HALL

The next stop on our Christmas pilgrimage through the stately homes of England is Haddon Hall which is located near the River Wye in Derbyshire. The original house was built in the 11th century and additions were made in the 13th and 17th centuries. The house is considered one of the finest examples of a Tudor manor house in existence. It was once the family seat of the Dukes of Rutland and is currently the home of Lord Edward Manners and his family, brother to the current duke.

The exterior and many of the interior rooms of Haddon Hall have been used in numerous films and television programs. It is most easily recognized as the location of Prince Humperdinck’s castle in The Princess Bride ! However, it has also been used in various versions and adaptations of Jane Eyre and was used in the 2005 film version of Pride and Prejudice.

I cannot begin to imagine the fun it would be to decorate a Tudor manor for Christmas, but here are some photos to fill all of our Christmas dreams!

The tree in the earl’s apartments.

 

The entrance to the banquet hall.

 

The Long Gallery
A table and setting fit for a Christmas feast!
The walk through entrance to the Great Hall.

 

 

 

The Great Hall
The Drawing Room

 

 

The view of the Great Hall from the gallery.

 

 

The Long Gallery in a previous year.

 

 

 

 

 

The natural decorations are a tribute to Haddon Hall’s Tudor heritage. Can’t you almost smell the oranges and the cinnamon?