The history of business cards - Freebcard

The story of business cards and how they came to be and what purpose they had over the ages.

When did it all begin and who used them for what?

It all began in the 17th century Europe. There were two kinds of cards that could be called as the ancestors of modern business cards. One of them was called visiting card. Only those on the top were privileged enough to use these. For them it was a must have. Visiting cards were used to announce their owner's arrival, and to praise them. In the middle of the 17th century people who were in the upper middle class and wanted to be considered trendy, had to have  these cards. In these times people were writing on them all sorts of stuff, messages, their profession, notes and their name. With time they evolved even further into greeting cards.


17th century visit card

17th century visit card


But what about the other one what was that and what did it do?

The second ancestor of business cards was born during the same time period. Their birthplace was England and they were called trading cards. These were much more like the business cards that we know and use today. These were essentially advertisements and contained a map that lead to the advertiser, as these were dark times and the streets had no such a thing as a name or number. They were really effective and popular in that age.



How did these two combine?

Thanks to the industrial revolution the number of private entrepreneurs significantly increased all over the world. It became common to reach out and build new relationships for these people who wanted to prosper. This led to the merging of the two ancestors we talked about and the business card was born. Business cards were less formal, and became more popular in the USA. With this the era of Business cards as we know them has begun.


19th century business card

19th century business card


When did they start getting fancy?

Until the 19th century the cards were monochromatic like the Nokia 3310. As companies grew, the creation of business cards improved and more colors were added. They covered it in a plastic material that made them more shiny, sleek and resistant to wear.


By Unknown - SSA History Archives, Public Domain, Link

What about them in this modern day and age?

In most cases it’s a casual thing to give one but in some countries they are treated with great respect so be careful not to offend someone with handing over a crumpled up wrinkly soggy piece of paper. Their material may vary the most common material is paper, but in some cases they are printed on plastic or even metal. Customers have a wide variety of designs to chose from, because the only limiting factor now is the designer's imagination.


Green minimal business card template

Free business card templates