Object Record

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Object ID Number SAM 1943.16
Object Name Receiver, Card
Artist Manning Robinson & Co.
Title Calling-card tray
Date 1875
Culture American
Credit line No credit line
Exhibit Label Calling cards or “visiting” cards were a staple of Victorian social customs. The practice began in France in the early 19th century before it spread throughout Europe, quickly becoming popular in the United States. Calling cards were carried by women of high social standing, and sometimes men, who planned time to “go calling” on acquaintances on a specified day of the week. When making a call, a card would be left in a card receiver at the front door or in the foyer. An entire etiquette developed around the proper use of the calling card. Emily Post wrote extensively on the topic and lamented its eventually disuse into the 1920s as society as a whole became less formal.

Calling card trays and receivers varied in elegance depending on the wealth of the owner. The receiver was placed on a table in the entryway or foyer, and were usually made of silver or silver plate and decorated with a rich design.

An ornate card receiver with its own stand would often be accompanied by a floral arrangement. Some card trays were modeled in the style of the epergne table centerpiece, an 18th century silver piece made of radiating trays and hanging baskets that would hold fruits, flowers, and sometimes cakes, puddings, jellies, and other desserts. Epergnes were often decorated with scrollwork, shells, flowers, garland swags and medallions.

Like dinner epergnes, calling card trays were intended to show off the wealth and status of the owner, especially since they were necessarily placed in the house’s entrance—the visitor’s first impression. For this reason, many card receivers imitated the look and craftwork of elegant epergnes. The fluted elements were meant to hold bouquets of flowers. This receiver is fashioned off of the epergnes and, with its floral shaped vases and ornate design, would have reflected a high level of wealth and social standing. The base of this receiver is engraved with “Florrie” and “Dec 29 ‘75.” The inclusion of both a name and a date may imply that this was given as a wedding gift.
Medium Silver
Material Silver
Height (in) 11
Width (in) 7.5
Currently on view No
Subjects Manning Robinson & Co.
Calling card
Calling card tray