Courtesy of Alan Mays

(all images courtesy Alan Mays

How did people initiate casual romantic relationships before Tinder, Hinge, and the like? In the 1800s, long before swiping right, there were escort cards: paper cards that men presented to women as an indication of their interest. “May I be permitted the blissful pleasure of escorting you home this evening?” one reads. That’s almost more characters than would fit comfortably in a Tweet.

Alan Mays, an amateur collector with an impressive assortment of escort cards, told Hyperallergic that he first became interested in Victorian calling cards for their “colorful printing methods and unique typefaces.” Eventually he was seduced by the escort cards’ gentle and respectful humor.

“Although we may unfairly view acquaintance cards today as something that pickup artists might use, most of the cards actually contain a gentle humor that was only intended to break the ice, not pick up somebody,” Mays said. “At a time when chaperones were common, cars were absent, and visits typically took place in the parlor, ‘May I.C.U. home’ simply meant, ‘May I walk with you to your front door or gate.’” Maybe an escort card revival wouldn’t be so bad.

Courtesy of Alan Mays
Courtesy of Alan Mays
Courtesy of Alan Mays

h/t Messy Nessy Chic

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Becca Rothfeld

Becca Rothfeld is assistant literary editor of The New Republic and a contributor to The Los Angeles Review of Books, The New York Daily News’ literary blog, The Baffler, and...

One reply on “Before Tinder, There Were Escort Cards”

  1. These cards are amazing! Incredibly clever, literate and civilized. “Cat callers” would do well to halt their whistles and come-ons and invest in these cards. Women (or men) might appreciate such genteel gestures, these days!

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