In Brief

Before Tinder, There Were Escort Cards

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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