Sunday, May 23, 2010

The History of Business Cards

Business cards have a long history. They first came on the scene over 400 years ago in 17th century France as visiting cards, or as they were known in French, "Visite Biletes." The first visiting cards were nothing more than playing cards on which visitors wrote their names or other messages so that the person whom they were visiting could identify them. They were also often used as handy places to write promissory notes, which often passed for money in Medieval times.

Eventually, some smart entrepreneurs decided to convert the visiting cards into more professional looking cards with pre-printed information like a person's name and address. The first business cards were born. The appearance of these professionally manufactured cards can be traced to the rule of Louis XIV of France.

The British arrived at the concept of business cards in a more peculiar manner. Apparently, 17th century London did not have street numbers. So, it was difficult for customers to find businesses easily. Companies began using small, hand-sized cards called "trading cards" to help visitors find them. These cards contained route maps and directions on how to reach a particular business; a modern day business card was just a step away from this innovation.

The earliest trading cards were simple products manufactured using a woodcut or letterpress technique. Within a century, this was replaced by copperplate engravings, which became popular. With the development of lithography in the 19th century, monochrome trading cards gave way to colored ones. These developed into modern business cards.

In today's world, business cards have adapted to being online with the ubiquitous vCards and eCards. These days, business cards can be emailed, downloaded from websites, and even sent as text messages from a mobile phone. The business card has come a long way from the days when companies used trading cards to tell people how to get to their stores.

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