The 'Flirtation Cards' That Men In The Ever-So-Proper Victorian Era Used To Woo Ladies (But They Had To Be Returned If She Wasn't Interested)

Humans have been flirting with each other for centuries. However, flirtation in the past is completely alien compared to today’s views. In this post, we will take a look at an odd way people get acquainted and possibly get laid back in the 19th century.

In the ever-so-proper Victorian era, the way to express interest in another person is by handing them cards. Cards with various emotions like grief, friendliness and others were handed out for all sorts of events. Flirtation cards, on the other hand, were given out to ask permission to escort a lady or get to know her better.

According to The Encyclopedia of Ephemera, people used two types of cards in the 1870s and 1880s. One was like a ‘calling card’ and would be used by gentleman to formally introduce themselves to new acquaintances. The second, as seen in the collection here, was a novelty variety reserved for more casual encounters, and it was known as an ‘escort card’ used by men seeking the company of women.

‘The device commonly carried a brief message and a simple illustration,’ the encyclopaedia states.

Take a look at some of the sample cards below to see how uptight and gentle people were back in the day. Many of these cards have all the flowery but insincere charm of a cheesy modern-day pick-up line, while some were a little more down-to-business.

Long before mobile phones came along - allowing single men and women to flirt behind the comfort of a glowing screen - shy love-seekers of the late 19th Century had to resort to other tactics (pictured)
Long before mobile phones came along – allowing single men and women to flirt behind the comfort of a glowing screen – shy love-seekers of the late 19th Century had to resort to other tactics (pictured)
These comical printed cards were handed out by men to women they found attractive
These comical printed cards were handed out by men to women they found attractive
Rhyming couplets appeared to have been rather popular  in the 19th century according to these cards
Rhyming couplets appeared to have been rather popular  in the 19th century according to these cards
The card commonly carried a brief message and a simple illustration
The card commonly carried a brief message and a simple illustration
Some were quite specific in their nature - albeit in a very polite way
Some were quite specific in their nature – albeit in a very polite way
Certain cards were short and to-the-point - including this 'may I. C. U. Home?' card
Certain cards were short and to-the-point – including this ‘may I. C. U. Home?’ card
These 'escort cards' were seen as a more casual version of what we today regard as business cards  
These ‘escort cards’ were seen as a more casual version of what we today regard as business cards
This blank card poses, 'Who the devil are you?'
This blank card poses, ‘Who the devil are you?’
This man's intent is made crystal clear by its very title 
This man’s intent is made crystal clear by its very title
Many of the cards have all the flowery but insincere charm of a cheesy modern-day pick-up line
Many of the cards have all the flowery but insincere charm of a cheesy modern-day pick-up line
Many carried the disclaimer, 'If so, keep this card, if not, please return it'
Many carried the disclaimer, ‘If so, keep this card, if not, please return it’

Read More: When ‘Flirtation Cards’ Were All The Rage