Business cards are one of the everyday things that have existed for centuries and have an interesting origin. Over the years, business cards have changed their physical form and their original purpose according to the technology of the times and the trends happening around them.
As its use became popular, the decorations of the cards became more distinctive which also created a system of etiquette that came with its use. Upper-class visiting cards were carefully made, with some embellished with a family crest or coat of arms. Traditionally, hall tables in upper echelon houses had silver card trays with pens for visiting cards, so that they could write on visiting cards when needed. These card trays were also used as libraries for those to whom the family should make return visits. You can find custom shaped metal business cards from Pure Metal Cards.
Around the same time, these visiting cards were also used in England, but their use has been slightly modified. English merchants often used them as advertisements and maps pointing to their business and were therefore called 'trade cards' rather than visiting cards.
Street numbers did not even exist at that time so these trade cards were as effective as the use of newspapers. Calling cards were also becoming popular at that time. Trading cards were different from 'calling cards' at the time as trading cards were used for business purposes and calling cards were for personal purposes. The two types of cards also differed in size, where business cards were larger, about 3 1/2 inches by 5 inches while calling cards were smaller.
During this time they were still formally used by the upper class which included protocols for handling a business card that was expected to be understood by members of high society. Business cards still had to be distributed before the visit and were hand-checked by the lady of the household before the actual visit took place.