Business Cards Have Come A Long Way Since


Business cards have been around for quite some time and it’s quite interesting to see where these business cards have started and the changes that have taken place in them.

They were used as early as the 15th century in China and the 17th century, where the French monarchs would use them as a piece of paper that contained the information of the guest who was visiting. They were not called business cards at that time yet, instead they were called visiting cards and they were smaller than the 3.5 inches by 2 inches standard that we now use.

They were also used in England around that time by merchants, who used them as a form of advertisement. They were commonly called ‘trade cards’ at that time and the popularity of its use rose since they were as effective as the use of the news paper at the time. Trading cards were distinguished then from ‘calling cards’ where, trading cards were used for business purposes and calling cards were used for personal use. Another difference was that business or trade cards were bigger, about 3-12×5 inches since, again, they were used as an advertisement tool as well while the calling cards were ½ inch x 2 inches.

Business cards at that time were made by wood-cut and letterpress methods. During the 18th century however, copperplate engraving was most popular and until the 19th century, prints were still done in single colors or monotone. But around 1830, lithography using several colors became a widespread method of printing used in Europe.

Below are some examples of business card from antiquity (click to view bigger)

The card below were dated around 1863, a memento of the life and times of William Fisher, a solier of the civil war from Delaware.The card was originally posted at

These business cards were scanned by Gene Gable at Creative Pro, dated around 1928. Most of these card’s actual sizes are 3-12×5 inches!

Notice how this one has a map

Some old business cards found by Llubav Choy Duerr, in Rochester, Michigan.

At the dawn of the 20th century, business cards now have an array of shapes and sizes and designs that are not only limited to paper-based materials but virtually every surface you can think of.

Today we’re still using paper based-business cards but with the rise of mobile phones and the internet has come virtual business cards of different types. There are now electronic business cards which  are e-mail based and those that you can hook up to your phone (pokens.) It’s interesting to project what kind of business cards we will have a few years ahead.

Perhaps a holographic business card that looks like this?

AR Business Card from James Alliban on Vimeo.

Check back next week for our 10 craziest business cards round-up which will feature the weirdest items business cards have been printed on!