Up until this week I thought social networking and personal branding were relatively new phenomena. That was before I came across the society page from a 1910 edition of the New York Times. It begins: “Floods of new at-home cards have been sent out during the past week… Mrs. Edward Leavitt Young of 317 West Eighty-ninth Street will receive on Saturday, January 22. Mrs. Samuel Lane Gross will receive on January 21…” I won’t bore you with the details but the story goes on to name dozens of women along with their stipulated receiving days and takes a full page in the Times.
These “at-home” cards mentioned above look to me like the precursor to friend requests on Facebook. Imagine sending out 40 at-home cards and then sitting in your parlor waiting for the doorbell to ring (or for the butler to announce guests – might as well put this totally in perspective. We’re talking about the Vanderbilts of the day, not Joe Factory Worker). It’s not much different than sending out friend requests and waiting to be confirmed.
The at-home card from 100 years ago remains relatively unchanged in appearance but its function has evolved. Instead of announcing that we are prepared to receive visitors it has become a method of informing friends and family how a newly married couple will handle their family names after the wedding. Will the bride take the groom’s name, add his name with a hyphen, or will they both adopt the double-barrelled style?
Anyway, please accept this post as my at-home notice. Now accepting friends at facebook.com/swrightboucher.
Thank you, New York Times archive, for the excerpt above.