The History of Business Cards

business-cardToday, a business card is a card often exchanged for the purpose of providing contact information about an individual or business.  But, where did this tradition start?  The history of business cards goes back all the way to the 15th century in China.


During this time, business cards as we know them were called “Meishi”.  “Meishi” was a formal announcement that royalty was going to be visiting and hence, the Meishi were distributed to the public to make them aware of the visit.  The word “Meishi” has two parts. “Mei”, meaning “name” and “shi” meaning “thorn”, or “needle”.  “Shi” comes from the fact that the ancient Chinese carved their names with needle-like splinters of bamboo or wood.

To exchange a Meishi, the person of lower status presents their Meishi first.  The proper way to give a Meishi is to hold both corners without covering any details.  It is also considered impolite to give a bent or damaged business card.

Visite Biletes

During the 17th century in France, “Visite Biletes” means Visiting Card (and was also known as a Calling Card).  Visite Biletes were the size of playing cards and had the name of a guest printed on them.  When a guest was to arrive, the Visite Biletes were handed to servants of a prospective host to announce the arrival of a guest.

Trade Cards

Also during the 17th century London, “Trade Cards” were basically used as advertisements and given to clients and potential customers of local businesses.  On one side, the company name and a picture was printed on one side and the directions to the company was printed on the other side.

Carte de Visite

A “Carte de Visite”, or “Visiting Card” was patented by Andrew Adolphe Eugene Disderi in 1854.  These visiting cards had a small picture mounted on a card with the owners contact information below the picture.

Business Cards

Today, business cards contain email addresses, cell phone numbers, social media profiles, websites, pictures, and any information a person or business owner would like to give out about themselves or the company they work for.  Typically 2.5″x3″ card, business cards can also be available in the new slim sized MiniCards.  Also, business cards today even have the capability to be printed on recycled paper.  To stand out and be different, promotional items can also serve as a new creative way to make your name stand out to the recipients of your “business card”.

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