Before There Was Tinder, People in the 19th Century Used These Cards to Get Laid

Photo Credit: Messy Nessy Chic


It’s difficult enough to ask someone out in 2017. Now imagine living in a world where most women aren’t even allowed outside without a chaperone, much less allowed to talk to a possible romantic partner, and you can see the need for “escort cards.”

Escort cards were kind of like business cards for dating. They were printed with flirtatious messages that resemble today’s cheesy pickup lines, and people slip them to each other to communicate their interest. A newspaper article from the time laid out the process: “A lady and a gentleman meet on a street. They exchange glances. As they walk on, the woman dangles a handkerchief — if she is interested in the man following up on the glance. If he is equally curious, the two strike up a conversation. One gives the other a personal calling card. And a date is planned.”

In theory, that’s kind of sweet! Young people finding love despite living in a restrictive society. Sounds like the plot of many a romance novel.

But in practice? Not so much. Maybe it’s my modern eye, but most of these escort cards come across as awkward, desperate, creepy, or even all three. It could be that the Victorian era is just too different from 2017, and I’ll never “get it.” But I’m willing to be that many Victorian women felt just as weirded out as I do.


Photo Credit: Messy Nessy Chic

The good: Simple, clear, and polite.

The bad: Asking for the card back if you get a “no.” That just makes you look cheap, dude.


Photo Credit: Messy Nessy Chic

The good: Putting the devil on your escort card definitely plays up the “bad boy” angle.

The bad: Terrible layout! Technically this card reads “I THE DEVIL am [name] who THE DEVIL are you.” Not good.


Photo Credit: Messy Nessy Chic

The good: Poetry!

The bad: Kinda looks like the man is choking the woman. Not good for any situation, and DEFINITELY not good when approaching a stranger for a date.


Photo Credit: Messy Nessy Chic

The good: Hiking is a great first date activity.

The bad: She’s clearly thinking, “The hike literally just started. How are his hands this sweaty?”


Photo Credit: Messy Nessy Chic


The good: Nice round edges = minimal papercuts.

The bad: If you don’t think this is bad, walk up to any stranger and say, “WOULD YOU BE MY LITTLE SPOON IN THE DARK?” Hint: your life is going to involve a lot more mace.


Photo Credit: Messy Nessy Chic

The good: There’s a church on the card. Wholesome!

The bad: This is pretty much textbook stalker behavior.


Photo Credit: Messy Nessy Chic

The good: Shows the woman what she will look like while reading this card, I guess?

The bad: Dude, you don’t even know this woman and already you’re using “The L Word.” Slow your roll!


Photo Credit: Messy Nessy Chic


The good: The card is red? That’s something.

The bad: I’ll just say that if your two main moves are dumb Shakespeare quotes and interspecies coupling, maybe dating is not for you.


Photo Credit: Messy Nessy Chic

The good: Festive fruit border.

The bad: “Come back to my place and check out my new lamp” is a lame line even by 1880 standards.


Photo Credit: Messy Nessy Chic

The good: I see what he did there. It’s an escort card that LOOKS like a business card! Sense of humor is very important.

The bad: Mixed messages. This is an acquaintance card, plus it’s a some sort of weird license to bother women, (which he gave to himself), plus he’s all, “I’m looking for love, but I’ll mack on pretty much anybody who will let me.” This guy is a mess.