Ellen Donovan scrapbook image

Ellen Donovan
Liberty, MO
The etiquette of 19th- and early 20th-century card culture was complex, and while only the name was typically used, the font, weight, placement and size of the card often varied greatly. Cards of condolence and mourning were framed in black (a custom that survives today, particularly in certain Latin cultures) while there were other customs observed for wedding, greeting, visiting and calling cards. True calling cards bore nothing on them but the name of the caller: it was considered inappropriate to include one’s residence, particularly for women. Those concerned about the importance of good breeding were also advised to opt for smaller rather than larger typefaces, which were disparaged as commonplace. Pasted onto the “Jokes and Frolics” page of her Girl Graduate Book, Ellen Donovan recorded (1920-1922) a shocking scene spied through the window of a friend’s house. Her book is otherwise distinguished by the typical mementos framing a young girl’s life: dance cards, party favors, photographs and autographs from her friends. It is the journal that sets young Donovan apart: her report of graduation, her gifts, the baccalaureate address and school parties, are all recounted in extraordinary and spirited detail.

09.30.08     Comments (1)     digg | del.ic.io.us | reddit


So much meaning is inscribed in the simple typography of Donovan's card collection: messages about class, taste, the reason for the call. This etiquette structure a not merely a relic of a more formal age. It is still surprisingly legible and effective.
posted on 10.01.08 by Rachel Berger

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