Victorian Escort Cards – Dating Before the Internet

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Have you ever wondered what it was like to date in the, let’s say, 19th century America? Spoiler alert: complicated. It was definitely a time before all the luxuries of technology and online dating platforms such as Twoo. If you ever thought you’re having a rough time finding that special someone online, you will probably sympathise with the Victorians. They had a whole different, and a lot bigger bag of challenges. Still, there was another way to get your flirt on.

Imagine you’re a Victorian gentleman who is exchanging looks with that certain young lady at the ball. Sparks are flying all over the place. You’d like to talk to her, but her chaperone won’t allow it. You could ask her for a dance, but it stops there. An official visit at her house? Yes, if you’re into super awkward conversations while someone is listening to everything through the wall. Or, you could do it the sneaky way.

Enter escort cards, the perfect way to flirt without actually flirting. Or should we say, without anyone noticing that you’re flirting. Escort cards were the pen-and-paper version of Twoo in the Victorian times. They were small enough to be hidden inside a glove and humorous enough to actually score you a date with someone. And by “date” we mostly mean a permission to walk her to her front door. Some of them were very simple and straightforward, with pick-up lines like “May I.C.U. Home” or “May I be permitted the blissful pleasure of escorting you home this evening”. Others were definitely more direct, like “Not Married and Out for A Good Time” or “If You Have No Objection, I Will Be Your Protection”. Escort cards used humour to challenge social conventions and find a successful way to just break the ice, according to collector Alan Mays.

Keep in mind, the restrictions of society were high in that period. Young ladies were always accompanied by chaperones, and any direct contact with the potential suitor, aka your “like”, was seen as improper. Getting to the “match” phase was even more difficult. So even though they didn’t stick around for long, these cards can be seen as the first step on a path that eventually led to modern dating. After all, with the revival of all things old-fashioned and vintage, maybe even the escort cards could have their own comeback. Until then, we’ll stick to our inbox on Twoo.

Written by Mirna Pavlovic