Wheaton College Norton, Massachusetts
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@ElizaBTweetin: May 6-13 – Making Calls

Posted on May 9, 2013

EBWDiary, May 3-8, 1872

Eliza B. Wheaton's Diary, May 3-8, 1872

A month ago, we met the Rev. Timothy Atkinson, who had just been called to the Trinitarian Congregational Church. On April 11, he married Miss Eudora Clark of Lowell, MA. Mrs. Wheaton no doubt met her in church each Sunday, and paid for improvements to the Parsonage (drat those drains!) in preparation for her coming.  Finally, on May 4, Atkinson brought his new wife to the Mansion House (later called the Wheaton Inn) and two days later, on May 6, he brought his wife to call on Eliza Wheaton, who returned the call on May 9.

The rules of etiquette during the Victorian era were intricate and strict, although if one paid attention to them, one always knew how to dress and act. Making calls followed highly ritualized procedures. You might think that it would have been more polite of Mrs. Wheaton to call on Mrs. Atkinson to welcome her to Norton and her church. However, it was more proper for the newcomer to make the first call on those of higher social standing, after which the latter could decide whether or not to “notice” the introduction by returning the call.  Following the established custom, Mrs. Wheaton visited Mrs. Atkinson within a week of that first call.

EBW's Calling Card CAse

Eliza B. Wheaton's Calling Card Case

Calling cards were another nicety of formal visits.  Leaving one’s card “counted” as a call, even if the hostess were not at home or chose not to accept the visitor. Folding the left corner of a card indicated that the card had been left in person, rather than “sent in.” Visitor’s cards were often displayed on the mantel or on a tray in the front hall, although it was considered to be in poor taste for a visitor to rifle through the cards. An entire industry evolved around the printing of calling cards and design of their cases and holders. Mrs. Wheaton’s card case followed the popular taste with its depiction of a fanciful cathedral in mother-of-pearl inlay.

It will become clear over the ensuing diary entries that Eliza and Mrs. Atkinson became good friends, who worked together for the betterment of the church and town.

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