Sentiment cards, small, single-sided cards printed with greetings or messages on morality, were popular in the United States during the nineteenth century. The tradition of trading or sending these early greeting cards began in Europe in the 1820s, and soon crossed the Atlantic to America. The cards, about the same size as calling cards, were intended to be given to friends and associates as tokens. Many cards expressed feelings of love or friendship, others bore religious or moral verses intended for the improvement of their recipients. The cards were quite inexpensive. An advertisement for J.H. Bufford's Sons in Boston included a listing of over a dozen designs for sentiment cards. Each set of one hundred cards cost between $0.75 and $2.00 and included floral patterns, cupids, ducks, and religious verses (see J. H. Bufford's Sons new and beautiful illuminated educational and scripture chromo cards in the Year-book of Education for 1879, p. 337).
The Society's collection of over 500 sentiment cards is arranged by the theme of the card, including friendship, love, and remembrance. Some are further grouped by dominant design, such as musical bars or domestic scenes. Many of the cards are signed in manuscript and are often further decorated by the giver with watercolor. Some may have done double duty as calling cards or as rewards of merit for young children.
~ Lauren B. Hewes, Andrew W. Mellon Curator of Graphic Arts