Calling on the Victorian Neighbours Full of Lustre!



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Paying a visit to Heritage House on Thursday in Smiths Falls.


The pathway to beautiful exhibits– THIS WAS LAST YEARS BUT THE DISPLAYS REMAIN THE SAME.


Lustre Ware you say ? Oh my lustre!


Calling cards were mass-produced in the 1850’s when printers often had calligraphers on their staff to pen the customer’s name on lavishly colored printed cards. But it wasn’t until after the Civil War in 1865 that calling cards became a highly ritualized social grace where both men and women used the cards at all manner of social occasions. Floral designs were used by both men and women and cards were available in rectangle as well as oval.


Obviously the help worked here:)


Laundry or Lustre Ware? Oh that choice is easy.


Ladies pursued their card leaving rounds according to the rules that finally appeared in etiquette books from the 1880’s and on. Featured in most Victorian homes in the entry hall was always a table where parcels could be left and more importantly, where a silver tray or porcelain receptacle sat for receiving calling cards. The height of the card pile might be interpreted as a clue to the social standing of the hostess. Harper’s Bazaar reported in the 1890’s that “cards were dropped by the thousand.”


Men kept their cards usually in their vest pockets, while women carried theirs in elegant cases sometimes made of silk or leather, ivory, tortoise shell or silver.

Suitor flowers? Oh my word!


Etiquette dictated that a married woman would leave her card for the lady of the house along with her husband’s card, even if he wasn’t with her. She also left a card for each of her adult daughters.


A new dress perhaps?


Leaving cards at important homes also served as a means of social advancement. Most afternoon social life was spent making calls, allowing 30 minutes per visit, and leaving a card at each house. The woman of the house, the hostess, was usually in afternoon dress…always choice and delightful. Her guests might find her busy with some elegant lace or wool-work, writing letters, or sketching.


Why thank you- I will have some tea!


A baby or a doll? Which one does not cry?


Lustre Ware from the Collection of Bill Dobson This display is no longer there


Why thank you!

Like the fan, the calling cards carried meaningful messages. If a young man should present a young lady with his card asking if he might escort her home, she could either rest her fan on her right cheek, meaning “yes” or she could return the card with the appropriate corner turned up indicating yes or no. Or she could hand her card to the chap she most wanted to accompany her.

Hand painted and beautiful



Behold my surprise when I find an amazing doll house in one of the rooms of the museum. Every little girl’s dream!

  • A vistor folded down the upper right hand corner if she came in person.
  • A folded upper left corner indicated she stopped to leave her congratulations.
  • A folded lower right corner said goodbye.
  • A folded lower left corner offered condolences.

By the turn of the century the excitement of calling cards had faded. With a little searching one may still find calling cards in antique shops.


A visit worth every penny- bring the family and bring a picnic..Picnic area available

Read about the ghosts of Heritage House

Mr Dobson of Montague

General Information

A visit to Heritage House built by Joshua Bates includes a tour of 8 period rooms furnished to depict the lifestyle of the times. The Museum’s unique mirror-image facades, indoor brick bake oven and one of only two-story privy in eastern Canada (more on that later) preserve an atmosphere of the past in the once derelict house. Enjoy a picnic near our gardens or take a short stroll through parkland to the Rideau Canal and Old Sly’s Lockstation. Presented year round are changing exhibitions and art shows, a variety of special events, workshops and school and children’s programs. Also available are meeting space rentals, gift shop and a Victorian setting for wedding ceremonies and photographs.

11 Old Sly’s Rd,
Smiths Falls

Their Facebook page click here

Phone: 613-283-6311


About lindaseccaspina

Before she laid her fingers to a keyboard, Linda was a fashion designer, and then owned the eclectic store Flash Cadilac and Savannah Devilles in Ottawa on Rideau Street from 1976-1996. She also did clothing for various media and worked on “You Can’t do that on Television”. After writing for years about things that she cared about or pissed her off on American media she finally found her calling. She is a weekly columnist for the Sherbrooke Record and documents history every single day and has over 6500 blogs about Lanark County and Ottawa and an enormous weekly readership. Linda has published six books and is in her 4th year as a town councillor for Carleton Place. She believes in community and promoting business owners because she believes she can, so she does.

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