Saturday, October 3, 2009

Weekend With Shades - Saturday - October 2

Ah October! A month with five weekends. So to fill the fifth week, we introduce you to The Association of Graveyard Rabbits Online Journal with an article by the History Hare. Enjoy!


Often when researching, I am taken completely by surprise when a simple "nothing extraordinary" photograph or piece of ephemera, turns out to be anything but simple. When research starts it often takes on a life of its own and literally explodes.

So it was with a group of visiting cards I purchased. The group was of fifty plain, name only, no decoration, visiting cards, early 1900s. I purchased them because the lot description said there were two cards with black borders. I hoped these were mourning cards, but the seller did not know and was just getting rid of some paper ephemera he had purchased at an estate sale. I purchased them, hoping they'd be what I was looking for.

When the visiting cards arrived I gave them a cursory look, found the two cards with black trim, determined they were indeed mourning cards, and was surprised to find what appeared to be the cards of a mother and son. The real surprise came when the research began. First we'll explore the history of mourning visiting cards and then the history of the people represented by the cards themselves.

Visiting Cards

Visiting cards were the custom in the United States in the Victorian and Edwardian periods. Some say the origins of the card can be traced to ancient Egypt, others say the French wrote names and messages on the backs of playing cards and from there these evolved into a card which was engraved with a facsimile of the signature of the owner.

The etiquette of calling, or visiting, had some very firmly established rules of society. Visiting was viewed as a female occupation and was not done for pleasure, but as an obligation. Cards played a vital role in these visits.

As callers passed through on their way into the drawing room, cards were left on the tray in the hall. If no one were at home, the card would be left with a servant. At this point in the visiting card transactions there were numerous customs to follow, far too numerous for this article.

Visiting Cards - Mourning

People who were in mourning were to use black-edged visiting cards, letter paper and envelopes. In America we had no hard and fast rules regulating the depth of mourning border on a visiting card.

An extremely broad band was frowned upon as too ostentatious a sign of grief, even when a widow or a bereaved parent used it.

In the first year of widowhood, a border of one-third of an inch wide was a sufficient indication of the profoundest depths of grief. In the second year a border of a third of an inch wide was adopted and continued for six or eight months to a full year.

Every six months the border was diminished by a sixteenth of an inch until mourning was put off entirely. On the card of a widower, since a man's card was always smaller than a woman's, the black border was always narrower; it narrowed from time to time by about the same margins as on the card of a widow.

A gradual narrowing in the black border was not considered in good taste when the death was that of a parent, a child, a sister or a brother. The card for any of those relatives, from the beginning to the end of the period of mourning, bore a black edging from an eighth to a sixteenth of an inch in width. A border a sixteenth of an inch wide was sufficient for the whole period in mourning in case of the death of a grandparent, or of an uncle or an aunt.

Here are the two mourning visiting cards that I purchased.

Mrs. Burd Grubb
July 1913

Mr. Edward Burd Grubb, Jr.
July 1913

Notice that Mrs. Burd Grubb’s card is larger than that of her son, as was the convention. The black border on her card is larger than that of her son, as also was the convention. Though my research found that Edward Burd Grubb, Jr. did not use the Junior in his professional life, it was the convention to add the Junior to the mourning card where it was the Senior that had died.

Edward Burb Grubb, Sr.

Edward Burb Grubb was born in Burlington, New Jersey, on November 13, 1841, the son of Edward Burb Grubb, a prosperous iron manufacturer and miner, and his wife Euphemia Parker. Grubb was descended from a family of large landed estates, derived by patent from William Penn. He graduated with honors from Burlington College in 1860; served with distinction in the Civil War, rising through various grades to the rank of brigadier-general.

Grubb married Elizabeth Wadsworth Van Rensselaer October 6, 1868. They had one daughter, Euphemia Van Rensselaer Burd Grubb. Elizabeth died April 17, 1886.

Grubb was the republican candidate for governor in 1888, and the following year was appointed by President Harrison as the United States minister to Spain.

A widower when he went to Spain as U.S. minister in 1890, he met Violet Sopwith, an Englishwoman, and was married in London in 1891. Violet is the Mrs. Burd Grubb of the mourning visiting card.

General Grubb died July 7, 1913. He was one of the most prominent and honored citizens of New Jersey. The first monument to a Northern officer in Southern soil was erected in his honor at Salem Church near Fredericksburg, Virginia.

Mrs. Burd Grubb

Violet was the daughter of Thomas Sopwith of London, a Scottish mining engineer and his wife L.G. Messister. Her brother was the Sopwith of aviation fame and an ardent yachtsman. Violet was known as the Rose of Lismore, named for the Argyllshire residence of her father. She was a blue-eyed beauty considered one of the belles of London society.

Violet and General Grubb were married at St. Stephen's Church, South Kensington, London. One of the bridesmaids was Effie Grubb, the General's daughter from his first marriage. Over 1200 people attended. Most of the European diplomatic corps were there. Telegrams were received from President Benjamin Harrison, Vice President Levi P. Morton, and Mr. James G. Blaine, Secretary of State.

March 20, 1893, Edward Burd Grubb, Jr. was born to the couple.

Violet received the Royal Order of Maria Louisa from the Queen Regent of Spain. During World War I she was chairman of the British War Relief Committee in Philadelphia.

Unable to walk after an automobile accident in 1944, Violet was allowed out of bed only two hours a day. During that time she would help a disabled veteran of World War II sell papers at a news-stand. Violet died 4 July 1958, at the age of 92.

Edward Burd Grubb, Jr.

Edward Burd Grubb, Jr., was assistant Philadelphia sales manager of the U. S. Cast Iron Pipe & Foundry Co., 1912-1915; bond salesman Chandler & Co. and Elkins, Morris. Philadelphia, 1915-1920: Junior partner firm of MacQuoid & Coady 1920: Pres. N. Y. Alaska Gold Dredging Co.

Edward was also a stock broker and a President of the New York Stock Exchange.

June 3, 1916, when Edward married his first wife, Helen MacQuoid, it was the largest wedding ever held in New Jersey. 2700 invitations were sent. Among those in attendance were President and Mrs. Wilson and Secretary and Mrs. McAdoo.

Who would have thought, all this information from two mourning visiting cards.


Banfield, Edwin. Visiting Cards and Cases. Trowbridge : England, 1989.

Holt, Emily. Encyclopaedia of Etiquette : What To Write, What To Do, What To Wear, What To Say: A Book of Manners For Everyday Use. New York : McClure, Phillips, 1903.

Who's Who in Finance, Banking, and Insurance
New York : Who's Who in Finance, Inc. (N.Y.), 1922.

2700 Invited to Wedding.
New York Times, Jun 4, 1916. Online Archives. : 2009.

GI Newsstand Run By Envoy's Widow.
New York Times, Jun 18, 1949. Online Archives. : 2009.

Minister Grubb Marries. New York Times, November 4, 1891. Online Archives. : 2009.

Mrs. E. Burd Grubb, Widow of Ex-Envoy To Spain, a Union Army General, Dead.
New York Times, July 5, 1958. Online Archives. : 2009.

This article courtesy of The Graveyard Rabbit Online Journal and the History Hare. Have you visited The Association of Graveyard Rabbits online? Take a moment, it's well worth the time.


Blogger Life Goes On said...

Very interesting article. I have no mourning cards. Will have to be on the outlook for them.How interesting to have a mother and son card. Thank you for sharing.

October 3, 2009 at 3:54 PM  
Blogger Claudia said...

That was a great entry. I would have been still pondering the cards. I had never heard of mourning cards although I knew about the calling cards when you went to visit.

October 3, 2009 at 6:23 PM  
Blogger footnoteMaven said...


A mother and son card is very rare. I loved the story behind this and I'm very glad you enjoyed it as well.


October 3, 2009 at 7:57 PM  
Blogger footnoteMaven said...

Hello Claudia:

Thank you, I'm so glad you enjoyed this. The Victorians and Edwardians had so many conventions associated with mourning.

I loved doing the research and learning something new.


October 3, 2009 at 8:00 PM  
Blogger Thomas MacEntee said...

Excellent article - I loved the information and was unfamiliar with the intricacies of the black border measurement! Victorians certainly were exacting, weren't they?

October 4, 2009 at 10:41 AM  
Blogger Ali said...

Excellent Article and i like these cards....

Discount card printing

Plastic Cards

July 13, 2011 at 11:56 PM  

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