When Neal and I visited Biltmore House recently, we saw letters and notes the Vanderbilts had written years ago when the “house was in mourning.” We found these intriguing—each note or letter was written on black-banded stationery. I commented about that, and the curator pointed out that during a time of mourning, not only did the family dress in black, but everything changed for a year. Flowers in the house were darker, people limited their activities to events less celebratory, and black-banded stationery was the order of the day.
Several weeks later, I was in a meeting with our friends at Expressionery, reviewing the lovely new designs in social notes—quite a change from the 1800s. I told of my experience at Biltmore and asked whether they received orders for black-banded notes today. To my surprise, these are a staple for people. When I revealed that I didn’t have any, I was quickly told that some would be arriving for me soon! And sure enough, the box of black-banded note cards arrived with a note that said, “I hope you never have to use these.” Unfortunately, I have used them and appreciate that I have them.
In doing a little research, I found that in decades past, when sympathy acknowledgements from the family were sent to friends, the width of the black border signified the sender’s closeness to the deceased. Friends, however, would write sympathy notes on black-bordered note cards. Black ink was and is the order of the day.
Sending a sympathy note is something I prefer to do rather than sending a purchased card. Expressing memories or thoughts is endearing to families who are grieving. Write from your heart. In just a few sentences, you can make a difference.