Saturday, February 6, 2010

More about the Victorian Valentine

Best Wishes Valentine, close up

All images are original Victorian Valentines in my collection.
Please click on each to enter my Flickr page,
where you can view them at a much higher resolution!
There, you can click on the icon above each picture that says All Sizes.

When and where did St. Valentine's Day begin?

Ancient Romans celebrated Lupercalia on February 14th. It was a festival that involved a lottery where young men and women were paired off. It was also believed that birds chose their mates for spring on February 14th!

To My Valentine, front

To My Valentine, detail

The legends of an early Christian martyr named St. Valentine cannot be proved. Some say St. Valentine was an early clergyman who performed secret marriages for Roman soldiers, who were banned from marrying during the reign of Claudius II.

Best Wishes Valentine, folded

Best Wishes Valentine, open

During the times of Chaucer and Shakespeare, romantic love became associated with our current notion of St. Valentine's Day. Eventually, the date of February 14th was again revived.

Heart Valentine, front

Heart Valentine, inside

Before 1800, Valentines were mostly handwritten love poems and notes of affection. Valentine cards became wildly popular in England after the turn of the 19th century, and mailing them became easier when the British government standardized postage rates.

Die-cut paper lace was invented in 1834. In the United States, Valentine cards were first printed commercially in 1846. Esther Howland was the young daughter of a well-established stationer in Worcester, Massachusetts. After receiving a beautiful Valentine card from England, she decided to produce a few on her own in 1847. Her business grew, and employed female workers who hand-assembled valentines cards. She eventually sold her business in 1881.

Girl Valentine, front

Girl Valentine, inside

Even though 19th century Valentine cards were mass-produced, they contained glued-on ribbons, scrap, feathers, beads, dried flowers and laces. Many have survived over time because they were cherished, and were pasted into scrap albums. They were works of art, often containing paper hinges that allowed layers of the Valentine to pop forward with a 3D effect, or pull forward using paper honeycombs, so they could be displayed on parlor tables.

After the turn of the 20th century and during the great World Wars, Valentine cards became a thing of the past. After WWII, the custom was revived as a way for school children to exchange cards, and today it has once again become an adult romantic holiday!

Some interesting facts:

• In Great Britain, gloves were a popular Valentine gift, and often were given as a marriage proposal.

• English illustrators Kate Greenaway and Walter Crane both created some of the more favorite and collectible Valentine cards.

• Richard Cadbury created the first Valentine box of chocolates in 1868.

NECCO (New England Confectionery Company) popularized the conversation candy hearts in 1902, but their predecessor came up with similar imprinted candies in 1866.

Be sure to check out these links to learn more about the history of the Victorian Valentine and to see some lovely examples:

Valentine Cards at the Lilly Library, Indiana University

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Blogger The Pink Birdhouse said...

Pam, OH MY GOSH, your collection is so out of this world gorgous, I am over here moaning and groaning that I never started collecting such wonderful delights such as those victorian valentines of yours. What wonderful cards to be brought out year after year to be enjoyed! And your photos are just fantastic. They really show all the little wonderful details of each card. I am in love. I just have to go back and look at the pictures again to enjoy them all over again. I am so thrilled that you shared these with us. don't you just love blogger and all the beauty we have the privileg to see!! hugs from afar, debby

February 9, 2010 at 1:32 PM  
Blogger Eastlake Victorian said...

Hi Debby!

Thank you so much for the nice comments! You really made my day! I love taking pictures and showing the details of things that I love, and I always wanted my blog to reflect that. It's nice having blog friends like you, who love sharing the little bits of beauty and happiness in own little corners of the world! Isn't blogging great? :)


February 9, 2010 at 10:30 PM  
Blogger The Victorian Parlor said...

Your collection of Valentine cards is beautiful! I love all of the detail and sentiment seen in the remnants of the Victorian era cards:). Thanks for sharing the history too!



February 10, 2010 at 3:39 PM  
Blogger Eastlake Victorian said...

Hi Kim-

There's nothing like the sentiment in Victorian poetry! It's truly a thing of the past. So glad you enjoyed the cards.


February 11, 2010 at 6:24 PM  
Anonymous Andrea at My Feathered Nest said...

I love them!
I was just visiting with my 80 year old parents and they have a scrapbook of Valentine postcards from 1907-1910. They are in perfect condition and I love reading the messages on the back.
The art is so romantic and sweet.
I love your blog and invite you to come and visit mine sometime. I think that we have a lot in common.
Happy Valentine's Day

February 12, 2010 at 5:19 PM  
Blogger Eastlake Victorian said...


Thank you for stopping by! I'm glad you liked my Valentine post. Your blog is beautiful! How lovely that your parents have that scrapbook of old Valentines! I'll be checking out your blog often. Happy Valentine's Day!


February 12, 2010 at 10:23 PM  

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