Real History/Vintage


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Last Updated on 13th February 2017 by Sophie Nadeau

If there’s one thing that’s certain in life: it’s that love will always find a way. Looking through the web this morning, I stumbled on a number of charming vintage Valentine’s day cards. Now, some of them don’t have the cheesy charm that’s abundant in our present mass-produced cards of today… But nothing says “I love you” quite like 10 hours worth of crochet!

Valentine’s day cards became a proper thing under the Victorians. In an age where piano legs were covered at the risk of ‘being too sexy’, Valentine’s day became a period where emotions could be let loose (a little bit, anyway) and you could really tell your partner how you felt about them.

Vintage Valentine’s Day Cards of Yesteryear:

vintage valentine's day cards“To Susanna”, Valentine’s Day Poem dated Valentine’s Day, 1850, Cork, Ireland.

vintage valentine's day card 1861Saint Valentine’s Day, 1861. Scenes showing buying and reading of Valentine cards in the boudoir and in the kitchen and a mailman loaded with letters. By this point, Valentine’s day cards had become fairly widespread, and mass-produced.

vintage valentine's day cardsSaint Valentine’s Day Card, circa 1860-1870, Author Anonymous: Cards were often ‘made 3D’ by adorning them with leftover lace, ribbon, silks and the like. This made the cards more luxurious, but kept them within a budget.

Esther Howland: ‘Mother’ of Valentine’s Day Cards in the USA

Esther Howland is often dubbed the ‘mother’ of modern day Valentine’s day cards in the USA. Prior to her time, Valentine’s day cards (although thoughtful) were always handmade and fabricated out of materials such as paper or lace. However, Howland had the idea to mass-produce one design, print it on card, lace or paper (mass producing one design would be infinitely cheaper, less labour intensive and draw in higher profits) and then sell the cards on a grand scale.

Although mass-produced cards had long been popular in Victorian England, they were yet to take off in the same way in the United States. She started off with a small order, selling them through her brother’s furniture store. When he returned from a business trip with $5000 worth of orders, she knew she was onto a good thing! Her ‘small side business’ eventually grew so large that it was netting her a six-figure salary annually (millions in today’s currency). Ah, the power of mass-marketing love…

vintage valentine's day cards“Will You Marry me or No.” Esther Howland Valentine circa 1850

vintage valentine's day cardsValentine;’s Day Card, EstherHowland- Many of Howland’s cards depicted similar, loving couple scenes. Flowers (particularly roses) were rapidly becoming associated with love and were often included in the simple designs.

vintage valentine's day cards‘Affection’, Esther Howland, circa 1870

Cover Image: Valentine’s Day Card by Esther Howland, ‘Mother of USA Vintage Valentine’s Day Cards’

About Author

Sophie Nadeau loves dogs, books, Paris, pizza, and history, though not necessarily in that order. A fan of all things France related, she runs when she's not chasing after the next sunset shot or consuming her weight in sweet food. Currently based in Paris after studies in London, she's spent most of her life living in the beautiful Devonian countryside in South West England!

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