Posted in holidays, photography, Valentine's Day

Vintage valentines

It’s possible a Valentine greeting may come your way this week.

Even though Papa and I don’t really celebrate this holiday called Valentine’s Day, I do pull out a couple of simple decorations to add a bit of color to this drab winter month. By now, I start growing a tad weary of wintery and snowman decorations and am ready to relegate them back to their storage bin.

After purchasing Valentine greetings to send to our three grandchildren, I began thinking about how that tradition of sending cards began so I researched the subject. Because I have four vintage Valentines that are little treasures to me, I wondered when sending valentines became “a thing.”  

Two of my vintage valentines appear to have been attached to the front of another card, which is missing, probably destroyed in some way. The other two are still intact and considering the ages of all four, they are surprisingly in good shape.

In the late 1700s, Valentine greetings were handwritten expressions of love and mysteriously signed, “Your Valentine.” But in Europe and the United States by the mid-19th century, especially around the year 1850, pre-made Valentine greetings began to be marketed and become quite popular.

From a couple of articles I read, the themes and styles of those cards were particular to a certain time frame or era. For example, valentine greetings from the early Victorian times of 1850-1880 included single-sided cards made from die-cut paper lace or fabric lace. Often pieces of ribbon or silk were fashioned on the cards or flowers and leaves made of silk or paper were used. Some greetings were hand-painted designs, and some had flaps on them that could be lifted.

From the 1880’s into 1900, Valentine greeting cards were mass produced and printed by means of color lithography. (Merriam-Webster definition: a method of printing from a flat surface (such as a smooth stone or a metal plate) that has been prepared so that the ink will only stick to the design that will be printed.)

Valentines made during this era included postcards, cards that opened, fan-shaped cards, and pop-up type of cards using honeycomb paper. Often those cards’ motifs were hearts, birds, flowers, and cherubs and valentines became more popular to purchase and send.

By the onset of the 20th century, more modern themed valentine cards were printed in different shapes and more detail. Some even depicted pictures of movie stars on them. Using word play with clever puns also became popular.  

After perusing this information, I surmised that the four vintage cards I have are probably from the time frame of the late 1890’s, the early 1900’s, and 1920’s.

The first two cards pictured below are remnants from larger cards as each bears a glue mark on the backside.  This one has a color lithograph of flowers and a woman’s hand upon which a dove is perched. That piece is cut out and glued onto a scalloped rectangular-shaped piece of punched cardboard. It bears this message: “Only happy hours.

This next card remnant is a tiny pale pink paper envelope with a glossy, color lithograph of a man’s hand extending a spray of flowers and a painted scene declaring the words “To my friend” glued onto the scalloped flap of the envelope. The envelope itself is glued onto a scalloped rectangular embossed paper. And that piece must have been on the front of a larger card.

Valentine number three is a scalloped card that actually opens up. On the outside, a paper lace overlay covers the front of the card. A young child peeks out through a “window” in the lace and in addition to the “portrait,” the gold printed card has white hearts on it, pink roses, and in one corner colorful butterflies and in the opposing corner, more pink roses. The inside sentiment reads: “Oh this would be a happy day, If you would but be mine. And if you’d very kindly say, You’d be my Valentine.” On the back is printed Whitney Made Worcester Mass. Made in USA.

My last little treasure is a cut-out stand-up card with the greeting “With Love To My Valentine.” It is more intricate and detailed and again features a young child surrounded by hearts and flowers. On the fold-out bottom which acts as a stand for the card it reads “To my Sweetheart.” On the back, Made in Germany is printed.

I’m certain my little Valentine treasures aren’t worth much, but I like them and keep them encased in a sealed plastic baggie to protect them. If I were clever, I’d figure out a way to display them that wouldn’t harm them in any way, but I’m not that crafty. If you have any suggestions for me, please let me know in the comment section below.

And in the meantime, may your Valentine’s Day remind you that you are loved, whether you receive a greeting card or maybe even a little bit of chocolate or not.

“All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt.” ~ Charles M. Schulz

© 2021


Mama of this empty nest, I’m content to live a quiet, country life with my husband of 40+ years and to view the gorgeous sunsets off my own back yard deck. Mama to three adults and Nana to adorable grandchildren, my empty nest fills up again with noise and laughter when they all return 'home'. A former English teacher, reporter/editor, education director for a non-profit organization, and stay at home mom, I retired after a season of substitute teaching at a private academy. Now I enjoy time spent with my grandchildren and family and writing words that seem to pour out of my soul or wandering around the countryside with my camera. Foremost, my faith sustains me as I meander through the empty nest stage of life. My favorite scripture is 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18: “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

16 thoughts on “Vintage valentines

  1. Perhaps place the cards in a frame with glass on both sides so you can enjoy both sides of the card? I did that with a special 2-sided keepsake as a gift for someone. Your research was interesting!💗♥️🌹I loved the pics of your vintage Valentines.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the good idea, Mama Duck. As I was cleaning out a drawer with old greeting cards sent to me, I discovered a couple more vintage Valentines I had stuffed in there and forgotten about, so now I have quite a little collection. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I actually have a couple of “vintage” Valentines my father sent my mother in the 1930s. They were much more intricate (and probably heart-felt) than the mass-produced (or cartoon-centric) ones produced these days. I’m surprised children still do the same type of “Valentine exchange” in school that we did back in the 1950s (although now they have to do a card for every student in the class, not just their “best friends”). It’s a quaint tradition, but the meaning is lost, in my opinion. Of course, I have my own special Valentine – my granddaughter, who was born on Valentine’s Day six years ago (where DOES the time go?!?!?!?)

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I know! I can’t believe our “little” ones are 6 already!! Those simple valentine exchanges we did in school aren’t simple anymore. Now they seem to try to outdo each other (I bet it’s really their moms!) with elaborately-made Valentine “boxes” for their greetings and fancy treats attached to the greetings. Crazy how “Pinterest perfect” people try to make everything that used to be so simple and have meaning.


  3. I just love Valentine’s Day. It is just a loving day. Your vintage valentines are great!!! I remember being in school and taking everyone in my class a valentine. We would decorate little paper bags with our names and other decorations and they were hung from the chalkboard. We had an opportunity to go around and put valentines in each bag. I loved looking through them.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. You just reminded me that I have three valentines that belonged to my great-grandmother framed and hanging on my wall. I think I’ll see if they might scan — they would make a post for Valentine’s Day. Absent that, I have a funny/romantic postcard from c. 1920 that might do.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I have a few vintage Valentines that I’ve bought at a little antique shop here in town. This year, I have some displayed in a….I’m not sure what you call it…. it looks like a lantern (but it isn’t), the door is clear and opens. I’ll have to post a picture for you on my FB page!

    Liked by 2 people

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