On Saint-Valentine’s Day, lovers have always conveyed heartfelt emotion through gifts of love. Very often, confessions of love were communicated through the written word, whether carved in stone, carefully lettered on parchement, or mass produced by Victorian publishing houses. Poets composed romantic rhymes; others wrote love letters where they revealed intimate and passionate feelings for the beloved. For the many who were not able to compose elegant love messages themselves, 19th-century publishers and artists produced beautifully designed greeting cards. Through the influence of the postcard after 1900, greeting cards were also tailored for the broader world of friends, relatives and children.
On Saint-Valentine’s Day, lovers have always conveyed heartfelt emotion through gifts of love. Very often, confessions of love were communicated through the written word, whether carved in stone, carefully lettered on parchement, or mass produced by Victorian publishing houses. Poets composed romantic rhymes; others wrote love letters where they revealed intimate and passionate feelings for the beloved. For the many who were not able to compose elegant love messages themselves, 19th-century publishers and artists produced beautifully designed greeting cards. Through the influence of the postcard after 1900, greeting cards were also tailored for the broader world of friends, relatives and children.

© 2004, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.

The intimacy of the love letter was enhanced by illustrated greeting cards, first commercially manufactured in the mid-19th century. The greeting card industry found a broader market in the early Edwardian period with cheap and lavishly illustrated postcards with witty, naughty, romantic, or downright silly themes. In some postcards, Cupid was pictured as a cute figure of fun or was demoted to delivering cards instead of amorous darts. Valentine postcards encouraged exchange of casual friendship greetings. Increasingly elaborate greeting cards were also manufactured, including pop-up cards, mainly designed for a younger market.
The intimacy of the love letter was enhanced by illustrated greeting cards, first commercially manufactured in the mid-19th century. The greeting card industry found a broader market in the early Edwardian period with cheap and lavishly illustrated postcards with witty, naughty, romantic, or downright silly themes. In some postcards, Cupid was pictured as a cute figure of fun or was demoted to delivering cards instead of amorous darts. Valentine postcards encouraged exchange of casual friendship greetings. Increasingly elaborate greeting cards were also manufactured, including pop-up cards, mainly designed for a younger market.

© 2004, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.

Victorian Valentine

“My love for thee I never will disown” Valentine and Envelope



A hand-tinted card with an embossed envelope has paper scrap figures surrounded by an embossed wreath of pastel flowers. As with many Valentine greetings of this era, no handwritten signature or message is inscribed. Possibly a love letter was enclosed.

Photo Credit: Doon Heritage Crossroads
Gift of E.M. Bennett, Ayr, Ontario.
1863
9.7 x 14.5 cm
970.027.004-.005
© Doon Heritage Crossroads.


Edwardian Valentine

Valentine Greetings Postcard



Feathers, ribbons, roses, lilies-of-the-valley, love's arrow, a red heart and a beautiful girl: the symbolism of courtly love is expressed in this colourful postcard.

Photo Credit: Doon Heritage Crossroads
1914
GERMANY
14 x 8.7 cm
X.964.781.1.
© Doon Heritage Crossroads.


Picture postcards first appeared in Europe circa 1870, and quickly became popular, both as means of communication and as collectible items. It is calculated that 140 billion postcards were sent worldwide in the years between 1894 and 1919. The real heyday for collectors occurred between 1907 and 1914. Picture postcards were authorized for use within Canada in 1903. Postcard collectors kept their collections in special albums. The most popular postcards to collect were “views” or scenes from countries around the world. In North America, greeting cards, including Valentines, were among the most common types of postcard produced.
Picture postcards first appeared in Europe circa 1870, and quickly became popular, both as means of communication and as collectible items. It is calculated that 140 billion postcards were sent worldwide in the years between 1894 and 1919. The real heyday for collectors occurred between 1907 and 1914. Picture postcards were authorized for use within Canada in 1903. Postcard collectors kept their collections in special albums. The most popular postcards to collect were “views” or scenes from countries around the world. In North America, greeting cards, including Valentines, were among the most common types of postcard produced.

© 2004, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.

Twentieth-Century Valentine

Postcard Showing “Two Ice Cream Spoons”



“Spooning” was slang for caressing and kissing until the early 20th century. This may have developed from an 18th century use of “spoon” to mean a silly person. By the early 19th century, people in love were said to be “spoons” about each other. Later, “spooning” came to mean “courting, especially in an excessively sentimental or effusive fashion.”

Fanshawe Pioneer Village.
c. 1910
14 x 8.8 cm
x2002.91.7
© Fanshawe Pioneer Village.


Learning Objectives

The learner will:

  • Describe the practice of giving Valentine’s greetings
  • Describe the evolution of the imagery and literature as expressions of friendship and affection from the middle ages to the 1920’s
  • Describe the types of symbols traditionally used to represent feelings of love and affection
  • Recognize that expressions of love and affection have traditionally included literature, symbolic objects and gestures
  • Explain how traditional Valentine’s Day greetings are an expression of both material and non-material elements of culture

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