Sunday, February 14, 2010

Today in History: Valentine's Day Cards

Saint Valentine's Day was first established in 496 A.D., and became associated with the celebration of romantic love in the Middle Ages. In the United States, mass-produced paper valentines were first sold in the mid-1800s.

The Ephemera collection at the Clements Library includes a variety of greeting cards for many occasions. A sampling of some of these cards shows the great diversity and creativity of 19th century Valentines. While the earlier cards are simple handmade items, the later commercial ones include embossed paper lace, pop-ups, and a profusion of flowers, hearts, and winged Cupids.

One of the most interesting early examples comes from the Mifflin family papers.This handmade card from the early 1800s has a poem that wraps around the cut-out shape of a Celtic knot. It reads:
"This is love & worth commending, still beginning never ending like a willy [sic] net ensnaring in a round shuts up all squaring; out & in goes every angle more and more does still entangle, keeps a measure still in moving never light but always loving twining arms exchanging kisses each partaking others blisses; laughing, weeping still together blessing one is worth in other never breaking ever bending."

Other examples from the collection:


Further reading on collections of 19th century valentines:

1 comment:

Robin said...

Fun post, and I also like the new layout.

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