Saturday, February 14, 2015

Today in History: Miniature Hand-Cut Valentines

According to Ruth Webb Lee's A History of Valentines (1952), the creation and distribution of valentines in America began sometime in the mid-18th century. Prior to the advent of mass-produced, printed notes and cards around 100 years later, women and men made these often anonymous tokens of affection by hand. Valentines took many forms, from acrostics, rebuses, cryptograms, and other puzzles, to elaborately illustrated or cutwork designs. The awe-inspiring valentines shown below suggest the time and dedication required to create these messages of love and esteem using only scissors, quill knives, and/or needles.

Measuring only around 1-inch across, these hand-cut valentines from the Weld-Grimké Family Papers show great skill. These three valentines were found with 13 others in a small paper enclosure marked "Valuable."

Valentine's Day celebrants may sometimes forget that not all persons share in the warm and comforting embrace of a loved one's attentions. L.S.S.S. wrote the following poem for the Valentine's Day of 1848. It reflects the perspective of a lonely and aging man in North Central New York State:

"A bachelor, a bachelor,
When age with wrinkled face,
Comes creeping on him by degrees,
With slow yet steady pace,
The jovial set whom once he met
An evening hour to pass,
Some some [sic.] are dead and some are wed
For Time still turns his glass -
No friend to cheer his silent home,
No hearts responsive beat
He bears his sorrows all alone
And pity never meets -" [From the George and Frederick Scriba Family Papers]

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