Saint Valentine, a legendary ancient Christian said to have been persecuted by the Roman Empire, didn't become associated with romance and love until 1382, when English poet Geoffrey Chaucer wrote, "For this was Saint Valentine's Day, when every bird cometh there to choose his mate."

Over the next four centuries, Saint Valentine, as well as the date, February 14, became more and more entwined with the concepts of courtly love and romantic poetry. The trend was popular throughout Europe, but England really ran with the idea, as lovers in the late 1700s would exchange sentimental verses on this day. In 1797, a book entitled “The Young Man’s Valentine Writer” came out to help frustrated would-be suitors. Victorian publishers even began to put out limited numbers of “mechanical valentines” printed with poems and drawings, as a decline in postal rates encouraged the practice of mailing Valentines. This also allowed “secret admirers” to send racy verses or limericks via post.

Naturally, Valentine's Day exploded in popularity under the reign of wildly romantic and sentimental Queen Victoria. In the mid-1800s “Fancy” Valentines adorned with real lace, paper lace, and ribbons were assembled in factories as the British spent 1 billion pounds a year on Valentines gifts like cards, flowers, and chocolates.

Over in the United States, Esther Howland received a Valentine from a British man her father knew through business in 1847. Intrigued by the idea, she began importing the materials and hand-producing her own versions to sell in America, and the idea took off like wildfire. In 1881, Howland retired and sold her business to George C. Whitney.

In the 1880s, offset lithography made less-personal mass-produced cards cheaper to make, and printers began to churn them out—first as postcards, and later as folded greeting cards. Some of the most popular mass-produced cards of that era were made by children’s book writer and illustrator Kate Greenaway, as well as Frances Brundage, Charles Twelvetrees, and Ellen H. Clapsaddle.

Using die-cut techniques, these cards might come in the shape of fans, crescent moons, bells, birds, flowers, and hearts, or have such shapes pop out of the center. Brundage, in particular, often drew caricatures of American and Dutch people that reflected the attitudes of the era.

In London, Raphael Tuck—with its Royal Warrant of Appointment from Queen Victoria herself—was perhaps the most esteemed paper company in turn-of-the-century England, producing greeting cards, paper dolls and toys, and children’s books. Tuck’s most successful Valentines are its “marionette” cards—featuring paper dolls with arms and legs that move—and their “hidden honeycomb” cards with 3-D hearts that open up like a honeycomb when the card is unfolded...

Lest you think the Victorians were always big saps, the turn-of-the-century Suffragettes jumped on the opportunity to trumpet their cause for the right of women to vote in cheeky Valentines cards, while anti-Suffragettes spread their message via the same medium.

Back in the U.S., Hallmark greeting card company was founded in 1910 in Kansas City, Missouri, and quickly became the biggest name in U.S. Valentine’s Day cards, eventually forming a lucrative partnership with Walt Disney for the rights to use his beloved cartoon characters on Hallmark products.

Another popular American Valentine’s Day card artist of the era was Grace Drayton, who drew children with particularly large heads and eyes. She created similar characters for her comic book strips and paper dolls, as well as for advertisers such as Campbell Soup Company, for whom she created the Campbell Kids.

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

The Scrap Album

The Scrap Album

Malcolm Warrington’s The Scrap Album is a handsomely organized site, as you’d expect from an articulate champio… [read review or visit site]

Non Sports Cards: Tobacco, Gum and Candy

Non Sports Cards: Tobacco, Gum and Candy

Tom Boblitt moderates this extremely deep, collaborative site dedicated to non-sports cards (tobacco, gum and candy… [read review or visit site]

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

Lot Of ~235~ Vintage Valentine Cards~1950’s-1970’s~mechanical/teacher & MoreVintage Stand Up Valentine Card - Estate Find!! #41 GermanyVintage Valentine CardRare Unusual Antique Large 3d Stand Up Valentine -angels & Material Cloth DetailVintage, Rare, 1919 15” Long, Antique Car Valentine’s Day Card Pop Out Die CutLarge Victorian Valentine Card ,girl With Dove, Marcus Ward.Vintage Valentine Of Cupid Sitting On Crescent Moon With Large Zeppelin DanglingVtg. Hallmark Valentine-cute Girl In Red Dress & Dachshunds Receive ValentineVtg Valentine Card Gibson Artist Signed J C Sax Flocked Anthropomorphic PelicanVictorian Valentine Card ,lady In Garden,flowers ,cherub,verse.laid Down On PageValentine Vintage 1920s Story Card Cinderella Mother Goose Fairy Paper InsertVictorian Valentine Card Vintage Antique Edwardian Glamour Ladies Heart ShapedVintage Valentine Greeting Card Boy Sweetheart Eskimo 1930s Mechanical Heart IceVictorian Anti Valentine Card, "from A Man- Servant " ,verse ,hand Tinted.Vintage Paper Doll Valentine From The 40's Estate Find!!!Vintage Stand Up Valentine Card - Estate Find!! #40 GermanyVintage Stand Up Valentine Card - Estate Find!! #44 GermanyVintage Stand Up Valentine Card - Estate Find!! #45 Germany PiecesValentine Card Vintage 1930s Mechanical Dog Lifts Cover Anthropomorphic Die-cutValentine Card Vintage 1920s Mechanical Talk Radio Boy Girl Eyes Louis Katz NyVintage Valentine Greeting Card Girl Roller Skating Folded Wings 1930sVintage 1910-1930s 200+ Xmas Valentine Easter Birthday Greeting Card ScrapbookRare Antique 3d Stand-up Fancy Valentine With Envelope - Awesome!German Antique Honeycomb Valentine Day Card Feb 1924 8 1/8" X 5.5" Beautiful! Exceptional 1900s Mechanical Valentine Stand-up Card - Boy, Girl, Cow, Dog Scrapbook Album 21 Pg 58 Valentines Day Birthday Greeting Cards Ww2 Early 1940'sLot Of 15 Vintage Valentines/ One Is Dated 19125 Fold-out Valentine Day Cards From The 1930'sVintage Valentines Card LotVictorian Valentine Card Vintage Antique Edwardian Girl Flowers Heart Shape FoldVictorian Valentine Card Vintage Antique Applique 1894 Late 1800s Flower Rose Victorian Valentine Card Vintage Antique Heart Shaped Little Girl Flowers 1905 Victorian Valentine Card Vintage Antique Edwardian Triple Heart Shape Roses Antique Valentine CollectionStunning Boy Girl Clock 4-leaf Clovers Antique 3d 4 Layers Valentine GermanyLot Of ~120~ Vintage Valentine Greeting Cards~1940’s-1970’s~mechanical/teacherSix Early German Valentine's Day CardsVintage Valentines Pop Us Set Of 5Vintage 1974 Greeting Card-valentine's Day-daughter Used American Greetings12 Valentine Day Cards From The 1930'sVintage Valentines Lot Of 11 With 9 Extra CardsVintage Valentine Card12 Old Valentine Cards From The 1930's14 Valentine Day Cards From The 1930'sVintage Kids School Valentine Card Spaceman 1950sVintage Valentine Greeting Card Boy Girl Sweetheart Lover's Park 1930s Couple Vintage Valentine Greeting Card Turtle Tortise Couple Boy Girl Fold Down 1930sVictorian Valentine Card Vintage Antique Heart Shaped Little Cupid Angel FlowersVictorian Valentine Card Vintage Antique Cupid Angel Flowers Heart Shaped Gold Early Marked "germany" Dimensional Valentine With Fold Out Figures 3" X 5.25"Nice Lot Early Valentine's Day Cards Honeycomb/mechanical1940 Mechanical Diecut Circus Valentine's Day Card Pony Girl Bare Back RiderVintage Die Cut Valentine's Day Card - Bell Boy W/ Honeycomb Luggage Old Valentine Card Melons Printed In Germany Unsent Vintage Oversized Signed Sailor Military Valentine Card Die-cut Circa 1940'sVintage 1950s Valentine Card Anthropomorphic Duck Sailor In Eggshell SailboatVintage Valentines Set If 11Variety Of 9 Valentine Day Cards/postcard From The 1930'sVictorian Valentine Card Vintage Antique Whitney Made Blue Bird Flower BlossomVintage Valentine Greeting Card Carrington E Tree Hidden Sailor Boy Girl 1930s