"My heart to me, is singing...The hope that I, Am loved. By Thee." This poem is printed on the inside of this Victorian card. It is all embossed colored paper and dates from about 1880. The red rose has symbolized love for thousands of years. To the ancient Greeks and Romans, this red blossom was associated with Aphrodite and Venus. This card was sent around 1880.
Kittens in love behind a garden railing. As the furry lovers smile, peonies cascade over the balustraded wall. Peonies were first cultivated in Asia and were brought to America about 1800. In Japan the flower is a symbol of bravery, honor and good fortune. The American Peony Society was born in 1903, about a decade before this single sheet, embossed paper card was printed. The Valentine poem on reverse side of this card reads: "Love me as I love, Give thy heart for mine, And trust for evermore, Thy faithful Valentine." It may have taken bravery for the sender to place this card in the hands of his beloved.
The die-cut stand-up cards from 1910 to the early 1920's often return to olden times for their subject material. Here a sweet, bonneted girl in a violet party dress of the 1880s, pushes a wheelbarrow with a basket full of hearts. It is not surprising that little girl's dolls of this period, were also dressed in romantic clothing not really in the fashions of the period. So much about love is wrapped in nostalgia.
"To my Valentine" is printed in gold on a heart covered with violets. These violet colored flowers have long symbolized innocence, everlasting love, modesty and remembrance. The Victorian gardens were brimming over with blossoms with strong emotional associations. And designers of the early 20th century were very aware of a flower's meaning.
By 1900 the most popular cards were made from heavy embossed card-stock and die-cut. With chromolithography (machine printing in multiple colors) common, the richness of these cards couldn't compare with the card of just a generation before. Because of the sturdiness of these Valentine cards, they were designed to display. This card folds out into a three-dimensional scene with a cut-out picket fence and a frisky cupid, all able to stand on a table or mantel shelf.
This spectacular card is marked "Germany." It is one of our most three-dimensional Valentine cards with a surprising folding paper fan, when opened. The fold-out base has the greeting "To my Valentine" and supports a colorful basket with ferns and fall colored leaves and a pink bow on the handle. As the card unfolds, a tissue paper fan unfurls to resemble a bright summer sun. The fan is closed when the card folded-up. This special Valentine card was made about 1910.
Here we have a young couple from the Netherlands dancing with enthusiasm. This card from the early 1920s, is a most unusual design. It is a die-cut fold-out design that first presents us with the boy's girlfriend with her back to us. Flip it over, and the scene changes so the boy's back faces us. Many children once grew-up reading "Hans Brinker and the Silver Skates". Though first published in 1865, it remained popular until World War II. The Historical Society has several copies of condensed versions of Mary Mapes Dodge's book.
We return to Rococo France, with this young couple in love. This embossed cut-out card probably represents the fashion of the members of the court of Louis XV, who dressed up as shepherds and shepherdesses, as they frolicked in the grand gardens of Versailles. How often has France been a symbol of love? This card was published in the late 1910s.
The earliest Valentine cards in our collection are single-fold embossed paper that mimics lace. The paper pattern is not cut-out in these oldest declarations of love. This card probably dates from before the Civil War and may pre-1850. It is decorated with attached pieces of foil and paper flowers. The poem on the cover reads: "In thy calm unclouded heart, Dearest on they bended knee...Sweet Valentine remember me." The card is signed "Johnny B."
Many of the fancy Victorian cards are collages of embossed lace-cut paper with various small paper applications such as the American eagle and the winged child attached to the cover of this 1880s card. Inside is a love poem: "Love me, I adore Thee, My heart I lay before Thee, Take it-It is Thine." Some of these cards my have been dropped off at the beloved's door. Many are not signed and only a few were sent by mail. Some obviously anonymous.
Cupids pretty much reign supreme in the popular Valentine's Day cards available to local shoppers along East Hampton's Main Street and Newtown Lane in the 1920s. This card has two of the famous feathered agents of Venus. In this die-cut card they are on a home-made teeter-totter, likely bragging about hove many arrows they have shoot during this season of love. "Up and, Down, Life's pathway, Dear, May Love ever, Guide You."
This little straw hatted gardener is surrounded by Forget-me-nots. What better flower to represent the emotions of the sender of this die-cut fold-out Valentine? The card folds out into a three-dimensional diorama. Before the card is opened, it reads: "My Hearts, Message". There are two other messages: "A Tribute, of affection" and "I'll have no Valentine but you, Be mine, sweetheart, and I'll be True." This card was made by "Raphael Tuck & Sons, Ltd Publishers To Their Majesties. London, Paris & New York". The firm started in London in 1866 and opened an office in New York City in 1895. Though the firm produced toys, jig-saw puzzles, calendars and paper dolls, it was greeting and postcards that brought them fame. This card is likely a product made around 1910.
Some of our oldest Valentines were inspired by America's first recognized publisher of Valentine cards, Esther Howland. By the early 1850s, her cards were more fancy than other anonymous printers, because her cards had die-cut embossed paper lace and bold background colors. This card has lace cupids and an elegant lady galloping on a white horse. Though it is not marked with Ms. Howland's red "H" it is attributed to her. It is inscribed on the bottom right "Elis P Dayton" who was born in East Hampton in 1830.
This little chromolithographed card is a rare form in our collection. Designed as a little silk fringed booklet, it illustrates the faces of two adult lovers leaning towards a kiss. Each is just a head in a flower, and each has its own cupid. One poem reads: "Let glory's golden dreams depart! 'Tis bliss enough for me, Enthroned upon they loving heart, Thy Valentine to be!" The form is probably based on the dance cards of the period before World War I and might date from around 1910. It even has a tassel.
If your girlfriend was of Irish descent, a young lad had this very green card to pick out at the local department store. "Utter, the thought in, those eyes of thine, Or whisper it to St. Valentine." This is a fold-out card has the heart put-out to encompass this lass. The card dates from about 1915-1920.
"To you my. Soul's affection, move, Devoutly, warmly, True." Here is another of the stand-up embossed cut-out cards popular in 1910-1920. Cupid here has given-up his bow & arrows for a cello. This card is not fully three-dimensional, but has a folding stand attached to the back for the display of this token of Valentine's Day.
We end this virtual exhibition with a clever embossed card from about 1925 or 1930. When it comes out of the envelope, it is a rather boring shaded blue mailbox. When opened, it reveals its purpose with a cupid putting a letter into a mailbox attached to a pole. The poem reads, "What more can I do, What more can I say, Than to tell you I love you, This Valentine's day." And to keep the recipient guessing, it is signed, "from Guess Who."
Since St. Valentine was a 3th century Roman priest, this clever illustrator close to dress him in a white linen monk's robes while carrying a shepherd's crook. This stand-up die-cut card doesn't even need to say it is a Valentine greeting, the saint's huge red heart says it all. This card was published in the 1920s.
Another stand-up die-cut card from the 1920s. but of a different construction than most. It is made of three separate sections of color printed pasteboard. The front shows a beautiful little girl's face encircled by pedals. Sandwiched between the front cover (and the back) is a huge violet on a lace-printed heart that is attached to the backboard. The back represents a large flower bordered heart with tiny dancing cupids and a tell-tale arrow. The card is like a little accordion, each separate section pulls out only an inch. There is a folding standard, on the back. Each card seems to be an individual Valentine. It is hard to tell if this was made by an insistent lover or is a commercial creation.
This young lady looks like she is stepping into an 18th century French garden. Though sent in a February in the 1920s, this cut-out die-cut, stand-up card suggests a summer garden with roses. Spring and summer have always been seasons of love, as have roses been long associated with passion. The card's caption reads: "For my Valentine, The rose is very sweet, it is true, But not so sweet, as you". This is one of the few cards from this period that has a manufacture's name print on it. It was published in Bavaria for E.P. Dutton & Co., NY.