19th and 20th Century Valentines
by Anita Mae Draper
February is the month we pay homage to earthly love with red hearts, and cupids with bows. We send Valentine cards by mail, on line, and by hand - especially if you have kids with homemade Valentine collection boxes.
But whatever happened to those cute little Valentines we used to send? They're hard to find amid the proliferation of licensed characters from well-known movies. I have to admit that I don't understand what Batman, Spiderman, etc have to do with love - earthly or otherwise, but I'm sure their creators' hearts are in the right place. You think?
Want a closer look at the Valentine cards you see here? Click on the images and you'll be taken to the McCord Museum website where you can zoomify the designs to your heart's content.
We've come a long way from the lace and feathers that decorated the Valentine cards of old. This year, I long to look back at those frilly, elaborate cards, and so chose the online website of the © McCordMuseum where Dorothy Cushing of Montreal donated her 120-card collection to share with us. Come along and share the journey as I travel back to the years between 1880 and 1910 or more, and celebrate Valentine's Day with these creative cards.
According to Pamela Miller at the © McCordMuseum, there was a reason these cards became popular: "The embossing process involved pressing the paper against an engraved die. The British papermaker Joseph Addenbrooke discovered by chance that by filing off the raised part of the embossed area he could produce a lacy effect. English lace-paper soon achieved world renown. During the Victorian era, no embellishment was considered too ornate: simple designs on a single sheet of paper had evolved into creations including lace, silk, velvet, feathers and shells. The variety was endless."
Sentiment in above card:
TO MY BELOVED.
Slowly wears the day, love,
When away from thee,
Scenes so gay before, love,
Charm no longer me;
The bower that beguiled, love,
Deck’d with roses fair,
Seems a dreary wild, love,
When thou are not there.
The above 2 cards are examples of a love separated. The first is an example of the cut lace paper effect, while the second uses cut-out paper flowers as embellishment. Because of the ecru coloring of this next card, I thought it was cloth until I took a closer look and realized that it too, was made of paper...
I LOVE THEE STILL.
I love thee stil---I love thee still,
As truly as when first we met,
Ere grief o’er life had breathed its chill,
Or sorrow’s tear my cheek had wet.
I love thee still---I love thee still,
Thy changeless constancy and truth;
Thy name yet wakes pleasures thrill,
Star of my bright and joyous youth.
This next one is a similar design, but with architectural details which includes castle doors that open to reveal the sentiment.
The next one appears to use an embroidery-like design on an open weave fabric as the center, while still using the white paper lace around it. Most of these cards use a layering effect with the lacy paper lying on a base color, and then pictures added as embellishment.
Meanwhile, this next one used a similar, but even more open weave. I like the overall design of this card, even with the heavy gold accents, but I don't like the paper cut-out in the center which seems tacky to me.
This next one is held closed with a ribbon. The sentiment reads:
Oh! Think not I can thee forget;
Thy form can ne'er depart,
And ev'ry word thy lips have breathed,
Are Graven on my heart.
That ribbon makes me wonder, though, if it was needed to keep something hidden inside - like a lock of hair. I'm fairly sure this next one was used for that purpose, since a lock of hair was a Victoria tradition to remember a loved one. The sentiment reads:
There's sunshine on the brook my love!
There's beauty o'er the skies,
But fairer seem thy looks my love,
And brighter are thine eyes.
This next one is an example of a tasteful design using beads and feathers for beauty and interest.
The fringe on this next on, one the other hand, reminds me of a dust mop. Not romantic at all in my way of thinking.
Are you ready for some action? The one below is called a mechanical greeting card because it uses a pull tab to move something - in this case, it moves the boy closer to the girl. The sentiment reads:
YOU AND I
All the world is but a stage,
When love and talent shine,
Oh won't you act the lover's part,
And be my Valentine.
After all those ornate ones, this seems simple, yet I'm guessing it was a stand-up card from the background piece of thick paper.
To My Valentine
A sweetly scented tea - rose this is, And it brings my love and kisses.
And finally, a personal favourite...
Valentines are fun to send to loved ones, but we don't need a piece of paper - embellished and dressed up or otherwise - to let God know we love Him. And we don't need to wait for February to roll around either. God doesn't care for fancy trappings and witty words. Three little words of "I love you" is all it takes to let Him know what's in your heart.
As I looked over each Valentine posted here, I wondered which one you'd like best, and why. So now it's your turn...
Do you like the new or older Valentines? Any of the ones listed here? Why?
Anita Mae Draper is retired from the Canadian Armed Forces and lives on the prairie of southeast Saskatchewan, Canada with her hubby of 30 plus years and 2 of their 4 kids. She writes stories set on the prairies of Saskatchewan, North Dakota, Montana and Wyoming. Anita Mae has semi-finaled in the Historical Romance category of the ACFW's 2011 Genesis contest and finaled in the Inspirational category of the 2011 Daphne du Maurier, the 2011 Fool for Love, the 2011 Duel on the Delta and 2009 Linda Howard Award of Excellence contests. Anita Mae is represented by Mary Keeley of Books and Such Literary Agency. You can find Anita at http://www.anitamaedraper.com/