St. Valentine was a priest living in Rome in the third century. Marriages were banned under Emperor Claudius II and it is thought that Valentine arranged marriages in secret. The story goes that he sent the woman he loved a letter signed “from your Valentine” on February 14, the day of his execution. So on this day I wanted to show you my vintage Valentine collection.
When I was 13 or 14 we visited my mother’s uncle after his wife passed away and soon after a package arrived in the mail for me. It contained these Valentines and some of my great aunt’s things. Fred and Marjorie were married for over 50 years and he always gave her a Valentine’s Day card. These particular ones were sent during their courtship. The ones that have dates range from 1920 to 1930. I think they are quite wonderful and hope you will too.
This is the oldest one in the collection, from 1920. It looks the most like modern day cards. The others are much more ornate but this one has a simple elegance that I like. The red ribbon is silk and still quite a vibrant colour.
I wonder if this card was sent before they became an item:
Good Wishes on Valentines Day
The lovers think they own this day, perhaps they really do,
But it seems to me there ought to be a place for Friendship too;
So I’m going to steal a corner of the day old friend of mine,
To send you my good wishes by dear old St. Valentine.
And he signed it From W.C.W., his initials. W was for Wilfred.
This next one isn’t signed or dated.
This marks the first of the three dimensional cut out cards. These cards are beautiful closed or open. The message is simple – To my Valentine – and is the only sentiment on the card. But really the card speaks for itself.
I love the surprise of the bird with its beak resting on a white envelope, and the castle in the distance with the rolling hills, which is only hinted at when the card is closed. And the attention to detail is astounding – look at the tip of the sword the young man is sporting on the left. Fantastic.
Another stunning example, this time with daisies being the flower of choice. According to canadianflowerdelivery.com daisies are the embodiment of purity and innocence, swearing a loyalty to love and a commitment to shared secrecy. The inscription says To Marjorie From Fred, 1922.
I guess what is truly astounding is that something so old is so wonderfully preserved. The colours are still vibrant and the paper still stands up. Very delicate but tough at the same time. I have been very careful since receiving them in 1983 or 1984 to keep them in archival envelopes and I rarely take them out. So writing this post was a treat for me too!
I think this one is my favourite. I love how the angel, Cupid I guess, is descending the stairs, scattering roses as the maiden descends. The maiden is gazing at the lovebirds on the left, and her hand is holding actual string that is attached to the larger white birds on the right. The envelope for this one must have been huge. I have two of the envelopes Marjorie received, you can see them lying on the desk, but I’m not sure which envelope goes with which because the dates have long since faded.
This one opens like a modern-day card but the front is definitely not something you would find in Hallmark! There are actually four layers of paper cut outs here. I’m in love with the lacy white overlay. But in this photo I realized you can’t actually see the charming couple in the middle of the overlay, so…..
There they are! So cute. The paper fasteners between the layers have lost a bit of their stiffness but we still get the idea. It must have been magical when it was brand new.
Look at his handwriting! He was probably using a fountain pen.
The reference to “Dan Cupid” means “Lord Cupid” according to my quick internet research, from the Latin Dominus. Cupid looks exhausted from shooting arrows, and very pleased with himself.
Here you can see a bit more of the envelopes I mentioned earlier. And this Valentine is another example of the paper cut-out tradition, this time from 1923.
In this example the flowers are not as intricately cut out as the lacy one, or even the daisy festooned flying chariot example. But it is still charming and the colours remain true.
Love brings sunshine to the heart,
May yours in mine such joy impart.
And finally we come to my last Valentine, this one from 1930.
Absolutely bursting with roses!
Here we see Cupid with his be-ribboned heart, with a tiny letter attached, inscribed “Valentine’s Greetings”. The cuts are so intricate, the leaves of the roses but also the ribbons on the heart.
And on the back of this one we find my great uncle’s message to me. Midge was her nickname and how I was introduced to her years before. I believe he was in his late 80s when he sent these to me. He died a short time later.Here is the man himself, which he included in the package. On it he wrote another message to me: “I found this in a book taken in Scotland in 1917 when I was on leave. Do you like it. All the girls like me not the picture.”
I liked it very much indeed Uncle Fred, and I will never part with them.
Happy Valentine’s Day everyone.