Victorian Valentine’s The popularity of sending Valentine’s cards greatly increased in the Victorian period, thanks, in part, to the introduction of the Penny Post. Victorian Valentine’s cards were often made of a number of different materials, including lace, fringing, fabric and even human hair, which were layered, one on top of the other, much like a scrap book. Pictures of flowers were popular, as were images of Cupid and hearts. Victorian cards were a lot smaller than those generally on sale today and came in lots of different shapes. Some cards even had elaborate or novelty features like pop ups, music, scent and mechanical components.
‘To My Valentine’ Valentine Card c. 1890
Make your own Here are some beautiful images from Victorian Valentine’s cards in the BPMA’s collection for you to print out, cut out and use to create your very own Victorian inspired Valentine’s card. You could include your own photographs, sketches or memontos to make the cards really personal.
We would love to see how your cards turn out or hear about any interesting cards you’ve sent or received yourself! Tweet us @postalheritage or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. -Joanna Espin, Curator
Sending special letters for Valentine’s day probably dates from the mid-18th century. We have a number of examples of early Valentines in our collection. The idea of choosing a sweetheart on Valentine’s Day may be connected with the idea that 14 February is the date on which birds began mating.
A Valentine’s day featuring an image of a bird.
The name of the day has also been linked to a Christian martyr named Valentine who signed a letter to his jailer’s daughter, with whom he had fallen in love, “from your Valentine.” It was even believed in the eighteenth century that the festival had developed from the Roman Lupercalia (15 February), which celebrated the coming of spring and included fertility rites and the pairing off of women with men by lottery.
A spiteful valentine from c.1814 sent to Thomas Williams Esq., No. 41 Berkley Sqaure. The last line of the verse reads ‘if all men, were like thee – then, I’d sooner die than marry’.
Not all valentines were declarations of love however. We have letters in BPMA’s collection complaining about the sending of insulting and rude Valentines and more particularly about having to pay for them. This is because prior to 1840 and the introduction of uniform penny postage, letters were paid for by the recipient rather than the sender. As such, on Valentine’s day some people with a particular grudge or spite against someone would, anonymously, send rude or grotesque valentines which the receiver would then have to pay for, really adding insult to injury. These have become colloquially known as spiteful or ‘vinegar valentines’. Complaints were made to postmasters requesting refunds for such vinegar valentines.
Poster showing the consequences of missorting, especially on Valentine’s Day
As a variation of this, one of our acquisitions for the museum collection in the past year was a coloured print of a postman delivering letters on Valentine’s Day. Although of a much later date this print shows how the public didn’t always trust the Post Office to deliver their valentines in a prompt and appropriate manner, and postmen were certainly not viewed as potential valentines themselves.
A spiteful/vinegar/comic Valentine or Penny Dreadful.
We hope you all receive nicer Valentines than these!
–Emma Harper, Curator
Posted in Collection
Tagged 18th century, bird, Lupercalia, post, postcard, poster art, postmen, st valentines, valentine card, Valentine's Day, Victorian, vinegar
Throughout the ages people have exchanged love tokens, from bunches of flowers to text messages. Within our collections we hold examples of written and artistic love tokens which have been sent through the post, including Valentines Cards, letters and even special greetings telegrams. Today in honour of St Valentine we have uploaded some of these to Flickr and our new Pinterest profile.
Double cobweb valentine card. French. A chromolithograph card with a gilt border.Tassel pulls to reveal lovers and bride and groom. Message reads ‘Pense a moi’. 19th century (OB1996.86)
In addition to the newly uploaded images we have plenty more about Valentines Day and Valentines Cards online. Further images of Valentines Cards, including some made in our Victorian Valentines workshops, have been collected on Flickr. And you can read more on the story of Valentines Cards and greetings in our online exhibition Valentines Day: Passion Through the Post or in The Peoples Post: Love Letters.
Posted in Archive, Collection
Tagged greetings cards, greetings telegram, love letters, love tokens, st valentines, valentine card, Valentine's Day, Valentine's Day Telegram, Valentines Card, valentines cards