Collection of poetic Valentine's Day Cards.

[USA: 1870-1900] Stock Code: 143932
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A charming collection, in remarkable condition, of eight poetic Victorian Valentine's Day cards, exemplifying the popularisation and commercialisation of the romantic uses of poetry in this period, and the creation of what we know as the Valentine's Day card today.

The Valentine's Day card phenomenon can be accredited largely to two key players: Esther Howland of the stationer S. A. Howland & Sons, who popularised the use of lace, flowers, and colour papers in cards having received a Valentine's sent from the UK decorated in English lace in 1848; and George Whitney, who founded the Whitney Valentine Company in 1865, introduced the idea of printing a poetic verse inside the card, and purchased the Howland company in 1881. At this point Whitney began to out source production to Europe, in particular Germany, where developments in printing had progressed far faster than in America. In doing so, he was able to increase production by thousands of cards each day, lowering the cost and allowing affordable Valentine's to flood the market. The majority of the examples here are early examples by by George Whitney, with his "W" printer's mark to the rear.

i Peep-through Music Scene. Worcester: Whitney, c. 1880 Small-scale layered and lace paper valentine, the centre showing through to a scene of man playing a keyboard instrument and a lady about to sing, sticker of bird and reading "Faith and love" to lace border; printed "W" to verso being an early mark of George Whitney. Verse to inside, printed in green, reads: Music "Music, with its magic powers, adds new charm to every hour, soothes and lulls the heart to rest, makes our life refined and blest". A wonderful example of an early George Whitney card. Whitney was one of the leading manufacturers of Valentine's cards at the turn of the century. Bearing the company motto "Industry, punctuality, and Christianity" they profited from the increased sentimentality caused by the trauma of the American Civil War, and spanned almost 80 years of production, finally closing their doors in 1942.

ii Layered Valentine with floral theme. 1891 Pink and silvered paper overlaid with printed floral paper and third layer of silvered lace paper backed with red inserts, cut through design showing a motif: "From a fond heart faithful and true" with flower design. Contemporary inscription in pencil to rear "Grace Luther from Eddie J. 1891". Verse inside reads: "Sweet as a daisy, and fair as a star; Dear as the dearest, of little maids are. Fresh as the morning and bright as the sun; You are of maidens, the loveliest one". This card has no makers mark, however, it is typical of the examples being produced across America in the 1880s and 90s.

iii Country Scene with Layered Papers. Worcester: Whitney, 1880 Printed in pink and gold, overlaid with paper printed in mauve and an intricate lace flower border with stickers reading "Love's offering" and "I think of thee", cut-through design to small cliff side scene with couple. Contemporary pencil inscription "Louisa" to rear and printed "W" denoting the publisher as George Whitney. Inside the card reads: "Oh! Heaving, ebbing, surging sea, this is the thought thou bringest to me;- Restless, unquiet life's brief tide, rest only is found at my loved one's side". An early Whitney card. Like other companies of the same period, Whitney imported the intricate lace papers seen in this example from England. Later, keen to cut the costs of shipping, he would go on to develop his own lace paper machinery in Worcester, Massachusetts. This move would be one of the contributing factors to his success.

iv "Sweet Memory!" c. 1880 Layered with yellow, green and pink textured paper overlaid with lace paper cut-through showing a figure in bonnet holding flowers to the centre, two pansy motifs to lace paper. Contemporary pen inscription "To Myrtie Hiyley" to rear. A lovely example of a later Victorian card featuring verse by an unknown poet alongside a printed scene, possibly replicated from an English watercolourist, reading: "When Spring returns with bud and leaf, And birds make music far and wide, The joyous season seems too brief And passing like the ebbing tide. I love the springtide sun and light, I love the flowers and the birds, But oh, for thy sweet face so bright And thy melodious loving words!".

v Motif with Kissing Couple. c. 1900 Textured paper with central motif showing a kissing couple mounted onto lilac and brown embossed paper, verse and printed flower design inside, matching brown "E" printed to rear, possibly denoting a maker's mark. This design may have been intended for a personalised message as the central motif is only attached at the bottom, leaving a blank space behind for a hidden note. Interior verse reads: "The blush of the morn, The stars of the night, Everything lovely, And holy, and bright, Speaks to my heart, Oh dear one! of thee; Sunlight and starlight Thou art unto me".

vi Forget-Me-Not. New York: The Art Lithographic Publishing Co., c. 1900 Tall string-bound booklet, pp. 12. Textured front cover with chromolithograph and die-cut pansy design, title in gilt to front cover. Title page printed in gold, text in blue, with 3 full-colour illustrations. A lovely "Valentine's writer" from the late Victorian period, comparing the sender's love to a flower: "For though the flower may perish in this cold world of woe, the ardent love I cherish survives the frost and snow!".

vii Paper Lace with Ship. Worcester: Whitney, c. 1870 Intricate lace paper design showing a ship, cherubs, and various garlands, small gilt paper design attached to bottom edge, backed with yellow, blue, and red papers, with a turquoise insert, paper maker's mark faintly embossed to spine ridge of card, small printed verse attached inside, "W" to rear being an early mark of George Whitney. Verse reads: "The Faithful Heart: Dearest love, believe me though all else depart, naught shall e'er deceive thee, in this faithful heart!". This lace paper was likely imported from England. Judging from the design of paper, and the earlier style of Whitney logo, a red "W" to match his biggest competitor at the time, Esther Howland's "H", we believe this card to have been produced around 1870, and is therefore thought to be the earliest example in the collection.

viii Lace and Layered Paper Card with Cherub. 1880 Lace paper with cut-out yellow tissue circle bordered with gold trim paper, cut-out verse pasted inside. Contemporary inscription in pencil to rear and inside recto, "Miss Raymond". Verse inside reads: "Good night? Ah! No; the hour is ill which severs those it should unite; Let us remain together still, then it will be indeed good night".

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8 cards of embossed paper, the majority overlaid with intricate lace paper designs. Various sizes: 2 of which 150 x 95 mm; 2 of which 120 x 160 mm; 125 x 90 mm; 170 x 80 mm; 60 x 80 mm; 75 x 95 mm.


Minor creasing to edges, a couple of instances of tape residue stains, never affecting image; overall a notably well-preserved collection in very good condition.


Michele Karl, Greetings with Love: The Book of Valentines (2003).


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