Cards for Valentine's Day Become a Tradition in the 1800s

donna

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Since tomorrow is Valentine's Day, thought I write some interesting facts about the cards. According to legend, an English Valentine received by Esther A. Howland in Massachusetts inspired the beginnings of the American Valentine industry.

Esther who was a student at Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts began making Valentine cards after she received a card produced by an English Company. Her father was a stationer and she began selling the cards in his store. The business grew and she soon hired friends to help her make the cards. Soon the hometown of Worcester became the center of the American Valentine production.

By the mid-1800s the sending of manufactured Valentine's Day cards was very popular. It flourished through the Civil War years and beyond. In the late 1860s most Valentines were modestly priced and targeted a mass audience.

The Kansas Historical Society has a great article on three examples of cards sent during the Civil War. It is at http://www.kshs.org/p/cool-things-civil-war-valentines/10346


The three cards pictured were sent by Joseph Forrest to Elizabeth Ehrhart during the Civil War. They were both residents of Macon County. Illinois who had become engaged in 1858. They delayed their marriage because of Elizabeth's young age, and then because the war broke out. Joseph had enlisted on July 25, 1861 and was mustered into service in Company A of the Eighth Illinois Volunteer Infantry. They finally married in August, 1863.

The Eighth Illinois saw much action during the war. It was involved at battles of Shiloh and Corinth and Vicksburg. Joseph was wounded and recovered at a hospital in New Orleans. The couple's first child was born there but died shortly after birth. Joseph was finally honorably discharged at Marshall, Texas on July, 1865. Four more children were born to the Forrests. They moved to Kansas in 1872. He became a Methodist minister. Joseph always suffered poor health from the wounds he had received during the war and died in 1875 at age 35. Elizabeth died in 1920.
 

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donna

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This past Saturday, Feb. 8th, Shiloh National Military Park was presenting program for children on Valentine's Day. Children were given opportunity to gain insight into the history of Valentine's Day, Valentine keepsakes, and how soldiers celebrated the holiday during the Civil war. "In the early 1800s most Valentine cards and keepsakes were handmade. The cards during Civil war combined sentiments of patriotism, love, duty, and loss. The keepsakes appealed to the soldiers who were far away from their loved ones, and were cherished when received in camp."

"A particular type of keepsake was the puzzle purse, which is an intricately folded piece of paper that reveals a love message, or another Valentine surprise." The park was going to have each child construct a Civil War Valentine puzzle purse.



From" http://www.natcheztracetravel.com/festivals-events/details/286-a-civil-war-valentine.html
 

donna

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Another informative article on Valentine cards during Civil War is at:

http://qconline.com/archives/qco/print_display.php?id=425509

The article states: "At some point during the Civil War period "Puzzle Purses" Valentine cards appeared. They were square envelopes with four flaps that were folded one inside the other. Each flap was doubled over and often times was artistically decorated on both sides. Many times the puzzle contained a ring, a piece of jewelry, or a lock of the lover's hair. The receiver found it was tricky not only to be able to read the messages in their correct order, but also to fold all the flaps back up correctly. Some of these Valentines were quite expensive. They could cost $100 or more."

The article goes on to state: "In 1862, the New York City Post Office delivered 21, 260 Valentine cards. In 1864 the post office there delivered 15,924 and in 1865 as the Civil War ended the post office delivered 66,000. By 1866 the number of cards delivered in the city was 86,000."
 

donna

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So I would suggest to all that you should get your Valentine Day cards out to loved ones and friends. They can be handmade as they were in olden days or a beautiful store bought one. I have been sending Valentine cards since I was a small child. I feel they express love and remembrance of family and friends. Of course, there should be that special one for your spouse or girlfriend or boyfriend. My husband always gets me such beautiful ones with a very special message. They become keepsakes for years.
 

donna

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Some more history on Valentine's Day.

The St. Valentine popularly believed to be the true patron saint of lovers and the help of those unhappy in love was a young Roman priest in the days of Emperor Claudius. Claudius finding it difficult to induce married men into the military, passed a law against marriage. Valentine performed marriages in secret. He was caught and executed (beheaded) on February 14, 269 or 270 A.D.

The Christian holiday was popular in England and became time of exchanging love messages and tokens. Samuel Pepys commented in his famous diary on Valentine's Day. 1667. He wrote that his wife had given him a fine ring. While the wealthy gave jewels, for others a simple bouquet sufficed to convey the love messages. As time went on, parties and balls were given on Valentine's Day.

As stated in earlier post, the first commercial valentines came out around 1800. Esther Howland of Massachusetts was making valentines of imported laces and fine papers around 1830. Her business is said to have made for her about $100,000 a year.

From: "The Southern Heritage Celebrations Cookbook", "St. Valentine's Day", page 27.
 

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Excerp from a 2012 Washinton Times article:
http://communities.washingtontimes.com/neighborhood/civil-war/2012/feb/13/civil-war-valentines-sweethearts-front-lines/

History of the Civil War Valentines
By the beginning of the Civil War, the country had many plants manufacturing cards, and the target buying group was the soldier away from home. Some showed pictures of sweethearts parting, some actually showed a battlefield tent with its flaps open to show a soldier writing a missive.

Some came in the form of a puzzle by folding the four corners of the envelope inward, and writing a message on the inside of each flap. It was left to the recipient to figure out the folding and thus retrieve the message!

The Museum of History in Kansas has among its holdings, a beautiful Valentine sent during the Civil War, and one assumes that the lonely soldier was the author of the message:

“MY LOVE
‘Mid bugle’s blast and cannon’s roar,
And ‘mid the battle’s angry flame;
‘Mid clashing sabres red with gore,
I fondly breathe thy much-loved name.

I feel thee near at dead of night,
When I my vigil lone am keeping —
Thy image guards me, angel bright,
In dreams when wearied I am sleeping,

Each northward wind wafts on its breath,
To thee a yearning kiss of mine —
On glory’s field or bed of death,
I live or die thy Valentine.”
 

donna

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Even though Valentine's Day several days away, thought bring this thread back up. There was question on Valentine cards.

Please add any pictures you find of old cards.
 


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