The Ladies' Tea Guild

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Make your own Victorian Valentine's Day cards!

image from
Although love letters have been written and sent for centuries, Valentine's Day cards, like Christmas cards, originated in England in the 19th century. Sending Valentines to friends and loved ones was almost immediately popular in England and Europe, especially when cheaper postal fees were introduced, and Valentine cards made the trip to America with relative ease. Until the 19th century, all Valentines -- whether sent on Valentine's Day or as a love token during the rest of the year -- were hand-made individually by their sender. Homemade valentine cards were made from paper doilies, red paper, ribbon, bits of lace, and pictures cut from magazines and newspapers.

Although many people still preferred to make them at home, valentines were available commercially in the early 1800s. Early Valentine's Day greeting cards could double as Christmas greeting cards, with a simple change of printed text. Both homemade and purchased cards often featured scenes and verses about brokenhearted lovers, unrequited love, and lovers kept apart by unsympathetic parents, long distances or, in the 1860s, the Civil War. One of the first American Valentine’s Day card manufacturers was a woman named Esther A. Howland, who, in 1847, began to copy an English card she had seen. She made samples of different designs, took orders from stores, hired local women to make them assembly-line style for sale, and built a business that eventually brought in $100,000 per year.

With the growing popularity of scrapbooking, there are a myriad of wonderful stamps, stickers, and decorative "scrap" paper in a Victorian style, featuring flowers, children, angels, pretty women, and other appropriate motifs. These, combined with red, pink, and white paper, white, red and gold lace and doilies, and ribbons, can be glued and arranged into delightful Victorian decorations for the home, and even used as their predecessors were: as love tokens.

-- Sources include The World Book Encyclopedia, From Your Valentine: Valentines from the Past, by Roselynn Ederer, The Etiquette of Love and Courtship, by Copper Beech Publishing, edited by Julie Lessels, and Manners & Morals of Yesterday, by Sam Tuttle.


Marilyn Miller said...

Love the old Victorian cards. I made my valentine his valentine this year. It was so much fun.

South Bay Ladies' Tea Guild said...

Yes, the old ones are so pretty. We did pretty well today with an assortment of Victorian-style stickers and scrapbooking supplies, plus the Victorian Valentine kit from Victorian Trading Company.

Now stir the fire, and close the shutters fast,
Let fall the curtains, wheel the sofa round,
And, while the bubbling and loud-hissing urn
Throws up a steamy column, and the cups
That cheer but not inebriate, wait on each,
So let us welcome peaceful evening in.
-- William Cowper (1731-1800)
"The Winter Evening" (Book Four), _The Task_ (1784)