“I’m Wearing My Heart Away for You,” 1908.


Valentine Memories

Exchanging valentines among schoolmates was always a fun way to chase away winter doldrums. Perhaps sweet notes from History Colorado’s Collection will inspire you to send your own fond messages and brighten someone’s Valentine’s Day!

Heart Throbs, painted by Paul Gregg

Heart Throbs, painted by Paul Gregg in 1943.

History Colorado, 88.64.377

As a student, returning to school in January after the holiday break was always really hard. (It’s hard as an adult too!) I remember my excitement as the January lull soon gave way to February events. There might be a dance or a President’s Day field trip, but the big excitement was always Valentine’s Day card exchanges! I spent a lot of time crafting my shoebox to receive cards. Not to mention spending nights strategizing which Thundercat valentines to give to which classmates, and practicing my penmanship to make it perfect.  

Valentine’s Day traces back to stories of Roman and pagan traditions related to lovers, rituals, fertility—and sometimes death and sacrifice. The rise of Christianity changed the meaning of these traditions but the Valentine’s Day celebration retained certain elements that still exist today—like the mid-February date, and the deep connection to love. The element of love is conjured in early valentine letters and poems like Geoffrey Chaucer’s mention in his 1375 Parlement of Foules poem, love letters from an imprisoned Charles d’Orléans, or even in Shakespeare’s Hamlet. 

Handwritten notes or tokens of affection were standard up through the 1700s, a hand-made tradition of exchange with family and friends. Less expensive postage rates and industrialization’s evolving printing and manufacturing technologies bolstered popularity for valentines, especially in Britain with America closely following.

Hallmark Valentine's Card

Ornate stand-up valentine “For a Special Friend,” created by Hallmark Cards, Inc. between 1930–1950.

History Colorado, 2002.154.9

In the 1840s, Esther Howland became the American ‘Mother of the Valentine’ and started making the ornate billets-doux with lace and ribbons that we recognize from Victorian times. Valentines eventually were mass-produced and commercialized, a trend that continues today. Household names like Hallmark, which started producing valentines by the mid-1910s as the Hall Brothers, now boast that more than 145 million valentines are exchanged annually.

While there are no Thundercat valentines in the History Colorado Collection, there are plenty of wonderful ones  to enjoy. Hopefully browsing through these examples brings fond memories of your Valentine’s Day traditions. And if you’re feeling inspired to be creative, have fun coloring some old valentines or making your own valentines.  

I’m sure we all have someone that would enjoy a special note or sweet treat!

Flowers and Sweet Sentiments

A Valentine's Day card decorated with flowers.

This card was made between 1890-1930. Its inside inscription reads: “Through life's sunshine and its rain; Through its pleasure and its pain; Loving ever thee alone, My true heart is all thine own.”

History Colorado, 85.114.87
A valentine card depicting rabbits, with the word "Mom" in a heart.

Inside the card reads: “Because you're ‘sew’ ‘darned’ wonderful / In everything you do / Mom, this Valentine just ‘seamed’ / To be ‘cut-out’ for YOU.” Produced by Hallmark Cards, Inc. between 1975-1985.

History Colorado, 88.70.12.A
A valentine card covered in flowers.

Printed inside this card is the poem: “Love's Offering / To well do I know you to doubt of your love / So I send you on Valentine's - day / My missive to show that I also am true / As I shall be forever and aye!” Produced around the 1900s.

History Colorado, 99.270.519
A Valentine's Day card in the shape of a heart.

Handwritten on the back in pencil: “Juanita Roszell / Feb. 14, 1911.”

History Colorado, 2000.141.76
A hand-made Valentine card reading: "A Valentine with love for my Mother."

Printed inside: “My precious One, I love you dearly / But I don't need to tell you so, / And you don't need to say you love me / Because it's something that I know / Our love is so much deeper than tender phrases can impart / We've come to realize its language is spoken best from heart / to heart!” and “From Louise, 1945.”

History Colorado, 2002.154.7

Admire more notes from the heart by clicking on these links:

A Card of Character” and “With kindest regards,” “To Mrs. Oram” and “On dainties so fine,” “As sure as grass grows,” and one that is easel-y a winner.


Crazy for Cats and Dogs

A valentine card depicting a terrier puppy. It reads: "My valentine. Do I stand a chance?"

Inscribed simply “Danette” on the back.

History Colorado, 80.230.102.S
A glittery valentine card depicting a cat. It reads: "You make me roar with joy."

“You make me roar with joy,” produced around 1955–1965.

History Colorado, 2003.68.1
I'll meet all comers for the title of "Your Valentine."

Signed “Donald Hagarman.”

History Colorado, 80.230.102.T
A Valentine card depicting a girl looking around a door. It reads: "Peek-a-boo! A valentine for you!"

Handwriting inside the card reads “Happy Birthday / Martha,” made around the 1920s.

History Colorado, 2005.83.81
“I’m Wearing My Heart Away for You,” 1908.

“I’m Wearing My Heart Away for You,” 1908.

History Colorado, 84.353.3

Cat person? Dog lover? Find more four-legged fun in these valentines: 

To Hans from Thompson,” “​​​​​​​The card that talks,” “String along with me,” “To Grampa,” “...my waggishness is all for you,” and “Sweethearts!


Something a Little Different

A Valentine postcard depicting a boy with a pear for a head. It reads: "We would make a happy [pair]."

Valentine postcard produced by Raphael Tuck & Sons Co, Ltd., 1907.

History Colorado,
"I'm all ears to hear you say you'll be my valentine."

Sometimes the corny valentines are the best.

History Colorado, 80.230.102.F
A valentine card in the shape of a boy holding flowers.

When the tab at the bottom of the shoes is moved left and right, the eyes move back and forth on this mechanical valentine.

History Colorado, 2002.154.78
A valentine card depicting two children in a rocking chair. It reads: "My sweetheart."

“My Sweetheart,” printed in Germany in the 1920s.

History Colorado, 2005.83.47 
"I'm something to crow about. Be my Valentine."

Nothing says Valentine’s Day like chickens.

History Colorado, 80.230.102.XX

Here are a few more unique messages for out-of-the-ordinary valentines!

A smiling clown, for the shopaholic, a cupid cutie, and a goat in the rain.