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