Valentine’s Day Cards


In the United States and many other countries, February is associated with the celebration of Valentine’s Day.  There are many legends about how a Catholic celebration of Saint Valentine, a Roman-era martyr, became a day to celebrate romantic love. That transition happened sometime in the 14th or 15th centuries.

One legend says the Saint Valentine cured his jailer’s daughter of blindness and then, before his execution, sent her a farewell letter signed, “your Valentine.”  This began a tradition of sending letters or cards expressing love on February 14, Valentine’s feast day. As many people had difficulty expressing themselves, the 1797 publication of a book of verses that could be used on a home-made valentine greatly increased the popularity of this tradition in England.

Valentine cards continue to be handmade, especially those made by children for their parents, such as this one from 1913.

Commercially-produced valentines appeared about the same time. They were assembled in factories using real lace and ribbons. In 1847, Massachusetts resident Esther Howland was so taken by one she received that she began importing the materials and producing valentines for sale in the United States.

The museum’s collection includes many Valentines, including the following:

circa 1935
circa 1935

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