Collection of antique Valentines explores expressions of love over three centuries

Posted On Wed, February 14, 2018 By

Posted On Wed, February 14, 2018 By In Art, holidays

Fold-open Valentine card, German (1900); courtesy of The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens

While a simple and perhaps less swanky gesture than diamonds and roses, a Valentine’s Day card remains one of the most popular ways to say “I love you” every February 14. This year Americans will exchange about 190 million greeting cards during the holiday, spending nearly $1 billion on them. A collection of antique paper Valentines from The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens proves this is not a 21st-century phenomenon. The museum, located in San Marino, CA, acquired a collection of about 12,300 romantic greeting cards, sentimental notes and drawings made in Europe and North America from 1684 to 1970 (h/t NY Times). A historian from New Jersey, Nancy Rosin, put together the impressive collection of cards over four decades and her family recently donated them to the museum.


A cobweb Valentine that pulls into a cone shape (1845); courtesy of The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens

valentines day cards, paper valentines, huntington library
Devotional card with Saint Maria, European (1750) Nuns in the 18th century created and sold handmade, lacy devotional cards to raise money for the church and for humanitarian causes; courtesy of The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens

valentines day cards, paper valentines, huntington library
Franktur labyrinth Pennsylvania-German folk art (1824) The endless knot design features classic Pennsylvania-German motifs like hearts, tulips and compass roses as a token of affection; courtesy of The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens

valentines day cards, paper valentines, huntington library

valentines day cards, paper valentines, huntington library
Cobweb valentine card, probably British (ca. 1830-1860), Pull a string attached to the castle, the cobweb device lifts it up and reveals a mouse in a trap; courtesy of The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens

valentines day cards, paper valentines, huntington library

valentines day cards, paper valentines, huntington library
Civil War Valentine, American (Feb. 14, 1863). Tent flaps open to reveal soldier composing love letter while envisioning his beloved; courtesy of The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens

valentines day cards, paper valentines, huntington library
Devotional card, “Couronne de Douleurs Couronne de Gloire” or Crown of Sorrows Crown of Glory, Paris (ca. 1847-1860) An engraved image on lace paper with die-cut and gilded scraps, tissue and dried flowers; courtesy of The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens

valentines day cards, paper valentines, huntington library

valentines day cards, paper valentines, huntington library
“Vinegar” Valentine card, American (1855); Lift the church lady to reveal the wicked sinner. Inside: “On each Sunday morning to church you repair, And turn up your nose with a sanctified air, But see you at home what a different sight, As you read nasty books and drink gin half the night, While you ne’er give poor people enough for a dinner, You hypocritical wicked old Sinner”; courtesy of The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens


Created by Esther Howland (1855) Reads: “I’ll get married but not to you.”; courtesy of The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens


Created by Elizabeth Cobbold, British (1810); courtesy of The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens


Folds open into a 3D train, German (1900); courtesy of The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens

[Via NY Times]

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All images courtesy of the Nancy and Henry Rosin Collection of Valentine, Friendship, and Devotional Ephemera via The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens

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