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History Blog

February 12, 2013

Documents: Valentine Greetings

by Carolyn Wakeman

Feature Photo (above): Valentine, ca. 1910. LHSA

Valentines exchanged and collected in Old Lyme express romantic yearning, enduring friendship, and marital devotion. The earliest Valentine greetings in the Archives’ collection date from the 1850s. By the 1910s the elaborately decorated hand-made Valentines popular during the Victorian era had been replaced by smaller and less ornate printed cards and postcards.

Made from a sheet of cotton lace, this Valentine, dated Feb. 14th, 1851, carries the hand-written inscription “Darling!” on its paper floral centerpiece.

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“Darling” Valentine, 1851. LHSA

This delicately wrought Valentine made from cotton lace glued to a paper endsheet is embellished with colorful cut-out paper flowers glued to the corners and an embossed floral bouquet inset at the center. It includes a hand-written verse to “Charlie.”

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Cotton lace Valentine. LHSA

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Verse written to “Charlie” inside. LHSA

This printed Valentine, dated February 1852, expresses marital devotion. It features a curtain adorned with softly colored roses and turtledoves that lifts to reveal a black and white scene of domestic happiness. Beneath the flap, a wife washes clothes in a wooden tub beside an infant’s cradle while a husband rocks a young child before the fire.

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Valentine, 1852. LHSA

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Valentine open to show family scene and verse, 1852. LHSA.

Colorful cut-outs and paper lace over shiny backgrounds of red and green decorate these handmade children’s Valentines given on February 14, 1876, to Abbie Coult (1869–1919). The daughter of William E. and Ernestina Coult, Abbie lived in Tantammahaeg and attended the Lyme Academy.

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“Abbie from Willie,” 1876. LHSA

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“To Abbie from Lawnie,” 1876. LHSA

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Verse inside Valentine to Abbie Coult from Lawnie, 1876. LHSA

This unfinished Valentine, its embossed paper not yet decorated, shows a hand-made greeting card, ca. 1865, in process. Apparently the writer did not leave enough space for the third stanza of the message. A spray of cornflowers or a pair of turtledoves with the message “Truly Thine” might have accompanied its hand-written verses.

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Unfinished Valentine, ca. 1865. LHSA

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Cornflower cut-out for use on Valentine. LHSA

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“Truly Thine” cut-out for use on Valentine. LHSA

This child’s Valentine, mailed to Master Chas. Chadwick (b. 1874) in Brooklyn ca. 1880, was printed at the Fine Arts Works in Germany for Raphael Tuck & Sons Ltd. as a part of its “Artistic Series.” Labeled “With Love” on the front, the card contains a poem, “To my little sweetheart,” by H.M. Burnside. The eldest son of Old Lyme native Charles Noyes Chadwick (1849–1920), Charlie left his Brooklyn home each summer to vacation on Ferry Road.

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Valentine for Master Charles Chadwick, ca. 1880. LHSA

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Valentine for Master Chas. Chadwick, ca. 1880. LHSA

Three layers of ornamental gilt, paper lace, and brightly colored cut-outs decorate these elaborate hand-made Valentines, ca. 1885, given to Charlie’s siblings Mary and George Chadwick. Pencil notations on the back of each state: “Mary from Sarah” and “George.” Accordian-folded paper between the layers of decoration would have given the cards a three-dimensional quality. George’s card includes the verse, “Valentine’s Day is come, and you/ Would enjoy it in mirth and glee;/ The little friend who sends you this/ Hopes you’ll enjoy it merrily.”

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Valentine for Mary Chadwick from Sarah, ca. 1885.LHSA

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“Love’s Offering” Valentine for George Chadwick, ca. 1885. LHSA

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Embossed envelope for George Chadwick Valentine, ca. 1885. LHSA

This ornate Valentine printed in Germany ca. 1885 and sent “To Shirley from Uncle Alby” opens to display Cupid in three dimensions surrounded by hearts and roses atop a fanned-out red tissue paper rosette.

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“To Shirley from Uncle Alby,” ca. 1885. LHSA

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Valentine open to show three layers. LHSA.

In the 1880s elaborate hand-made Valentines featured precisely detailed and boldly sentimentalized cut-outs of Cupids or fashionably dressed children glued atop multiple layers of colored paper and patterned lace.

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Valentine cut-out, 1880s. LHSA

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Valentine cut-out, 1880s. LHSA

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Valentine cut-out, 1880s. LHSA

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Valentine cut-out, 1880s. LHSA

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Valentine cut-out, 1880s. LHSA

Printed Valentines were mass produced using stock images in the 1910s, both as postcards and as small, simplified greeting notes. The elaborate verses and intricate ornamentation of the late 19th-century had passed out of fashion.

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“Valentine, Think of Me,” postcard, ca. 1910. LHSA

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“My Love to You,” postcard to “Miss Chadwick,” 1910. LHSA

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Valentine postcard, ca. 1910. LHSA

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Valentine, ca. 1910. LHSA