Victorian Postcards for your Valentine
Ruth O. and Rammy S.
“If you are a marksman true, / Cupid will appear to you.”
“Hit the target, darling mine, / Then you’ll be my valentine.”
While these cheesy yet sentimental lines could easily turn up in any Hallmark card this Valentine’s Day, they are actually from a 1906 Vogue magazine (New York) courtesy of E. P. Dutton & Co. The tradition of exchanging cards on Valentine’s Day reaches back to the mid-19th century. The commercialization of this holiday can also be traced back to this period and to the establishment of the “Penny Post” in 1840. As the British postal industry adopted prepaid postage stamps that could reach anywhere in the country for one cent, companies began to mass-produce Valentine’s Day cards. The Penny Post made exchanging these holiday greetings affordable and convenient for all.
In 1886, sending Valentine’s gifts and cards became so popular that the Postmaster-General in London issued a notice requesting that individuals mail their Valentines early on the 13th to ensure timely delivery. One Post Office Notice encouraged gifts such as cut flowers or confectionery to be carefully wrapped “so as to secure them from injury during transit.”
By 1903, the trend was to send leather postcards to one’s sweetheart. The most popular leather cards were made by W.S. Heal. His cards contained humorous and romantic messages. Images were burned on these leather postcards with colour added afterward. Thanks to the thickness of these leather love-notes, the trend came and went quickly as they jammed postage machines. The US post office banned them in 1907.
The legacy of leather postcards and their romantic notions live on in Dalnavert’s collection. Here are some of our favourites: