Last year, our good friend Linda gave us a beautiful present – a collection of old Victorian Greeting cards. According to the inscriptions on them, they were the collection of a woman named “Margaret.” We thought today would be a great day to share the Valentines Cards Margaret received with you, and also share a little research we conducted on them with the help of our good friends from Hallmark. (See photos and story from a previous visit to the Hallmark headquarters and archives
here.) Hallmark is one of our favorite American companies…any time we have a history question, they research and get back to us the same day. We heart them (Valentine’s pun intended.)
Click through the slide show below to learn more about the Victorian Era greeting cards in our collection. Many many thanks Linda for sharing such a beautiful gift with us, and also to Sharman Roberts,
Image Collection Manager, Hallmark Archives, for answering our questions about Margaret’s cards. Please echo our thanks to them in the comments section below.
Each of our cards was inscribed simply with “Margaret.”
Why wasn’t there any additional handwritten message? Before the advent of commercial cards, folks handmade their greetings, and if they weren’t poetic enough to come up with their own love notes, they copied sample verse from a “Valentine’s Reader.” But once premade cards were available for purchase, with printed verse already on them, there would be no reason to add your own greetings. Back then, a commercial card was valued more than a handmade card, if only for the expense and novelty of it.
These cards are from the 1880s. Notice the layers and similar shape cut outs…
We asked Sharman from Hallmark whether they were assembled from some sort of kit…
Sharman sent us this image of a commercial card from the 1840s-1850s. While it is a commercial card, all of the pieces – the silver, the lace paper, the attachments were cut by hand and hand-assembled.
By the 1880s, machinery had been developed to stamp cut and print the different layers, resulting in a much coarser look. They’re still assembled by hand, but the individual layers are nowhere near as fine as the entirely hand-crafted example sent by Sharman.
The insides of the cards were printed in only one color and aren’t terribly decorative.
More layered cards.
Some of the printed illustrations are very lovely.
Here’s an semi-intricate die-cut card. Sharman explained that because the illiteracy rate was still fairly high, the symbols like flower and bird species spoke more than the words. In this case, daisies would have indicated Innocence, loyal love & purity.
These cards were produced nearer to the turn of the century. More symbolism. The center card features sparrows, a symbol of gentle companionship. The left card features what is likely a species of Rue Anemone, which would symbolize unfading love.
The border of this card shows white and blue wild violets. The blue violets would symbolize true love, while the white ones indicate modesty.
This Valentine’s card features a poem attributed to English Poet Winthrop Mackworth Praed.
This is a later card as well, featuring a beautiful woman surrounded by pink wild roses…symbolizing grace.
This cover model is clearly pining for her Valentine.
The victorian typography is beautifully ornate. This vine-like typography incorporates both violets (true love) and ivy (endurance.)
This beautiful folded card features pink Forget-Me-Nots (true love) and Periwinkle (friendship)
An even more intricately folded card.
The inscription on this silly Valentine’s Day card reads: “If you say ‘no’ and let me loose, you will be a great big goose.”
This is the “newest” card of the collection. The Raphael Tuck & Sons Co was based in England with a branch in NYC. The company’s founder, Raphael, was a marketing genius. Beginning in 1900 he sponsored postcard collectors competitions, awards large prizes to the person who collected the most Tuck postcards sent through the mail. These competitions contributed to the “postcard boon” of the early 20th century.
Was this the last Valentines Card Margaret ever received? Nope…this post is our Valentine to her. Happy Valentine’s Day, Margaret.