Posts Tagged valentine's day
Not Your Usual Valentines
There is no other day like Valentine’s Day. It is a day in which we are strongly encouraged—by tradition, by our peers, by merchandisers and greeting card manufacturers—to express our positive feelings for another person. Generally, these feelings relate to love, affection, friendship. Valentine’s Day cards are an easy way to communicate one’s feelings, preventing the sender from having to say these things in person. Often we find—in the plethora of cards available today ranging from humorous to “hot”—that the sentiment written in the card expresses exactly what we want to say better than if we’d said it in person.
Valentine’s Day cards have long served this purpose. During the late 1800s, most of these cards were frilly, draped with images of cherubs, birds, and flower garlands, and dripping with sweet sentimental verses. Intended to be sent to family members or sweethearts, these fit the moral tone and maudlin sentimentality of the era. Continue Reading
20th century, 19th century, Valentine's Day, home life, holidays, correspondence, by Donna R. Braden, archives
A Different Kind of Valentine
It’s February, and with Valentine’s Day around the corner, many people’s thoughts turn to expressions of undying love and devotion delivered via beautiful and touching cards. However, from the mid-19th through the mid-20th centuries, some cards took a different slant. Known commonly as “vinegar valentines,” these satirical cards delivered insults ranging from the mild to the extremely offensive. We’ve just digitized about 10 examples of vinegar valentines from our collection, including this highly unflattering rejection note. Watch for an upcoming post on our blog from curator Donna Braden for more information about this phenomenon, or peruse the digitized vinegar valentines now by visiting our digital collections.
Ellice Engdahl is Digital Collections & Content Manager at The Henry Ford.
Valentine's Day, home life, holidays, digital collections, correspondence, by Ellice Engdahl, archives
Just Added to Our Digital Collections: Valentines
We’re already missing the holidays here at The Henry Ford, and so have turned our thoughts to another upcoming occasion: Valentine’s Day. Curator of Photographs and Prints Cynthia Miller pored over our extensive collection of Valentine’s Day postcards and greeting cards, and selected a number that we’ve just digitized. One particularly interesting example is this card featuring a chubby-cheeked and large-hatted young suffragette. If you’re in the mood for love, visit our collections site to see more Valentines—or if you’re more interested in the political message than the romance, check out other objects from our collections related to women’s rights.
Ellice Engdahl is Digital Collections & Content Manager
digital collections, archives, home life, correspondence, holidays, Valentine's Day, by Ellice Engdahl
The Eyes Have It
The most fascinating form of jewelry created as a love token started as what we would describe as a “fad” in the late 18th century. Today we might consider these disembodied eye portraits as bizarre or jarring. But they get at the heart of the very private nature of the intensity of feelings between two people, by means of an individualized portrait of a beloved’s eye. The idea was that a sweetheart would be reminded of their lover’s watchfulness. Throughout human history eyes have always symbolized mirrors to the soul. They are as intimate a token as two people could find.
The story begins with British royalty. In 1784, George, the Prince of Wales, son of George III, later to become the Prince Regent, eventually George IV, became enamored of a young Catholic widow, Maria Fitzherbert, whom he was forbidden to marry, both by law and by his father. Against her wishes, he pursued her. Recognizing the impossibility of the match, she fled to France for a year, believing that her absence would lessen the Prince’s amorous feelings. To the contrary, the Prince became more infatuated and more determined to marry Mrs. Fitzherbert. At the end of the year he sent her a marriage proposal. Instead of including a ring, he sent a miniature portrait of his eye. Apparently, she was so taken with his gift that she immediately returned and married the Prince in a secret ceremony, late in 1785. Shortly after the marriage, Maria commissioned the same miniature artist to paint a portrait of her eye for her new husband. This created a fashion among British aristocrats for eye portraiture. Of course, when King George III discovered the illegal marriage, he immediately annulled it. Thus, the eye portraits became even more important as symbols of intimacy and perhaps, forbidden love. As a coda to the story, although forced to marry another, George remained in contact with Maria for the rest of his life. It is said that George is buried with Maria’s eye portrait.
The popularity of eye portraits extended beyond the shores of the British Isles. In France, they took on political connotations and were said to function as discreet symbols for meetings of revolutionaries. Few eye portraits were made for Americans – they were associated with the hated British monarchy in the decades following the Revolution. Today, scholars estimate that there are no more than 1,000 of these tiny pins extant.
This eye portrait, when magnified, appears to be a male. The carelessly drooping hair of the eyebrow appears to be a characteristic associated with a man. A lady would have presented herself in a much more genteel manner. We will never know the identity of this person. That is the essential enigma of the piece – and of eye portraits in general.
In the centuries before the development of modern medicine, death came quickly and often. Because of this fact, the line between tokens of affection and mourning pieces became blurred. In most cases, love tokens hold signs and symbols legible only to the couple. We will never fully understand the meaning of these pieces. Unlike mourning jewelry, they do not give us names, initials or dates of the deceased.
In all, The Henry Ford’s jewelry collection holds some remarkable tokens of affection, most notably the eye portrait, but also several enigmatic pieces of the early 19th century.
You can learn more about eye portraits in sources such as the recently published book, The Look of Love: Eye Portraits from the Skier Collection.
Charles Sable is Curator of Decorative Arts at The Henry Ford.
decorative arts, by Charles Sable, jewelry, Valentine's Day, holidays
I also have many happy memories of exchanging cards with my classmates in elementary school, especially cutouts featuring kids or animals.
Take a look at this Cutout Valentine, "The Flags Spell 'Come Back to Me' Because I'm Lonely as You Can See," 1945. A mechanical card with two pieces hinged together so that the boat can rock from side to side. It was a gift to the museum from Mrs. Harvey Firestone, Jr. (Elizabeth Parke Firestone) and came in with the archival collection, Firestone Family Papers.
This year I searched our collections for more selections of valentines and found some surprises. I happened to find several which struck me as a quite unique. One is designed to look like a promissory note, picture above, from a bank in the 1850s. Another is a cutout card featuring kids playing with radio equipment in the 1920s - then the latest technology! The third example is a card that folds out to form an elaborate 3D tissue bell.
Then I came across this photo of a Valentine's Day Party. It is identified as a Girls' Club Valentine Dance, but they look like ladies and a gentleman to me. The room is decorated with crepe paper streamers and a large heart-shaped doorway. The sign above the doorway reads, "Kiss Me!"
My searches also came up with a man named Eugene Valentine. Once I saw this I realized that Valentine is indeed a last name, not just a romantic holiday. The name is from the Latin "Valentinus" based on "valere," meaning to be strong. In the British Isles, it has been recorded from medieval times as a first and then a last name with many different spellings, including Valentyn, Vallentine, and Valentine.
I also found a business named Valentine-Souvenir Company of New York City. There are several dozen postcards made by this company in our collections, but not one is a Valentine card. It turns out this company was formed from several later mergers of the founding company started by John Valentine of Dundee, Scotland, in 1825. The original Valentine Company made lithograph prints before starting to produce postcards in 1896. From 1914 to 1923 the Valentine-Souvenir Company of New York City printed postcards using the letterpress halftone color printing process.
I think that any search for Valentine's Day cards needs to include heart shapes as a design motif. In addition to the cards, I expected to find jewelry, dishes and quilts to have heart motifs, but here's something unexpected: a forerunner of the bicycle made with heart shapes cut out of the wooden wheels.
What would Valentine's Day be without a box of chocolates? This 1950s magazine advertisement says it all. Happy Valentine's Day!
Cynthia Read Miller, Curator of Photographs and Prints, is continually fascinated with the museum’s over one million historical graphics.
by Cynthia Read Miller, holidays, archives, correspondence, home life, Valentine's Day