Much of today’s Valentine’s Day expectations were created by the Victorians. While sending and receiving Valentines had been fairly commonplace before the 19thcCentury, it was the Industrial Revolution’s advances in paper making and printing which greatly reduced the cost of the traditional, small, and elaborate Valentines. Machine made paper and new printing processes and techniques allowing for combined colors (chromolithography), metallic inks, and die-cutting worked together to decrease the price of Valentines. Victorian Valentines could be purchased ready-made or senders could create original assemblages of materials available from a stationer’s shop. These items included paper lace, mirrors, bows, ribbons, seeds, sachets, gold and silver foil appliques, silk flowers, die-cut mottos or designs, and other items. Additionally, postal pricing reform recommended by Rowland Hill in 1837 and fully adopted in Britain in 1840 with the introduction of the Uniform Penny Post incentivized mass production of Valentines.
The growth of Valentine’s Day’s commercialization is clearly demonstrated in the increased sending of Valentines as tracked by the British Post Office. Its records indicate that up to 60,000 Valentines were sent in England in 1836. After the introduction of the Uniform Penny Post, 400,000 Valentines were posted throughout England in 1841. The numbers continued to climb, with 542,000 Valentines mailed within London in 1865 and nearly double that amount were sent into London from the surrounding countryside. These numbers led to Victorian postmen receiving a special allowance for refreshments to help them keep up their energy in the 2-3 days leading up to February 14th.
If you are lamenting Valentine’s Day as a commercial racket, blame the Victorians. If you are looking forward to sharing tokens of affection with friends and loved ones, thank the Victorians. Either way here are some Victorian Valentines that you can download and print to share with those in your life expecting or deserving a Valentine’s Day expression of love:
The following links to PDFs contain scans of Victorian Valentines from the Armstrong Browning Library’s Victorian Valentines Collection. Each PDF contains one or two valentines laid out with cut and crop marks to make printing, cutting, folding, and sharing your cards fun and easy!
- “I Love Thee Truly”
- “The Moonlight Seranade”
- “Faithful and True” and “A Loving Heart”
- Two Victorian Lace Valentines
- “In Tribute to…” and “Oh Blame not sweet Cupid”
- “Dearest I Am” and “I Offer Thee”
- Lace Valentine and “Sincerity and Truth”
- “A Bunch of My Affection” and Flower Boquet
- “Yours For Ever” and “My Valentine”
- “Pense” and “We Live to Love”
- Two More Lace Valentines
- Two Lace and Flower Boquet Valentines
- Flower Boquet #2 and Lace Envelope Design
- Flower Boquet #3 and “A Wish”