Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Valentine History, and antique Valentines.

     I recently made a PowerPoint presentation on the history of Valentines and Saint Valentine's Day, which I associate with a presentation of my collection of antique Valentines. I also included some Love stamps and covers as well as stamps with hearts on them from other countries. I presented this to the Milwaukee Philatelic Society meeting last week. I think everyone enjoyed it. I certainly do have a huge collection of antique Valentines.
     I have tried to figure out how to get this Power Point presentation on my blog. I transferred the presentation to Word to make handouts and then tried to load that presentation onto this blog site but it would not transfer. No specific error message, just said it could not be uploaded. Does anyone know how to do this? Please send me a comment or an email if you know. Meanwhile I am just going to transfer a few of the pictures and some of the write up. Since some are notes from my powerpoint presentation and some are the slides themselves, they are going to have various fonts and formats. I hope this is not too distracting and if so I apologize.

Remember when Valentine’s Day used to be called Saint Valentine’s Day. Indeed, it was named after a Saint and established in 496 AD by Pope Gelasius. The problem is that no one knows for sure who that saint was. That is perhaps why the Catholic Church decommissioned Valentine’s Day as a church holiday in the Saint’s calendar in 1969 (Pope Paul VI). There are three possible martyrs for which the day was originally named, though Valentine was a very common name for Christian martyrs.
     1)Valentine of Rome was a priest in Rome who was martyred in about AD 269. The only thing known for sure about him is that he is buried on the Via Flaminia. Supposedly he has relics in the Church of Saint Praxed in Rome and at Whitefriar Street Carmelite Church in Dublin, Ireland.
     2) Valentine of Terni became a bishop of Terni about AD 197, having been persecuted under Emperor Aurelian. He is also buried on the Via Flaminia but in a different place. His relics are at the Basilica of Saint Valentine in Terni.
     3) There is also a third saint named Valentine who was listed in church records as having been martyred in Africa along with several companions. Nothing more is known about him.
     This is all that is known as fact. In addition, there are a list of legends that have been included in various writings over the centuries. And our modern American Greetings Company has even embellished some of these legends. Most of them probably have been applied to the Roman priest, Valentine.
     According to early Medieval writings, the first St. Valentine was persecuted as a Christian and interrogated by Roman Emperor Claudius II (Emperor from AD 260-270). Reportedly Claudius was impressed with Valentine and offered him his life if he would become a Roman pagan. Valentine refused and tried to convert Claudius to Christianity instead. Well, Claudius won out and Valentine was executed, but before his execution, he is purported to have performed a miracle by healing his jailor’s blind daughter. More modern lore has embellished the St. Valentine story to add a little romance to the story. Supposedly Emperor Claudius II ordered that young men in his empire remain single so that they could become soldiers. He believed that single men made better soldiers. The priest Valentine however secretly performed marriage ceremonies for young men. When Claudius found out about this, he had Valentine arrested and put in jail.
     An addition romantic embellishment to the legend has been added by American Greetings, despite having no historical basis at all. Supposedly on the night before Valentine was to be executed, he would write the first “valentine” card himself, addressed to a young girl identified as the jailer’s daughter whom he had befriended and healed. The note read “From your Valentine.”
     Other origins of Valentine's Day may have influenced the holiday in the past. In ancient Athens, the period between mid January and mid February was the month of Gamelion which was dedicated to the sacred marriage of Zeus and Hera. In ancient Rome, the festival called Lupercalia was celebrated on February 13-15. It was connected to fertility. Later in Roman history the Festival Juno Februa, meaning “Juno the purifier” or the “chaste Juno” was celebrated on February 13-14. Pope Galasius (492-496) abolished Lupercalia.    
     Geoffrey Chaucer mentioned Valentine's Day when he wrote Parlement of Foules in 1382. It was a poem written to honor the first anniversary of the engagement of King Richard II of England to Anne of Bohemia.  Their marriage agreement was signed May 2, 1381. (They married 8 months later when 15 years old.) žChaucer was not referring to February 14, but instead May 2, the saint’s day for Valentine of Genoa, early bishop of Genoa, who died around AD 307.
   The earliest surviving written Valentine is a 15th century rondeau written by Charles, Duke of Orleans to his wife, while he was being held in the Tower of London following his capture at the Battle of Agincourt in 1415.
žJe suis desja d’amour tanne
Ma tres doulce Valentinee
The famed London diarist Samuel Pepys mentioned the observance of Valentine’s Day in the mid 1600s complete with elaborate gift giving among the wealthier member of society. Sending Valentine greetings or giving expensive or even cheaper gifts had not descended into the masses at this time.
 Ophelia speaks in Hamlet, by William Shakespeare and mentions Valentine's Day.

žTomorrow is Saint Valentine’s day.
žAll in the morning betime,
žAnd I a maid at your window,
žTo be your Valentine.
žThen up he rose, and donn’d his clothes,
žAnd dupp’d the chamber door
žLet in the maid, that out a maid
žNever departed more.
         Hamlet, Act IV, Scene 5.
This John Donne poem, Epithalmion,  celebrates the marriage of the birds as the starting point and then comes to the word Valentine. It was written for the marriage of Elizabeth, daughter of James I of England, to Frederick V, Elector Palatine, on Valentine’s Day.

žHayle Bishop Valentine whose day this is
žAll the Ayre is thy Diocese
žAnd all the chirping Queristers
žAnd other birds are thy parishioners
žThous marryest every yeare
žThe Lyrick Lark, and the graue whispering Dove,
žThe Sparrow that neglects his life for love,
žThe houshold bird with the redd stomacherž
žThou makst the Blackbird speede as soone.
As doth the Goldfinch, or the Halcyon
žThe Husband Cock lookes out and soone is spedd
And meets his wife, which brings her feather-bed.
This day more cheerfully than ever shine\
This day which might inflame they selfe old Valentine.

Roses are red, violets are blue ---- What is the origin of this well known verse.
žEdmund Spenser’s epic poem: The Faerie Queen (1590)ž
žShe bath’d with roses red, and violets blew,
žAnd all the sweetest flowres, that in the forest

 More familiarly,  A Collection of English Nursery Rhymes: Gammar Gurton's Garland (1784) shows the entire verse as we know it.
The rose is red, the violet’s blue
The honey’s sweet, and so are you
Thou are my love and I am thine
I drew thee to my Valentine
The lot was cast and then I drew
            And Fortune said it shou’d be you.

The Young Man’s Valentine Writer (1797).  Published in Britain, this handy little book contains dozens of sentimental verses for use of the young man who was unable to compose his own.
     With the reduction in postal rates in the early 1800s people begin to send Valentine wishes to each other, usually sent anonymously.  
     So just as the early Valentine’s day had its beginnings in England, the mass produced Valentine also started in England. One English Company the Raphael Tuch company was prominent in England,  and survived until WWII when shortages forced them out of business. But many of these early English created valentines (before WWI) although designed in England were printed and diecut in Germany. Many of these valentines found their way to the US and were sent to loved ones in the late 1800s and early 1900s. My collection has some stand up die cut German valentines that were sent in this country. Also there are several flat diecut German printed Valentines.s (before WWI).

Tuck is one of the most recognized names in postcard publishing. They produced a wide variety of cards and published an enormous amount of valentines. The company began sometime in the late 1800s, founded by Raphael Tuck. Designing was done in their London offices, while the cards were printed in Germany as were many of the cards produced prior to WWII.
     The company was known as Raphael Tuck and Co until 1882 when it was renamed as Raphael Tuck and Sons. The company is renowned both for the quality of its printing and the high caliber of artists they employed. They were very prolific, with many cards readily available due to the quantities produced. Prices for collectors can vary enormously because of this, with values depending on the particulars of the individual card and its condition.
     For valentine lovers, an artist of particular note who created for Tuck is Frances Brundage. Her large size cards with three-dimensional features are especially worth seeking out. Her faces are known for their very large expressive eyes

Frances Brundage is, along with Charles Twelvetrees, an especially prolific valentine artist. The daughter of an artist, Rembrandt Lockwood, she learned to draw at an early age. While many of her postcards are signed, the majority of her work on valentines is not.
     She began working for Raphael Tuck around 1900. It is her creations for Tuck that many collectors are especially interested in. Favorite subjects include children and ethnic or cultural figures. While she was well known for her depictions of African-Americans and the Dutch, to today’s viewers these portrayals will largely seem stereotypical and caricatured. They were, however, in keeping with the attitudes of her day.
     Around 1910, she began working for Samuel Gabriel and went on to work for a number of other companies (see bottom of entry for a list of those companies). In addition to valentines and postcards, she illustrated many books and various other items including calendars, paper and cloth dolls, advertisements and more.
     To identify her work, pay close attention to the faces of her figures. Her eyes tend to be large and expressive. Facial features can look wry and a bit mischievous, seeming to give knowing looks to viewers. Its this way her characters engage the viewer, like they are sharing a secret which compels so many to collect her art.
     Most of her pieces will date from the mid-1900s to the mid-1920s though some may be a little earlier or a little later. The cards are chromolithographs and are usually quite detailed.
     Brundage began her professional career at the age of 17 and continued steadily late into her life producing a large volume of items for collectors and admirers to swoon over.
     Companies that Brundage worked for:
     Raphael Tuck
     Sam Gabriel
     Fisk and Co.
     Fred A. Stokes
     Charles E. Graham and Co.
     E. P. Dutton
     Hayes Co.

This could very well have been painted by Frances Brundage.
The Victorian Valentines became very elaborate. They often had special papers in layers, many of the layers embossed. There were various dyes added to the papers which made these Valentines extremely complex..
     Later Victorian Valentines included different pieces of Victorian Scrap. The Victorians loved their Scraps. Scraps were initially printed as picture sheets that were uncoloured or sometimes hand colored. But in about the 1850s, they began to be embossed and glossy. They appeared first in Germany and then were imported to England. They became popular as decorative additions to Christmas cards or Valentines. Or they were collected, sometimes used to illustrate historical or popular events of the day. Some of these scraps were used to embellish the folding screens that the drafty living rooms required at the time.
      These scraps are also known as reliefs, chromos, or die cuts. After printing by chromolithography,  the sheets were coated with a gelatin and gum layer which provided a lovely gloss. Then came the embossing to provide the 3D effect. The final production proccess passed the sheets through a punching or stamping press to die cut away the unnecessary paper scraps, leaving the individual images connected by small tabs which often bore the name or initials of the producer. Often such decorative scraps were used in the center of the elaborate lacy and embossed paper valentines.
     Collections of scraps were saved in special scrap albums. Victorians also used them on calling cards, greeting cards and added them to pictures that they liked and wanted to keep. Sometimes in the albums they were mixed with verses and poems. The Victorians were very romantic and loved sentimental keepsakes.
Typical page of Valentine Victorian scrap.

In the United States, at first Valentines were imported from England and from Germany. However, the so called "mother" of American Valentines was a woman named Esther Howland. 
 The Howland family descended from Pilgrims. Esther was a student at Mount Holyoke Female Seminary and graduated in 1847. There had been Valentine celebrations during her tenure at Mount Holyoke, but later in her years there the college forbade the recognition of Valentine’s Day regarding it as too frivolous. Her father operated a large book and stationary store in Worcester, MA. She received an English Valentine from a a business associate of her father. She began making similar Valentines, importing paper lace and floral decorations from England. Almost simultaneously however, Jotham Taft of nearby Grafton, MA was also making Valentines. He and his wife built a successful valentine industry from their home in the early 1840s. Jotham’s son, Edward formed a partnership with Esther Howland in 1879, called the New England Valentine Company. Esther’s company began to employ a force of women, first her friends and then hired employees. She was the first to use an assembly line process preceeding Ford Motor Company. Her yearly earnings from Valentines reached $100,000, an unheard of sum for a woman run business. She semi retired in 1866 but continued to manage operations from a wheelchair due to a knee injury until 1881, when in order to care for her ailing father, she sold her company to George Whitney. She died in Quincy, MA in 1904, never having married or had children. But she lived a “love story” through her beautiful valentines.  Her early Valentines are highly collected; they were signed E.H. or simply H. Her later ones had N.E.V. Co imprinted on them, standing of course for New England Valentine Company.
     In 1863, George C. Whitney joined his brother Edward in the family stationery store begun by their late brother Sumner at 218 Main Street in Worcester. The brothers worked together as the Whitney Valentine Company until 1869, when Edward withdrew from the partnership. In 1881, George C. Whitney bought the New England Valentine Company and incorporated it into his operation. He also bought Jotham Taft’s business. The Whitney business proved to be very successful. After George died in 1915, his son Warren took over management. The George C. Whitney company continued to prosper until 1942, when the wartime paper shortage caused the liquidation of the largest greeting card company in the world.
     By the late 1800s most Valentines were modestly priced, and targeted to a mass audience. Many were designed with humor, with caricatures of particular professions or ethnic groups. Indeed, many Valentines in the late 1800s were intended as jokes, and the sending of humorous cards was a fad for many years.
The penny postcards of the early 1900s continued this humorous fad. Some were downright insulting. These were known as Vinegar Valentines.
These are Whitney Valentines.

Close up of a Whitney Valentine

The George S. Carrington Company probably began in business sometimes in the 1920s or shortly prior. Their cards are marked with a logo in the shape of a tree containing a letter (usually A, H, C, or E) inside the tree. Some early cards are marked with an “H” inside a circle. They published books and games as well as cards. The address for the company noted on their game boxes is 2740 West Fullerton Ave, Chicago, IL.
     In 1937, the company was in the headlines when then president, Charles S. Ross, was kidnapped, held for ransom, then killed. Murderer John Seadlund was the subject of an FBI manhunt and finally captured in early 1938 at the Santa Anita Race Track in Arcadia, CA.
     When wartime paper shortages led to the demise of both the George C. Whitney Co of Worcester, MA as well as another Valentine producer, Raphael Tuck also from wartime shortages, Carrington bought out Whitney in 1942, purchasing presses, stock and more. They continued creating desirable cards until 1955, when they too closed down.

A Carrington Valentine

 Earl Ruiter has written a history of the Norcross Greeting Card Company at his website: www.emotionscards.com. in 2003.
     Norcross Greeting Card Company was formed by Arthur Norcross in the mid 1920s at 244 Madison Ave, NYC. Arthur and his wife June and apparently at least one daughter were active in the management of the company and in the design and selection of its cards. Norcross is thought to be the first commercial card company to mass produce and print Valentines. The company designed many of its own valentines but also employed free lance designers.
     One free lancer, Miss Mildred Urban of Westminster, MA began working for the Norcrosses in the late 1920s. She founded an enduring theme called “Red Sails in the Sunset” used on cards until the 1960s. Early records show that her fees were about $25 for suggestions which found their way into 4 cards, and $32 if her ideas ended up in 6 cards.
     Norcross reportedly treat all his associates as though members of an extended family. For example even though, Miss Urban was only part time for Mr. Norcross, business related correspondence from the Norcrosses includes a memo from Miss Norcross which begins: “The Christmas suggestions are swell…” A note from Mrs. Norcross ends with “Please remember me to your Mother. Yours with love, June Norcross.”
     During WWII his employees that went to serve in the armed forces were replaced by members of their families – wives, mothers and sisters. He kept track of all the servicemen and corresponded with them. He put out the ‘Norcross News Letter’ keeping everyone up to date about what was going on – baseball scores, company news, etc. He also published a roster of where members of the Norcross sales team were living so that if someone from Norcross was close by they could look them up.
     Mr. Norcross died in 1969, and Mary Calvo, his long time assistant, assumed the job of President. In 1974, the Company was sold to William Mannion, son in law of John Dorance, The CEO of Campbell’s soup. The Company floundered, Mr Dorance tried again to sell it, and finally Ziff, a magazine publishing and communications firm, bought it. It was then sold to a Mr. Smith who also on the same day bought Rust Craft Company. He moved Rust Craft to West Chester PA where Norcross was then located. But both companies failed. Norcross was sold at auction in 1981 and basicly did not publish after that date.
     In his later years, Arthur Norcross became a philanthropist donating a wildlife sanctuary to Monson, MA the town of his birth. He also created the Norcross Wildlife Foundation which remains active in funding wildlife preservation all over the world.
     (Much of the material used by Earl Ruiter to write this history was provided by James Gray, who began as a Norcross salesperson in Denver in eary 1960s. In 1971, he moved to Baltimore area where he continued his involvement in sales management.) 
Following are examples of several types of popular Valentines from my collection. First you will see the popular honeycomb variety, then a popular theme, Dutch children on Valentines, some "fuzzy" Valentines, and a couple paper doll Valentines. Seek out my blog entry for Valentines, in Feb 2010 and you will find some examples of mechanical Valentines and of some 1920 Valentines with clever lines.   

     Beginning in the 1940s and continuing through the 1950s, Valentine’s Day changed. Where it had been a holiday to send messages of love through Valentines to lovers, adult loved ones, and relatives, during the two mentioned decades, it shifted dramatically to a holiday for children as well. It became a traditional celebration in the schools where children prepared Valentines for their classmates and these were collected in a decorated box, and then distributed during a celebration in the classroom. These traditions required and were helped by the availability of inexpensive Valentines sold in bulk that children could use. Many were printed on cheaper paper and were cut or punched out by the children themselves. In some cases they made envelopes to go with these Valentines. There were several companies that stepped forward to produce these inexpensive Valentines for children.
     Americard produced these inexpensive Valentines and my collection includes a majority of Americard Valentines.
     Also Double Glo made a lot of children’s valentines though they also made fancier Valentines that were more expensive. They produced some unique Valentines with fuzzy surfaces, or with glitter. Double Glo may be better known for the novelty Christmas decorations that they made. They were especially knows for the tinsel to decorate Christmas trees and hangers to put ornaments on the trees. The logo for these Christmas decorations is well recognized; a vertical eliptical representation of Santa’s face.
     Also Whitman Publishing Co from Racine printed Valentine cards. These were usually a slightly more expensive type of folded Valentine card than the cheap Americard ones.
     And of course Hallmark started to get into the act, in the 1950s and beyond.
     Then in the 1960s many Valentines began to utilize comic book characters, movie characters, and many other celebrity figures on the Valentines. Such themed Valentines began to replace some of the cheaply priced Valentines from the 40s and 50s. But the same companies participated in making these Valentines as well. I have a box of unopened Star Wars Valentines as an example of these types of Valentines.

1 comment:

  1. Re: "Arthur and his wife June"
    June Norcross Webster was not Arthur Norcross's wife. She was his sister. She oversaw all of the art at the Card company. Mr. Norcross had two children and did not pursue careers within the
    card company. Both children sat as directors of the Foundation.

    "Arthur Norcross became a philanthropist donating a wildlife sanctuary to Monson, MA the town of his birth"
    The Sanctuary was never donated to the town. But it was donated to the Norcross Wildlife Foundation which was created in 1964 prior to Mr. Norcross' death.