Vintage valentines from Hallmark’s archives show the sweet, silly and sentimental ways our artists and writers have helped all sorts of people put their hearts to paper through the years.
We didn’t invent Valentine’s Day. Swear.
That honor goes to Pope Gelasius, who declared Feb. 14 as St. Valentine’s Day to honor the martyr Valentinus and to end the pagan celebration…back around 498 A.D. And Esther Howland of Worchester, Mass., published the first American valentine in 1849, before our founder, J.C. Hall, was even born. (More details about all that here.)
Once we started producing our own cards in 1916, though, we were all in.
Samantha B., Hallmark’s historian, tells us the earliest valentines were hand-painted and produced with techniques like air brush, silkscreen and steel die engraving. Browsing even the earliest days of our collection, she spotted special processes like foil stamping and flocking, and lace and ribbon attachments.
The valentines’ messages offer a glimpse into what passed for compliments over the years: from “a little bit finer than all of the rest” to “might dear” to “pretty swell.” And the hand lettering—so much of it—is definitely swoon-worthy.
All images courtesy of the Hallmark Archives, ©1920-1956.