Valentine’s Day is believed to have existed since the third Century AD, originating with a priest in Rome named St Valentine. The Emperor at the time, Claudius II, had banned marriage, but Valentine broke the rules to perform secret unions. When Claudius found out, he threw Valentine into jail and sentenced him to death. It was there that he fell in love with the jailer’s daughter, and when he was taken away to be killed on the 14th of February, he sent her a love letter signed ‘from your Valentine.’
‘This sparked a tradition of sending love letters and cards from ‘your Valentine’, that became widely popular during the Victorian era. It is estimated that by the mid 1820s, around 200,000 Valentines were distributed around London. The penny postal service meant that people could send cards to their sweethearts quickly and cheaply, choosing either to sign their name, or remain anonymous.
Quirky Victorian Valentine’s Day Cards
There are certainly some weird and wonderful Valentine’s Day cards from the Victorian period, many of which are preserved within the Museum of London’s collections. Some are beautifully illustrated, while others are teasing and silly, or just plain insulting. One thing they all have in common is that they are hand-made, using materials such as scraps of paper, lace, and even stuffed birds!
Photo: Quirky Victorian valentines | Museum of London. 1860-1880.
This particular card tried (unsuccessfully) to make the lobster into a romantic symbol. It is thought that the cooked meat inside a lobster looked like a woman, however this trend quickly died down in favour of some more conventional designs!
Photo: Quirky Victorian valentines | Museum of London. 1870-85.
Here is an example of a card that was probably sent to a woman who had broken her lover’s heart. These more insulting cards sometimes used short poems as mocking messages. Nice!
Why not have a go at making your own cards? And not just for Valentine’s Day. Use materials that you can find around the house. Things like bubble wrap, tin foil and old buttons could make great additions to a quirky card. Share your designs with us and inspire others, too.
Tag your designs #ArtAtTheHeartValentine
Author: Francesca Rhodes
For more ideas on how to incorporate creativity into our everyday lives, head on over to the Everyday Creativity Section of our website for daily prompts on creative activities. You can download our FREE everyday creativity calendar and join our Everyday Creativity community on Facebook.