White Doves, Pretty Ladies and Mischievous Cupids: Valentine's Day Postcards

A “Heart” Shot, Late 19th Century
Unknown Artist; United States of America
Paper and Ink
Gift of Mrs. John S. Helmken
The late 19th Century in the United States presented many burgeoning technologies, such as the steam engine and electricity to name a few examples. Methods of communication seemed to move more rapidly, with the ease of the national postal system, and the transcontinental railroad facilitating speed and efficient delivery. Among these things, manufacturing was an integral benefit to the birth of the Industrial Age. Though rugged in the beginning in regards to worker’s rights, it widened the availability of affordable products to the mass consumer. The consumer had a choice, as the advertising of this formative time preached. One element of the new consumer culture was the advent of the craze for holiday cards, with the most popular being Christmas as well as Valentine’s Day cards.

To My Valentine, Late 19th Century
Unknown Artist; Printed in Germany 
for the International Art 
Publishing Company, United States of America
Paper and ink 
Gift of Mrs. John S. Helmken
Color printing for chromolithographed Valentine’s Day cards proved to be affordable for the producers, as well as end users. The Valentine postcard was the most popular method of sending this type of correspondence during the commencement of the 20th Century, as an envelope was seen as unnecessary and too costly as it added extra weight to the postage.

These postcards pictured here were printed in Germany by the International Art Publishing Company which had firms in Berlin and New York City. The postcards were then sold in the United States, as was common at the time. The artists for these portrayed cards are unknown, though some well-known illustrators of the time did create for this company. The choice in imagery plays on the archetypes of Valentine’s Day themes, including cupid characters up to mischief, white doves flying, or ideal images of pretty ladies on the receiving end of these cards. German publishing firms such as the International Art Publishing Company were the most renowned for holiday cards and designs during this time period.

To the One I Love, Late 19th Century
Unknown Artist; Printed in Germany
for the International Art
Publishing Company, United States of America
Gift of Mrs. John S. Helmken

Currently, Valentine’s Day has decreased in popularity in European countries, even though the holiday's practices originated in countries like England, France and Germany. As we can see in the United States, the holiday remains to be ever popular stateside.

Text and images may be under copyright. Please contact Collection Department for permission to use. Information subject to change upon further research.
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Tuesday, 18 February 2020

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