AncestorNews: Be My Valentine

By Nancy Hendrickson Premium


AncestorNews: Be My Valentine

I recently acquired a Valentine that my grandmother’s younger sister sent to her around 1915. Although the card is more than 80 years old, the color is still vivid and the lace paper is in fairly good condition.

When I got the card, I checked the Internet to see if I could find information about the card or its manufacturer. I learned that the tradition of sending Valentine cards was well established in 1700s England. And when settlers arrived in the New World, they brought the custom with them. For a long period of time, American merchants imported Valentines from England.

The “American Valentine Revolution” took place in 1847, when Esther Howland of Worcester, Mass., began using imported lace and fine paper to create her handmade cards. Then, in 1866, George Whitney opened a Valentine manufacturing company in Worcester, producing machine-made Valentines and other seasonal cards. For several years, thanks to Howland and Whitney, Worcester was known as the Valentine Capital of America.

The reverse of my grandmother’s card carries the imprint “Whitney Made, Worcester, Mass.” Clearly, the George Whitney company manufactured her card. Although I couldn’t find an exact match, I did find a card that came close to the one sent to my grandmother by visiting If you have a vintage family Valentine, send me a picture of it.

Want to learn more about the origins of Valentine’s cards? Surf over to these Web sites:

Postcard and Greeting Card Museum

History of the Valentine

The History and Legends of Valentine’s Day

European and American Valentines

For moreabout holiday history, visit

Nancy Hendrickson is a contributing editor for Family Tree Magazine. She also is a family historian, freelance writer and the author of the upcoming book, Finding Your Roots Online, on sale May 2003. Her Web site is at E-mail her at

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