These Valentine’s from 100 years ago show love has always been confusing

Valentine's cards have been mass produced for over a century, and these cards from 100 years ago are a bit unusual compared to what you may be used to seeing.
Feb 10, 2016

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  • Nothing shows your Valentine how you feel better than words written by someone else on a mass-produced Valentine's Day card.

  • The modern tradition of exchanging printed Valentine's cards began in the 1840s with Esther A. Howland, or the "Mother of Valentine," according to History.com. Howland would decorate the cards with real lace and ribbons. Now, the Greeting Card Association says Valentine's Day cards are the second most popular greeting cards in the U.S., with around 145 million units purchased every year.

  • It seems, even a century ago, people were having trouble illustrating just how they felt on a romantic greeting card. The New York Public Library has an online gallery of Valentine's cards from the early days of mass-produced love letters. See if any of these cards have what it takes to woo your special person this Valentine's Day.

  • Train engine covered in flowers.
    Train engine covered in flowers. / via NYPL Digital Collections
  • All aboard the Love Express! When a simple bouquet won’t do the trick, nothing is sweeter than the scent of a big, purple flower train.

  • Valentine greetings.
    Valentine greetings. / via NYPL Digital Collections
  • Something about this is wildly romantic, I’m sure.

  • To my Valentine.
    To my Valentine. / via NYPL Digital Collections
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  • Now you know what to send the person who rejected you.

  • Heres a wireless telegram that I will send to you ...
    Heres a wireless telegram that I will send to you ... / via NYPL Digital Collections
  • Everyone loves winking, dogs and impeccably styled hair.

  • A message of true love.
    A message of true love. / via NYPL Digital Collections
  • True love is two cherubs playing tennis with the hearts of people you care about. Good rally, team.

  • To my Valentine.
    To my Valentine. / via NYPL Digital Collections
  • Sneaking up on people while they slept on benches outdoors was the original Tinder.

  • To my Valentine.
    To my Valentine. / via NYPL Digital Collections
  • “I just stopped by naked with my wheelbarrow full of hearts to say ‘I love you.’"

  • Youst bane ma best fine girl.
    Youst bane ma best fine girl. / via NYPL Digital Collections
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  • Whatever this is trying to communicate, this boy doesn’t look so sure of it.

  • These cards may have worked 100 years ago, but if you don't think they will be as effective now, keep your eye out for modern illustrations of affection this Valentine’s Day.

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Nick received a Bachelor's Degree in Mass Communication at Dixie State University in Utah where we was Opinion Editor at Dixie Sun News. Now he interns for Deseret News National. Follow him on Twitter at

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