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25 Valentine's Day Cards Through the Years

Erika Berlin
Not every Valentine’s Day card was romantic.
Not every Valentine’s Day card was romantic. / Dave, Flickr // CC BY-ND 2.0
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Giving romantic Valentine's Day cards slowly came into fashion during the 18th century, but they were mostly DIY affairs at the time. By the end of that century, pre-printed cards began to appear, and once the printing and manufacturing technologies of Victorian Britain picked up, the Valentine card industry boomed. Not all sentiments were romantic—some were downright rude—but the tradition of giving friends and loved ones cards has only continued to grow (Americans will spend more than $1 billion on cards each year). Below are 25 cards from years past.

1. "My Only Love"

Vintage Valentine circa 1860
A vintage Valentine circa 1860. / Heritage Archive/Getty Images

For the couple who fancies themselves a Victorian-era Romeo and Juliet.

2. "Despair"

Can You See Me in Despair? (Valentine), circa 1840
Circa 1840. / Heritage Images/Getty Images

This one comes across a bit needy.

3. "Dearest Tis Sweet To Loving Hearts"

Dearest 'Tis Sweet to Loving Hearts (valentine), 1840/60
Circa 1840–1860. / Heritage Images/Getty Images

If only February 14 were so sunny and green.

4. "O Birdie, Pray Lead Us"

valentine showing two kids being led by a harnessed bird with fairies below
A 1874 valentine by Catherine Greenaway. / Heritage Images/Getty Images

How, and why, did these two young lovers harness a bird?

5. "I Found the Traitor Petal"

vintage valentine with insects, birds, and plants
A 1874 valentine by Catherine Greenaway. / Heritage Images/Getty Images

This person cheated at the old "he loves me, he loves me not" game.

6. "Cupid Hides"

Valentine - mechanical - heart opens to reveal Cupid, ca. 1875
Circa 1875. / Heritage Images/Getty Images

Opening the heart revealed a cherubic surprise.

7. "I Know Your Name"

vintage secret admirer valentine
Circa 1874. / Heritage Images/Getty Images

Secret admirer, or stalker?

8. "MY Heart's Been Teed By You"

Valentine card with a golfing theme
Circa 1910s–1920s. / Heritage Images/Getty Images

For the pun-loving golfer in your life.

9. "To My Valentine"

illustration with winged cherubs and hearts on a blue background
From the 1910s. / Heritage Images/Getty Images

Better hope the recipient likes winged babies.

10. "Morning Glory"

Cobweb Valentine with Morning Glory
Circa 1840. / Heritage Images/Getty Images

For the valentine who knows pictures are worth 1000 words.

11. "I Am Thirsty"

valentine of a thirsty camel
Not every Valentine’s Day card was romantic. / Dave, Flickr // CC BY-ND 2.0

The thirst is real.

12. "My Life Will Be an Awful Flop"

vintage humpty dumpty valentine
Candy valentine, 20th century. / Dave, Flickr // CC BY-ND 2.0

All the king's horses and all the king's men couldn't make this valentine any less desperate.

13. "I Believe in Freedom of the Press"

vinage valentine showing man and woman on couch
From the 1900s. / Dave, Flickr // CC BY-ND 2.0

A double entendre for the staunch First Amendment supporter in your life.

14. "Big Boy"

vintage valentine showing a young girl
From the 1900s. / Dave, Flickr // CC BY-ND 2.0

Let's hope she's made up her mind and given her valentine a new nickname.

15. "Valentine"

Valentine, 1876. Artist Walter Crane
Circa 1876. / Heritage Images/Getty Images

She does not look impressed.

16. "I Believe in Womens' Rights"

vintage valentine showing a young girl
From the 1900s. / Dave, Flickr // CC BY-ND 2.0

For your favorite feminist.

17. "Faithful as Ever"

vintage valentine of a girl riding a deer
From the 1900s. / Dave, Flickr // CC BY-ND 2.0

Why is she riding a deer? We'll never know.

18. "A Bear for Punishment"

vintage valentine with an illustrated bear
20th-century Valentine. / Dave, Flickr // CC BY-ND 2.0

Seems like they have a complex relationship.

19. "Peek-a-Boo"

Valentine - movable wheel postcard, 1913. Artist Ellen Hattie Clapsaddle.
From 1913. / Heritage Images/Getty Images

The child looks hauntingly ghostly.

20. "Just Peekin in"

vintage valentine showing a dog
Circa 1950s. / Joe Haupt, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

Here's one for the pun-loving Pekingese owner in your life.

21. "Pardner"

vintage cowboy valentine
Circa 20th century. / Dave, Flickr // CC BY-ND 2.0

Hey there yourself, cowboy.

22. "Be a Little Lamb"

vintage valentine of a lamb
From the 1900s. / Dave, Flickr // CC BY-ND 2.0

This sheep looks utterly unwell.

23. "Don't Juggle My Heart"

vintage clown valentine
From the 1900s. / Dave, Flickr // CC BY-ND 2.0

Creepy clowns are unlikely to win many hearts.

24. "Nuts"

vintage squirrel card
From the 1900s. / Dave, Flickr // CC BY-ND 2.0

The squirrel looks oddly angry.

25. Please Be 'Frank'"

vinate hot dog-themed card
20th-century card. / Dave, Flickr // CC BY-ND 2.0

The hot dog pun almost makes up for the kid's bad haircut.

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