14 February 2021
By Stephen Irwin, Education Officer, Blackburn Museum and Art Gallery
Valentine’s Day originated as a celebration of a minor Christian saint. Pope Gelasius I established the feast day of Saint Valentine as 14th February in 496 AD.
Time passed and the date accreted various folk stories and by the Fourteenth Century, it had become to be associated with romantic love.
By the Eighteenth Century Valentine’s Day was assuming the form that we know today; with an expectation that couple would exchange expressions of love, in person or by greetings card as well as gifts. As with Christmas Cards, the introduction of the “Penny Post” in Britain saw a huge boost in the sales of Valentine’s Day cards. In the USA, Esther Howland introduced a range of elaborate cards in 1847 and Hallmark followed in 1913.
Today, Valentine’s Day is the hugely commercialised event that is familiar to us all, with eye watering amounts of money being spent.
Unfortunately, having searched high and low, we don’t have any Valentine’s Day postcards in our collection. What we did find were these cards sent between sweethearts, lovers and spouses, to and from soldiers serving on the Western Front during WW1. The sentiments expressed in the verses might seem cheesy to us but it is a salutary reminder of a time when lovers had rather more to worry about than finding a card or an appropriately priced gift or booking a table for two at their favourite restaurant.
Happy Valentine’s Day