Cards Say The Darnedest Things
By the 19th century printed Valentine's cards were on sale and extremely fashionable - in 1825 the Post Office handled more than 200,000 letters more than usual on St Valentine's Day.
First Valentine's Day cards. Commercial valentines were introduced in the 1880's and now the date is very commercialized.
Second only to Christmas, Valentine's Day brings out the card-giver in people, with an average of 1.01 billion cards purchased every year.
About 1 billion Valentine's Day cards are exchanged each year. That's the largest seasonal card-sending occasion of the year, next to Christmas.
The Duke of Orleans sent the oldest known Valentines in 1415 A.D. to his French wife while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London. It is still on display in a museum in England.
During the late 1800s, postage rates around the world dropped, and the obscene St. Valentine's Day card became popular, despite the Victorian era being otherwise very prudish. As the numbers of racy valentines grew, several countries banned the practice of exchanging Valentine's Days cards. During this period, Chicago's post office rejected more than 25,000 cards on the grounds that they were so indecent; they were not fit to be carried through the U.S. mail.
Hallmark has over 1330 different cards specifically for Valentine's Day.
Teachers will receive the most Valentine's Day cards, followed by children, mothers, wives, and then, sweethearts. Children ages 6 to 10 exchange more than 650 million Valentine's cards with teachers, classmates, and family members.
The first American publisher of valentines was printer and artist Esther Howland. During the 1870s, her elaborate lace cards were purchased by the wealthy, as they cost a minimum of 5 dollars - some sold for as much as 35 dollars. Mass production eventually brought prices down, and the affordable "penny valentine" became popular with the lower classes.
Valentine's Day is big business. Consumers will spend an average of $77.43 on Valentine's Day gifts this year. E-commerce retailers expect to rack up about $650 million in sales of food, candy, flowers, and other Valentine's Day gifts. Of that amount about $350 million will be for gifts and flowers and another $45 million will be spent on food (including chocolate) and wine.
The Italian city of Verona, where Shakespeare's lovers Romeo and Juliet lived, receives about 1,000 letters addressed to Juliet every Valentine's Day.
The Cards Were Beautiful
|Click the image to see the full size representation