The winter holiday of Valentine ’s Day which falls on February 14th honors a goddess and a saint—the goddess is named Juno, Roman goddess of marriage and the Christian martyr and saint is St. Valentine. One of the most common collectibles of the holiday are a tell-tale sign of the holiday—the printed Valentine cards exchanged by children and adults alike.
While the advent of commercialized printing changed the face of the greeting card industry in the early 20th Century, valentine cards of the 1940s speak volumes about a tumultuous time in American history. They also highlight our mid-century modern culture. Valentine cards from the 1940s often featured poems, rhymes, special events, famous places, cartoon characters, the military, and lovers throughout history like Samson and Delilah or Antony and Cleopatra among others.
Some of the rare, collectible, and valuable Valentine cards derived from the spectacle that was the World’s Fair held in New York City in 1939-40. One example featured an illustration of the World Fair’s Trylon and Perisphere by architects, Harrison and Fouihoux and read “Hey, hey! You’re the FAIR-est Valentine in the world.” Valentines that fall into more than one collecting category like World Fair collectibles, vintage printed greeting cards, etc. Valentines with variety of imagery attract interested buyers and command higher prices on the market. A World Fair Valentine card, for example, can be valued at $15 whereas a similar Valentine with no connection to the World’s Fair may only be worth $2 to collectors.
World War II era Valentines often offered cheerful sentiments despite the fact that the war was ever present in the minds of many lovers. Some wartime Valentines featured figures of children dressed in military uniforms stating that “I’d FIGHT them all for you, Valentine.”
Air and sea travel figured prominent in the decade of the 1940s-50s and zeppelins, airplanes, rockets, and ocean liners were pictured on Valentines that read: “I’m MOONING over you, Valentine”, “Is there SPACE in your heart for me?”, and “I’d SAIL the ocean blue for you, Valentine.”
Even big businesses got into the act on Valentine ’s Day. Some Valentine cards featured pictures of kitchen appliances like refrigerators, stoves, cars, etc. A cute early 1940s Valentine card featured a girl outside and a boy inside a new, single door, light blue refrigerator or “the Frigidaire” as it was called. The card read in the boy’s voice: “Your FRIGID AIR is not so nice, Don’t treat me like a cake of ice! Be my Valentine.”
Famous cartoon characters were pictured on many Valentines and some of the most popular characters who appeared on workplace posters and war bonds announcement flyers were the beloved Disney couple, Mickey and Minnie Mouse and other Disney friends. Similarly, cartoon characters like Daisy Mae and others from the Li’l Abner comic strip drawn by Al Capp were popular features on Valentine’s cards of the 1940s. Hallmark, in cooperation with United Feature Syndicate, produced a line of cards featuring the Li’l Abner gang and other comic strips in 1946.
Personally, I think one of the best Valentine card ideas came from the designers at The E. Rosen Company of Providence, RI. The Rosen firm produced a Valentine card in the 1940s called the lollipop card. This trendy 1940s lollipop card featured two puppies on the cover and read: “Puppy love is Dandy, so I’m sending you this CANDY.” That’s right, this particular Valentine’s card of the 1940s came with its’ own candy. Now that’s a card everybody can live. Happy Valentine’s Day.
2. A Valentine for my Wife, circa 1949