A Little History of the Valentine’s Day Greeting Card

Valentine greetings have been popular since the Middle Ages, a time when prospective lovers said or sang their romantic verses. Written valentines began to appear after 1400. Paper valentines originated in the 1500s, being exchanged in Europe and being given in place of valentine gifts and oral or musical valentine greetings. They were particularly popular in England. The first written valentine (formerly known as “poetical or amorous addresses”) is traditionally attributed to the imprisoned Charles, Duke of Orleans, in 1415. While confined in the Tower of London after the Battle of Agincourt, the young Duke reportedly passed his time by writing romantic verses for his wife in France. Approximately sixty of the Duke’s poems remain and can be seen among the royal papers in the British Museum. They are credited with being the first modern day valentines. (credit: http://www.novareinna.com)

What you may not know is that many of the Duke’s letters stashed among the British Museum’s royal papers were mimicked in the ’40s and ’50s by the earliest commercial greeting card companies. It was a shameless ripoff, really, but the Duke was long gone, and . . . whatever.

One of the Duke’s little-known talents was his ability to put caricature and color on paper, making him popular among the local printers as he forged a brand new industry that still lives on today.

The Duke envisioned a time when motor cars would replace horses. Genius, he was. His earliest work later went on to be the flagship design of a line of cards featuring Creepy McCreepster, who was known about town for delivering clever pick-up lines and making construction paper hearts in his mother's basement.

Word on the street is that the Duke was overheard shouting, "You may be the duchess, but that gives you no right to wear a skirt and ride Western style." There was no holding back his feelings when he sat down to write and draw in his prison cell that day.

In the Duke's later years, he was known for imbibing in the mead to the extent that it really came to hinder his copywriting skills.

As the Duke honed his artistic skills, he also grew fascinated by androgyny, often highlighting it in his work.

The tradition of exchanging cards and greetings on Valentine’s Day continues. You have but nine shopping days remaining. Pay tribute to the Duke, and get to work.