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Card shows green lace; in the center is a boquet of flowers with a note and pencil laying upon it.
Yours Forever Valentine card, ca 1890. (Library of Congress)

Selling Valentines

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In my last post about the Geyer’s publication, I had indicated that I might revisit the title because I knew I had found interesting items related to Valentine’s Day cards. Since Geyer’s was the source that many stationers looked to learn who was selling what, I found a few articles that provided a small window into the turn of the century Valentine’s Day trade.

An article in the November 20, 1902 issue was particularly interesting because it looked specifically at the case of George S. Carrington, a stationer in Chicago who had been in business for 19 years. He bought a lot of valentines. He bought so many that the word “carloads” was used as an indication of size. Given that this was an imprecise measure, they provided a bit of clarification:

“Mr. Carrington buys in car lots, this year it will require seven carloads or about 80 tons of valentines to fill his order. He keeps one of the largest factories in the East working night and day for weeks getting out goods enough to supply him. The number of valentines that Mr. Carrington already has orders for, and it is still early in the season, runs into millions, or to be exact, 3,134,500 valentines. Of this number 145,000 are drops, 868,5009 cards and booklets, 114,000 mounts, 120,000 valentines in envelopes, 573,000 lace.” (p38)

One brand that was featured several times in Geyer’s issues was Raphael Tuck & Sons. A front-page piece, in the December 25, 1902 issue, about the Tuck line of valentines, indicated some pricing information, likely what the stationer paid. Large ornate souvenir variety valentines ranged in price from $4.50 to $6, while more regular valentines cost about 25 cents to $2.50, depending on size. Tuck brand cards were also featured in the November 20 issue, where they made sure to highlight the humorous valentines. The humorous valentines from the Tuck line were featured again in the January 4, 1904 issue, and I can honestly say, I wouldn’t have minded getting one of those cute formally attired animal cards (see image).

this is the front page of the the issue and features and article and 3 images: one in the left column feature a sample of 12 cards with animals wearing formal gear including a hat and often carrying a cane featuring a cow, fish, mouse, frog, owl, parrot, lobster, mountain lion, lion, dog the top image in the right column features two heart-shaped cards one says "to my Valentine" the other says "Valentine's Greetings" the bottom image on the left features a selection of 12 cards in an upside down fan layout
Geyer’s Stationer (January 7, 1904).

The front-page piece in the January 4, 1900 issue showcased valentines from the George C. Whitney Co. The author thought they were dainty, with a “beauty that is all their own.” If the name Whitney is familiar to Valentine’s card enthusiasts, it is because Whitney was one of the largest manufacturers of Valentine’s cards and ultimately purchased the businesses of L. Prang & Co. and Esther Howland, two other business known for their Valentine’s Day creations.

This is a full-page spread with 5 images of the George C Whitney Co. Top left a woman with her back to he camera sitting at a table painting Valentines by hand. Top image right man seated at a easel designing comic valentines. Middle left image has two women one in the foreground faces the camera the other in the back in profile designing lace valentines. Middle left older gentleman seated in profile with an inset valentine shaped card is the bard who writes comic valentine poetry. The bottom mage is a room of women at tables putting lace on valentines
Images of the employees of George C. Whitney Co. working on Valentine’s Day cards. New York Tribune (February 8, 1903) (Chronicling America / Library of Congress)

Tastes change and what people want from their Valentine’s card has changed, but cards are still popular items for Valentine’s Day.

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