Category Archives: Holidays

Public Domain Images for a Vintage Valentine’s Day

We just added two new galleries of vintage Valentine public domain images. These vintage victorian Valentine greeting cards are from the early 1900’s. When I found these images it made me wonder what the origin of the Valentine’s day card was. So, I did a little research and thought I would share with you what I discovered.

Valentine greetings were around as far back as the Middle Ages, although written Valentine’s cards didn’t begin to appear until after 1400. The oldest known valentine still in existence is a poem written by Charles, the Duke of Orleans, to his wife while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London in 1415. He had been imprisoned when he was captured at the Battle of Agincourt. This greeting is now part of the collection of the British Library in London, England.

Public Domain Images - First Valentine's Day Card Charles Duke of Orleans

Oldest known Valentine: note from Charles, Duke of Orleans, to his wife while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London–1412

The image above is a depiction of the imprisonment of Charles, Duke of Orleans in the Tower of London. This is from a manuscript of poems written by Charles during his imprisonment. Charles was help as a prisoner for 25 years (from 1415 to 1440). He is shown standing at a window in the Tower and dispatching a letter from the courtyard. You can see London Bridge is in the background. Below is the poem that he wrote and the translation.

Je suis desja d’amour tanné,                               I am already sick of love,
Ma tres doulce Valentinée,                                 My very gentle Valentine,
Car pour moi fustes trop tart née,                     Since for me you were born too soon,
Et moy pour vous fus trop tost né.                    And I for you was born too late.
Dieu lui pardoint qui estrené                             God forgives him who has estranged
M’a de vous, pour toute l’année.                       Me from you for the whole year.

Je suis desja d’amour tanné,                              I am already sick of love,
Ma tres doulce Valentinée,                                My very gentle Valentine,
Bien m’estoye suspeconné,                               Well might I have suspected
Qu’auroye telle destinée,                                   That such a destiny,
Ains que passast ceste journée,                       Thus would have happened this day,
Combien qu’Amours l’eust ordonné.                How much that Love would have commanded.

Je suis desja d’amour tanné,                             I am already sick of love,
Ma tres doulce Valentinée.                                My very gentle Valentine.

The First Valentine’s Love Letter From Margery Brews to Sir John Paston

As far as we know, the oldest love letter associated with Valentine’s Day in the English language is also from the fifteenth century.  This Valentine’s letter, was written in February 1477, and was sent to John Paston by Margery Brews. In the letter she tells John that she has asked her mother to try and get her father to increase her dowry, but that it’s probably not going to happen, so, if he loves her, he needs to be prepared to marry her without any guarantee of more financial assistance from her father. John did eventually get married to Margery despite the fact that he was going to have to fork out all of the money for his bride-to-be. Check out her letter is below.

Public Domain Images - First Valentine's Day Card Charles Duke of Orleans

Margery Brews, Valentine Letter, February 1477

Here is the transcript of the letter  that’s a little more readable. I just love reading this out loud and trying to imagine what it would have sounded like if I were actually there while John was reading this “Voluntyne” [Valentine] aloud to himself.

Vnto my ryght welbelouyd Voluntyn John Paston, squyer, be this bill & delyuered, &c.  Ryght reuerent and wurschypfull and my ryght welebeloued Voluntyne, I recommande me vnto yowe full hertely, desyring to here of yowr welefare, whech I beseche Almyghty God long for to preserve vnto hys plesure and yowr hertys desyre. And yf it please yowe to here of my welefare, I am not in good heele of body ner of herte, nor schall be tyll I here from yowe; For ther wottys no creature what peyn that I endure, And for to be deede I dare it not dyscure. And my lady my moder hath labored the mater to my fadure full delygently, but sche can no more gete then ye knowe of, for the whech God knowyth I am full sory. But yf that ye loffe me, as I tryste verely that ye do, ye will not leffe me therfor; for if that ye hade not halfe the lyvelode that ye hafe, for to do the grettyst labure that any woman on lyve myght, I wold not forsake yowe. And yf ye commande me to kepe me true whereeuer I go iwyse I will do all my myght owe to love and neuer no mo. And yf my freendys say that I do amys, thei schal not me let so for to do, Myn herte me byddys euer more to love yowe truly ouer all erthely thing. And yf thei be neuer so wroth, I tryst it schall be bettur in tyme commyng. No more to yowe at this tyme, but the Holy Trinité hafe yowe in kepyng. And I besech yowe that this bill be not seyn of non erthely creature safe only your-selfe, &c. And thys lettur was indyte at Topcroft wyth full heuy herte, &c. Be your own M. B.

Valentine’s Day Grows In Popularity

In Great Britain, Valentine’s Day began to be popularly celebrated around the 17th century. By the middle of the 18th, it was common for friends and lovers of all social classes to exchange small tokens of affection or handwritten notes, and by 1900 printed cards began to replace written letters due to improvements in printing technology. Ready-made cards were an easy way for people to express their emotions in a time when direct expression of one’s feelings was discouraged. Cheaper postage rates also contributed to an increase in the popularity of sending Valentine’s Day greetings.

Esther A. Howland, Entrepreneur and “The Mother of the American Valentine”

Americans probably began exchanging hand-made valentines in the early 1700s. In the 1840s, Esther A. Howland was the first to make mass-produced valentines in America. It all started when Howland received an ornate English Valentine from a business associate of her fathers when she was just 19 years old. She was inspired by the card and started playing around with the idea of making her own similar Valentines. It didn’t hurt that her father operated the largest book and stationery store in Worcester, Massachusetts. So, she ordered supplies for her project importing paper lace and floral decorations from England. I strongly believe that you’ll be the most successful when you can see a need and then fill a need. At the time elaborate Valentine greeting cards were imported from Europe and most Americans simply could not afford them. Inspired by filling this need to make more these elaborate Valentine cards more affordable,  she made a dozen samples to test the market. Basically she created a Kickstarter campaign back in the 1800’s.


This Vintage Trade Card advertising her business may be the only card she ever made using wood engravings.

So, she made a dozen samples and sent them with her brother, who was a salesman, on his next sales trip. She was hoping for $200.00 worth of orders when he returned, she must have been beside herself when he returned with over $5,000 worth of orders for her. Howland employed friends and developed a thriving business using an assembly line. She named her business the “New England Valentine Company”. Her valentines became renowned throughout the United States and she became known as “The Mother of the American Valentine.” Her business grew until it eventually grossed over $100,000 per year, which was incredible for that time period. She eventually sold the business to 1881 after many successful years.

Here is one of the cards that was made by the New England Valentine Company.

Vintage Victorian Valentine's Greeting Card

Public Domain Images for Vintage Valentine’s Printables

Now that you know your history, let’s get to the good stuff. We just added two new galleries of vintage Valentine’s public domain images. These vintage victorian Valentine’s greeting cards are from the early 1900’s. The first gallery is a gallery free downloads of lower resolution images, unfortunately this was the highest resolution we could get from our source. There are over 80 Valentine’s cards in this collection and we included the scans from the front and back of the cards.

Click the image below to access the the free gallery of Vintage Valentine’s public domain images.


Click the image below to access the the premium members gallery of  high resolution Vintage Valentine’s public domain images.


What do you think about Valentine’s Day greeting cards? Do you still send them to friends and family? Do you prefer hand written or pre-made cards? Post your answers in the comments below. I can’t wait to hear from you!