This Is What Valentine’s Day Cards Looked Like In The 19th Century

by Mimi Matthews

February 14th is Valentine’s Day. To celebrate the holiday 19th-century style, I’ve collected a few Valentine’s Day news items from Regency England, Victorian England, and even 1890s Texas. Some remind me a bit of modern day “lost connections” or “lonely hearts” adverts, while others are simply humorous historical Valentine’s Day messages or, predictably, not so humorous Victorian Valentine’s Day news.

The first item is from an 1819 edition of Saunder’s News-Letter and was posted by an anonymous gentleman — a self-described “man of the strictest honour” — seeking his missing Valentine.

valentine saunderss news letter february 20 1819Saunders’s News-Letter, February 20, 1819

victorian valentine 1830s via victoria and albert museumValentine’s Day Card, 1830s. (Image via Victoria and Albert Museum)

 The next Valentine’s Day advertisement, printed in an 1868 edition of the Cork Examiner, strikes me as being quintessentially Victorian. Note the mention of the Crystal Palace and lion feeding at Trafalgar Square! The Cork Examiner seems to think this advert (previously published in an earlier edition) was merely someone being facetious. What do you think?

valentine cork examiner april 13 1868Cork Examiner, April 13 1868

valentine card mid 19th century 2 via victoria and albert museumValentine Card, mid-19th Century. (Image via Victoria and Albert Museum)

Not to be outdone for humor, an edition of the Laredo Times in Texas printed several personal messages for Valentine’s Day, 1897. They range from the generic to the bizarre. It’s nice to know that our late 19th century forebears could be as creative with goofy nicknames as some of us are today.

valentines 1 the laredo times october 9 1897The Laredo Times, October 9, 1897

victorian valentine from indiana eduVictorian Valentine’s Day Card. (Image via Lilly Library, Indiana University, Bloomington)

And here’s another humorous Valentine’s Day message from the 1897 Laredo Times:

valentines 2 the laredo times october 9 1897The Laredo Times, October 9, 1897


victorian valentine beware the snake in the grass 1860 1870Valentine’s Day Card, 1860-1870. (Image via Victoria & Albert Museum)

Of course, it would not be a 19th century holiday without a grim Victorian tale. For Valentine’s Day 1891, this was provided by the Daily Gazette for Middlesborough, which related the tale of a young lady (rather ironically named “Payne”) who drowned herself after her boyfriend had forgotten to give her a gift for Valentine’s Day. It reads:

“On Saturday a young lady named Payne, chief of one of the departments of Mr. T. Beckett’s draper business at Peterborough, left the shop on some pretext, and a few minutes afterwards a messenger came in with a note from her saying that she had gone to drown herself. A search party was at once instituted, and her body was found floating in the River Nene, life being extinct. It is stated that she had some quarrel with her lover, and that not receiving a present on St. Valentine’s morning she so took it to heart that she resolved to commit suicide.”

valentine suicide daily gazette for middlesborough february 16 1891

victorian valentine 1860 via victoria and albertValentine’s Day Card, 1860. (Image via Victoria and Albert Museum)

This post originally appeared on and is reprinted here with permission.

Top photo: Valentine’s Day Card, 1864 via Victoria & Albert Museum 

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