This weekend many of us will show love with chocolates, flowers, jewelry or–as my husband prefers–tools and Chinese takeout. Many of us will also turn to Hallmark or American Greetings for the perfect card.
Our ancestors exchanged of love tokens at Valentine’s Day, too. Love letters, notes and even fancy gifts have passed between suitors for over 300 years. In England, many would-be lovers started sending pre-printed cards through the mail in the 1840s, when postage rates were standardized. In the United States, the practice became more popular after the Civil War, when thousands of soldiers-turned-beaus were looking for belles.
The National Archives (UK) has gathered a few virtual valentines in honor of the season. Browse images of old love letters, handmade and commercially-printed cards, like this 1905 valentine with its bold primary colors. Maybe these will inspire your own expressions of love this season! Or maybe they will inspire you look more closely for the love stories in your family history and honor a romance that came before you.