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A Hidden Valentine

02/09/2011

A Hidden Valentine

(Call number Mss1 G1875 a235–236)

Tucked away in one of the many boxes of the Garnett family papers is a folder marked “Valentines.” When I opened the folder, I noticed a small string on top of one of the valentines. I tried to brush it away but it was attached, so I carefully pulled it and found a wonderful surprise. The spiral cutwork on this valentine concealed a miniature figure of a boy. The second Valentine had a hidden butterfly. An unknown person sent these valentines to someone in the Garnett family of Richmond and Washington, D.C.

Valentine

Valentine (Mss1 G1875 a 235)

Cobweb Valentine

Cobweb Valentine (Mss1 G1875 a 235)

Called a “cobweb valentine” because of the effect on the paper when the center was lifted, these kinds of valentines were especially popular during the Victorian era. Valentines had become very elaborate and featured lace, floral decorations, and cherubs. “Mechanical” valentines with moving parts were common, especially ones that had an element of surprise, such as little doors or cages that hid a dove or a lovebird.

If you plan on sending a Valentine this year, you will be one of the estimated one billion people who exchange this token of affection on February 14.

To see more Valentines in our collections, we invite you to Take A Closer Look on our website.

Valentine

Valentine (Mss1 G1875 a 236)

Cobweb Valentine

Cobweb Valentine (Mss1 G1875 a 236)

Frances Pollard is Chief Librarian at the Virginia Historical Society.

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