The history of valentines can be traced back to St. Valentine, who died a martyr. His feast in the Catholic Church dates to the year 496.
In the 14th century, Geoffrey Chaucer wrote the first mention of love and Valentine’s Day. A letter from the Duke of Orleans in the 15th century is considered the first valentine. The oldest surviving valentine dates from 1477.
By 1797, valentine cards were being homemade of paper, ribbons and lace. In 1874, Esther Howland (1824-1904) of Worcester, Mass., was the first American to make valentines to sell commercially. Soon valentines – some of them comic – were being mass-produced by companies in the style of the day, although handmade folk art cards remained popular.
Very lacy, fancy valentines were favored by the 1880s. “Vinegar valentines” with insulting verses, also known as penny dreadfuls, were popular by 1900. And from 1900 to 1930, postcards, pop-ups and mechanical valentines were fashionable. The 1930s to 1980s saw sets of printed cards to be cut out and given to each child in a classroom. And by 1975, there were cards that could play music.
Save any clever cards you get this year and start a collection of old ones. Good examples still can be found.
A: Your chair was made by Gardner & Co., which was founded in Clarksville, N.J., in 1863. Gardner was granted several patents for improvements to chair seats and frames. Chairs with perforated plywood seats were made in full size, child size and doll size. The “Pet” chair also was made in a non-rocking version. The company was in business until about 1888, when the factory burned down. Your chair was made between 1871 and 1888. The value of your doll-size chair is $100 to $125.
A: Arthus-Bertrand, which still is in business in Paris, was founded by Claude Arthus-Bertrand in 1803. Today it sells all sorts of jewelry, medals and decorations. Back in the early 1830s, however, Arthus-Bertrand published a book titled “The Natural History of Hummingbirds,” by Rene Primevere Lesson, a French ornithologist and naturalist. The book included engraved prints of hummingbirds. The book’s prints are identified on the bottom of each page, not on the back as on your prints. So it is likely your prints are later copies of the prints in the book.
A: Edward Simmons was a hardware salesman who started his own wholesale hardware company in St. Louis in 1872. The company was incorporated as Simmons Hardware Co. in 1874. Simmons sold thousands of tools and hardware items through catalog sales and was the first to issue catalogs with color photos. Wonder was one of the lines carried by the company. Its best-known brand was Keen Kutter, a name still in use. Simmons Hardware was bought by A.F. Shapleigh Hardware Co. in 1940. The value of your ice-cream maker is about $200.
A: The value of an autograph depends on how famous the person is and how rare the autograph is. If the celebrity or sports star rarely signed autographs, they will be harder to find today and worth more. Autographs can sell for only a few dollars or for hundreds of dollars or more. A Babe Ruth autograph sold at auction recently for more than $1,000. Autographs of famous sports stars appeal to collectors of sports memorabilia as well as to autograph collectors. If you are thinking of selling your grandfather’s autograph book, you should contact auction houses that specialize in autographs or sports memorabilia to learn more about pricing.
This inexpensive valentine was made in the 1920s. The words and the clothing are clues to its date. It is printed on a thin piece of paper 6 1/2 by 5 inches, not a size that would fit in today’s standard envelope.