A century of valentines

Sylvia Muse will turn 100 years old on Valentine's Day.

That in itself is enough of a wonder, but Muse is also known for her collection of greeting cards, including Valentines, kept over a century of life and shared with others over the years. Much of her charm lies in the fact that she seems more interested in the cards than she is in her own birthday.

Love only rules

This heart of mine

So say you'll be my


So reads a postcard that Muse received in 1911 — the year she was born. "My mother kept it for me," she says. Muse loves the card featuring a little Cupid dressed as a king atop a dashing steed, the horse itself draped with a heart-adorned blanket and standing atop a big red heart.

Muse was raised on a farm outside Hesston. In 1929, she married Raymond Dewey, a young Methodist minister who went on to become a district superintendent. He died in 1969. In 1980, Sylvia married Kenneth Muse, who died in 1990.

Muse has not only collected cards but has studied their history — she used to give programs to church groups and clubs and schoolchildren about them.

So she particularly treasures what she describes as a rare portrait of St. Valentine from a collection in Verona, Italy, and an example of when Valentines started to be made of lace, back in 1834.

She pulls out a Valentine from 1914 that shows forget-me-nots pouring out of a motorcar, and says simply, "This was sent to me as a child." Another, from 1928, features airplanes — a popular theme following Charles Lindbergh's trans-Atlantic flight in 1927.

A Valentine from 1918 in particular strikes Sylvia, because it was from lifelong friend and prominent Wichitan Garland Hattan. He died last year, and his wife, Freida, this year. When Muse received that card from Garland Hattan, she was turning 7 on Valentine's Day.

Muse is in tune with contemporary Valentines trends as well. She says you'll note that many modern cards are careful not to come out and say "I love you" — because the recipient "may think you mean it!"