The Great War wreaked havoc on Valentine’s Day. Most eligible men were overseas and German valentines, known for their lovely lithographs, were barred from lovers’ letter-boxes by the same impulse that drove many Americans of German ancestry to change their names from Schmidt to Smith and to rename sauerkraut “liberty cabbage.” Manufactories in the United States were quick to seize their opportunity.
WAR INTERFERES WITH TENDER MAIL BUSINESS OF ST. VALENTINE
While St. Valentine has not been put out of business, and the gilded, be-laced and be-ruffled paper and celluloid confections which bear his name are to be found in abundance in the shops, the observant purchaser will note that the up-to-date valentine of the vintage of 1915 is quite different from those of previous years. The explanation of this change is that the heathen god Mars has seriously interfered with the German shops devoted to the service of the patron saint of lovers. “Made in Germany” is a trade slogan which appears on but few of the tender missives on sale this year, whereas in the past a large proportion of valentines sold on this side of the Atlantic were of Teuton origin.
The 1915 valentine is a “Made in America” product, and, while prices may range a little higher than for the German article, good judges of valentines declare that the domestic article is superior to the imported.
Nuremberg’s principal rival for valentine honors is Brooklyn, and now that the German competition is no longer to be met the Brooklyn factories have enjoyed a great boom. Of course there are dozens of concerns in many cities of the United States and Canada which manufacture valentines, but with most of these the trade is but a side-line. The Brooklyn workshops make valentines the year round, and more than a thousand people are engaged in the industry. Perhaps two-thirds of these workers are women and girls. The experts who do the hand-work on the more elaborate varieties receive large salaries. Brooklyn has one factory which alone turns out millions of valentines annually, the product retailing at from five cents each to as many dollars. Trenton [NJ] Evening Times 13 February 1915: p. 6
The United States entered the War in 1917 and by 1918, the militarisation of war valentines was well-entrenched.
The February fourteenth love messages this year emphasize the military note, and Cupid is to be found garbed in khaki and armor, riding in tanks and aeroplanes, peering thru gas masks and “over the top” of the trenches, and firing hand grenades and machine guns in lieu of his proverbially fatal arrows. Denver stationers say purchases of this sort of valentines on the part of the fair ones have been particularly heavy and that the explanation can be found in the post offices of the army camps and cantonments tomorrow. Denver [CO] Rocky Mountain News 14 February 1918: p. 8
The World War Gives a New Note to the Valentines for This year
Verses and Sentiments Inspired by the Great Struggle Characterize Cupid’s 1919 Messages.
by Marian Ferrell
War may be a commonplace subject nowadays, but at least it has found one new field of converse. Johnny no longer selected the “roses are red, violets are blue, sugar is sweet…” and so on valentine, done garishly in colors and flowers and lace paper, but instead sends to the lady of his choice an attractive little missive beginning, “Let’s buy our Liberty bonds together.”
And sweet little Mary, of the shy, fairy type, will answer back “I’m Hooverized and gotta live on love.” Maybe, however, she’ll be frank enough to say:
It’ll be the end of a perfect day
When you take me home with you to stay.”
Look at the valentines this year? Honestly, now, did you ever see them more attractive?
I wonder, friend of mine, if you read one which attracted my eye, the one that the “votes for women” maid may send to her “friend.” On it was the figure of a pudgy little girl, garbed in blue overalls. Her remark was “Neither will be boss, we’ll both wear ‘em.”
And I had to wonder who’d be the lucky girl to receive a little card bearing one short line—“You look as good as a Liberty bond to me.” “Wars may come and wars may go, But we’ll march on together.”
Yes, that was the verselet one valentine bore.
War Verses the Best
But the war valentines are best. They’re new. Don’t you like this one? (If you do I’ve got another): “Speaking privately, I’d like to make you my superior officer.”
And this: “I’m out a-hunting valentines. I like ‘em sweet and tender; I’ve got you covered, so you see, you may as well surrender.”
“Is there room for me ‘over there?’” queries one blue-eyed maid, while another turns to more soulful thoughts in a verse like this:
“A safe return and the best o’ luck
To my soldier valentine,
And a heart that’s true is beating for you,
And the heart that’s true is mine.”
Evansville [IN] Courier and Press 9 February 1919: p. 13
Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mrs Daffodil well remembers how high emotions run in times of war, so the impetus to send valentines “emphasising the military note,” was a natural one. Suggestions were made for alternative “thrift-stamp” valentines, unimpeachable in their patriotism. However, they were found lacking in actual practice, despite attempts at witty verses compiled by committee.
TO SEND WAR STAMPS AS VALENTINES THIS YEAR
Plan of Chamber of Commerce Approved by Committee
May Be National in Scope
Valentine day, February 14, will be a big day for the sale of war savings stamps in Washington if a plan of the Chamber of Commerce is carried out.
The next edition of the Booster, official publication of the chamber, which comes out this week, will appeal to every Washingtonian to send war savings stamps as valentines this year. The plan was worked out by Tom Grant, secretary of the chamber, and Frank A. Woodfield, chairman of the Booster committee.
The chamber’s suggestion is that a plain card be used instead of the elaborate lace-trimmed valentines and that a slit be made in the card for the insertion of the war savings stamp. Several verses to accompany this “war valentine” will be suggested in the Booster. Some of them are:
No pictures, paints or laces fine
Adorn this Thrift Stamp Valentine;
My love to you by it I send.
Because it is our one best friend.
The rose is red,
The violet is blue;
Licking the thrift Stamp
Licks the Kaiser, too.
Or this rather naughty one:
This Thrift Stamp symbolizes love
For you and all the nation.
Each one we buy (they don’t come high)
Makes Wilhelm say “D__nation!”
The national war savings committee has approved the plan and it is proposed to make it national in scope. Evening Star [Washington DC] 8 February 1918: p. 9
Knowing what her reaction would have been to such drab initiatives, Mrs Daffodil suggests that these well-intentioned valentines may have exacerbated the “surplus woman problem.”
Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes
You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.