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Dellroy area woman’s collection shows evolution of valentines

By Leigh Ann Rutledge
Accent Editor

Ed Patterson valentines
Edna Patterson shows her collection of antique and vintage valentine cards and candy boxes. The display can be viewed at the Carroll County District Library through the month of February.

Edna Patterson wants you to be her valentine.

Patterson, a Dellroy area resident, is a collector of antique and vintage valentines.  She has over 100 valentine cards and penny postcards from the late 1800s Victorian era through the 1950s. They are on display at the Carroll County District Library, 70 2nd St., NE, Carrollton, through the end of the month.   

“I grew up in the 1950s,” she said.  “During school Valentine’s Day parties were so fun.  We made our own valentine box and everyone passed out valentines.  The thing was, if you had a crush on a boy you could send him an anonymous valentine.”

This memory, along with how pretty valentines are, contributed to Patterson’s desire to begin collecting valentine cards.  She began collecting penny postcards and then expanded her collection.

One of the items in her collection is a plastic drummer boy.  Patterson, who grew up in Barberton, remembers seeing the items for sale at Woolworth’s during the 40s and 50s. Three cherry suckers were attached to the boy. 

“You can follow history by the way characters are dressed on the valentines,” said Patterson,  “and by the theme of them, such as pilots during World War II or pop culture such as Daniel Boone.”

Written verse on the card also can help date them.  Verses talking about “beaus” and slang help identify the era.

She has found valentines at antique auctions, stores and estate sales.  She found several one afternoon when she was just driving around. 

“We noticed an estate tag sale in East Sparta,” Patterson said.  “The valentines were probably ones the person had received as a child.”

Patterson compares finding vintage and antique valentines to a treasure hunt, “You don’t know what you will find.”

Most of the valentines and penny postcards in Patterson’s collection are signed from family members, students, and even some from “Guess Who.” 

Victorian valentines tend to be very fancy like the era of “living well.”  They are often three-dimensional with vivid colors.

Penny postcards from the 1900s were decorated with gold foil and heavily embossed.  Since it cost only one penny to mail them, penny postcards were more popular during the 1900s than sending a card in an envelope.

Animation can be found in valentine cards dating back to the late 1800s.  Often you would move a tab and the character’s arm or eyes would move.  One of the valentines on display has a tab that moves a man’s arm making it strum a guitar while the woman throws roses to him. 

During the depression, valentines were made cheap and some of them had to be cut out by the person giving them A card on display shows uneven cutting and is addressed “To Mrs. Anderson, From Dennis.”

“There are so many interesting valentines,” stated Patterson.  “As you look at them, you wonder about the person who gave it and who they gave it to.”

Patterson is thrilled to display her collection and teach people a little history. 

“I have all this beautiful stuff,” she explained.  “If it’s just sitting in a box, who is going to enjoy it?”

Often people will see her collection and tell her they remember giving and/or receiving a “valentine like that one.” 

Patterson also has heart candy boxes included in the display.  One box is from the 1940s and has the paper that covered the candy still inside.  The boxes are from Whitman or fancy boxes from the former popular Donna Dean Candy Company from Boston. 

At the end of the month, she will place each one in a separate bag and store them in a plastic tote until net year.

While exchanging valentine’s has changed with modern technology, Patterson will be sending valentines to her five grandchildren, which they can keep for their own collection.


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