It’s in the Cards

The history of Valentine’s Day cards and why we send them

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unnamed-2As a kid, Valentine’s Day might mean buying a box set of Scooby Doo or Kim Possible cards and handing them out in class. The night before was spent signing every card and taping candy hearts on the inside of them, maybe sneaking an extra candy in for your crush.

“Cards are just miniature pieces of artwork that you get to share with someone else,” said Hallmark line Studio INK featured artist Morgan Georgie. “You can say things in a card that you may not be able to otherwise say. It’s a great way to connect.”

Cards and special notes were initially exchanged for Valentine’s Day in the 1700s but were popularized and commercialized in the U.S. by businessperson and artist, Esther Howland in the late 1800s. Howland used the recently-invented assembly line to manufacture and sell lace valentines.

In 1913, Hallmark started selling Valentine’s Day cards and introduced it as a commercialized holiday — “Hallmark Holiday”. Now, cards have been modernized with new voice recording technology and 3D designs, and  are more inclusive for holidays like Mother’s and Father’s Day.

unnamed-6Valentine’s Day is the second biggest holiday after Christmas for buying and handing out cards. Hallmark estimates that 114 million cards are exchanged annually on Valentine’s Day.

While bigger greeting card corporations get a big spike in sales around the holidays, local businesses like AE Letterpress and Design studio in Santa Cruz also get a lot of attention for Valentine’s Day. People come in for a workshop on how to use the letterpress to make their own cards or invitations. The letterpress is an old, hand-powered tool used to create card designs by leaving an impression in the paper with metal or wood plates.

“Everything is digital or on the computer, so it’s a nice way to get up and use your hands, get dirty,” principal designer Ashley Cunningham said. “You can get a really high quality, traditional aesthetic while using modern designs. You get these really beautiful artisan results.”

Unlike store bought cards, the handmade cards give the gift a more personal touch and people don’t throw them away as easily Cunningham said. Instead, she said some even frame and hang the cards.unnamed-5

“There’s this idea of I made this, it’s got a story behind it and blood, sweat and tears in it,” Cunningham said.

There are Valentine’s Day cards for the more romantic at heart with poetry and embroidered roses along the border or cute cards from the line featuring a stack of pancakes with the phrase, “you are the syrup to my pancake,” and funny, typographic cards that say “nothing says I love you like the words I love you.”

“These cards are for us — our friends and loves — the people we really want to connect with. The messages speak to our real life relationships — things we can all relate to in ways we can truly identify with,” said Hallmark’s creative strategist Meg Hilburn.

Morgan Georgie, of Ampersand Design Studio, is one of the featured artists from the Studio INK line. She explains the benefits of buying store bought cards. “Sometimes you find cards that articulate your thoughts or conveys a feeling that we aren’t able to come up with on our own.”unnamed-4

Whether store bought or homemade, greeting cards are an undeniable part of the Valentine’s Day tradition.

“Picking the right card is totally an art in itself,” Hilburn said. “A card is a super personal gift even if you didn’t “make” it yourself — you took the time to pick just the right one and show someone you know them and what makes them tick. That’s always a great feeling.”