Love Is In the Air

Valentine’s Day is upon us! And what better way to celebrate the romantic present than by delving into valentines from days past? The Local History & Genealogy Division has, in its special collections, an assortment of Valentine’s Day greetings from the 19th and 20th centuries that offer a glimpse into personal expressions of both romantic and platonic love through the decades.

Many of the valentines you see below come to us from the personal collection of Emma Swift. A library employee since 1922, Swift was made the head of Local History in 1936, when the Rundel Building opened, and held the position until her retirement in 1965.

A Nunda native, Swift held a B.A. from the New York State College for Teachers in Albany and a B.S. in Library Science from Columbia University. She was a fervent lover of all things local who described her duties as “a little bit like detective work.”

Swift Service from Emma Swift

An undated illustration by an unknown admirer of Emma Swift’s reference talents. From the collection of the Rochester Public Library Local History Division.

Said to have been imprisoned for performing marriages for Roman soldiers (who weren’t allowed to marry), legend has it that Valentinus sent a note to the daughter of one of his jailers prior to his execution, signing it “from your Valentine.” The celebration of St. Valentine’s Day proliferated throughout the Middle Ages, appearing in the works of Chaucer and later, Donne and Shakespeare. Handmade notes of affection are said to have gained popularity in the 1400s. Later, Victorian-era valentines featured elaborate lace decorations, ribbons, and romanticized illustrations of hearts and cupids. Today, approximately 190 million valentines are sent each year in the U.S. alone.

-Cheri Crist, Librarian















Published in: on February 8, 2013 at 4:24 pm  Comments (1)  
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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. These are great! Thanks for sharing, Cheri!

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