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THE HISTORY OF VALENTINES

 CLEVELAND, Feb. 4 /PRNewswire/ -- This year, more than one billion valentines will be exchanged, making Valentine's Day the second largest card-sending holiday of the year. According to Sharon Cole Schneider of American Greetings, Valentine's Day has evolved from a celebration just for sweethearts into a mainstream occasion enjoyed by everyone.
 "Romance is still alive and well on Valentine's Day," Cole Schneider said. "In fact, traditional designs with hearts, flowers and romantic verses are always among the most popular. But today, valentines are also exchanged among schoolchildren, relatives and friends. Valentine's Day is no longer the exclusive domain of sweethearts."
 Unlike many folk traditions, the custom of exchanging valentines has been well documented, providing some fascinating insights into social customs of the day.
 The First Valentine
 The first valentine was sent by St. Valentine himself, on the eve of his execution for refusing to renounce Christianity. Signed, "From you Valentine," it was a note of appreciation to the jailer's daughter, who had brought him food and delivered messages.
 The Oldest Valentine
 The oldest known valentine still in existence today is on display in the British Museum in London. It was penned by Charles, Duke of Orleans, in 1415 A.D., when he was imprisoned in the Tower of London.
 Royal Valentines
 Only a few years later, King Henry V wooed Catherine of Valois with Valentine verses secretly composed for him by John Lydgate, an anonymous writer of "standard love rhymes" for tongue-tied suitors to copy.
 During the Puritan dictatorship in England, Cromwell suppressed the valentine custom, but later, in the merry court of King Charles II, popular Valentine's Day gifts were jasmine-scented gloves and jeweled garters.
 French Valentines
 Valentines developed into a specialized art form in 18th century France. Laboriously hand-crafted, they often included paper fountains, intricate bird, flower and Cupid reproductions, three-dimensional romantic scenes on cardboard hinges, and borders of expensive Venetian lace.
 American Valentines
 Valentines came to America during Revolutionary War days. Typically, early American valentines featured simple pen-and-ink drawings and flowing script. Commercial valentines appeared about 1800, and in 1840, "mechanical" valentines were all the rage. By pulling a tab, a figure or object on the card could be moved. Eventually, reduced postage rates encouraged Americans to send more valentines, and printed cards became popular.
 Victorian Valentines
 In Victorian England, valentines echoed the elaborate fashions of the period. Cards often featured handsome embossed papers, hand-painted silk decorations and tiny mirrors accented with beads and feathers.
 Vinegar Valentines
 Humorous valentines of the 19th century were called "vinegar valentines" or "penny dreadfuls." Anything but sentimental with their bitterly sarcastic humor, these valentines were so "dreadful" that they were often sent anonymously and signed simply, "Guess who?" Public taste began to turn away from vinegar valentines about 1910.
 Modern Valentines
 "Today, diversity is the key to a successful Valentine's Day line," Cole Schneider said. "Romance has made a big comeback, and Victorian looks are especially big right now. Funny, contemporary valentines take a more light-hearted approach, and are popular with baby-boomers, especially men."
 -0- 2/4/93
 /NOTE TO EDITORS: Black and white & color photos of antique and modern valentines available on request/
 /CONTACT: Laurie Henrichsen, marketing/public relations coordinator of American Greetings, 216-252-4943/


CO: American Greetings ST: Ohio IN: SU:

SM -- NYVFNS8 -- 2701 02/04/93 07:08 EST
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Date:Feb 4, 1993
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