Valentine's Day Postcard

New York, Valentine's Day Postcard

This postcard on a tramway (streetcar) and Valentine's Day theme is one of the writer's favourites. It shows a small sketch of a New York streetcar with "Broadway" on the side, together with a drawing of the cheeky conductor with patched trousers and a few transfer tickets for him to punch. The wording "Punch, punch, punch with care, But punch my heart, sir, if you dare!" says it all.

The card was published in 1903 by British card producers Raphael Tuck and Sons Co. Ltd. from their New York, USA office which opened in 1900. The drawing was by American artist, E.Curtis, who did many humorous cards for Tuck. It was probably printed in Germany. It has an undivided back which bears the British royal insignia, as Tuck & Sons were printers "by appointment" to the crown. Our copy was posted on 13th February 1907 in Philadelphia to a Mr Goerge A. Orr (sic) also of Philadelphia. The name and address were typed, no doubt to help conceal the identity of the sender.

The original idea of St. Valentine's Day being associated with lovers is obscure. It may date back to ancient Roman times when couples were matched during the February 15th festival of Lupercalia. In an attempt to Christianize this pagan festival, together with that of Juno Februa on 13th/14th February, Pope Gelasius I in around 496 AD selected February 14th to honour one of several saints called Valentine of which there were at least three. It is popularly believed that the relevant one in this context was executed on February 14th 270 AD for marrying couples against the orders of Roman Emperor Claudius II.

The earliest surviving "Valentine" note is believed to be a rhyme by Charles, Duke of Orleans, written to his wife from the Tower of London, where he was imprisoned after the Battle of Agincourt in 1415.

The idea of exchanging notes or presents built up over the years, but it was not until the development of steam driven printing presses that mass produced cards for sending in envelopes were available, and as with Christmas cards (see Maidstone Postcard) these came into regular circulation in the UK in the 1840s after the introduction of the pre-paid "Penny Post". Valentine's Day postcards, which could be sent without envelopes from the 1890s for a halfpenny, are uncommon (tramway ones doubly so). Today the production of Valentine's Day cards has become a multi-million pound industry, with one billion a year being sent worldwide, sales being second only to that of Christmas cards.

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