Verses and Valentine greetings were popular as far back as the Middle
Ages, when lovers said or sang their valentines. Written valentines
began to appear after 1400. The oldest "valentine" in existence was
made in the 1400's and is in the British Museum. Paper valentines were
exchanged in Europe where they were given in place of valentine gifts.
Paper valentines were especially popular in England. Early valentines
were made by hand and were made with colored paper, watercolors, and
In the early 1800's, valentines began to be assembled in factories.
Early manufactured valentines were black and white pictures that were
painted by workers in a factory. Fancy valentines were made with real
lace and ribbons, with paper lace introduced in the mid 1800's. By
the end of the 1800's valentines were being made entirely by machine.
In the early 1900's a card company named Norcross began to manufacture
valentines. Each year Hallmark displays its collection of rare and
antique valentines at card shops around the country. Museums and
Libraries also offer antique valentine exhibitions around St. Valentine's
Pope Gelasius declared February 14 St. Valentine's Day around 498 A.D.
The Roman 'lottery' system for romantic pairing was deemed un-Christian
and outlawed. Later, during the Middle Ages, it was commonly believed
in France and England that February 14 was the beginning of birds'
mating season, which added to the idea that the middle of February --
Valentine's Day -- should be a day for romance.
The oldest known valentine still in existence today was a poem written
by Charles, Duke of Orleans to his wife while he was imprisoned in
the Tower of London following his capture at the Battle of Agincourt.
The greeting, which was written in 1415, is part of the manuscript
collection of the British Library in London, England. Several years
later, it is believed that King Henry V hired a writer named John
Lydgate to compose a valentine note to Catherine of Valois.