Vintage Valentine’s Day

By Karen Parr-Moody


GasLamp dealers love a holiday, as evidenced by the flurry of themed items that come out with each one. Valentine’s Day is no different, and here come the vintage Valentine’s cards, the old-school perfume bottles, the red and pink everything.


At Jason Parker Counce’s booth, he’s re-trimmed his red aluminum Christmas trees with heart ornaments, and has filled his entire booth with Valentine’s accoutrements.


“I always enjoy Valentine’s Day,” he says. “It’s the first fun holiday of the New Year – bright and red, with accents of rosy pinks and chocolate browns.”


Also for the occasion, Counce has crafted Valentine “art boxes” made from vintage store stock heart candy boxes, combined with old Valentine cards, postcards, photos, jewelry, “keys to your heart,” seashells, and even some vintage millinery flowers and ribbons.


“This season I went all out!” he said.


The photo, above right, is Counce’s “Kissing Cousins” collage box, and, below left, is another box called “My Military Love” ($24 each; Booth B-309).


The date of Valentine’s day was established in ancient Rome, when February 13, 14 and 15 were celebrated as Lupercalia, a pagan fertility festival. But it wasn’t until around 500 A.D. that the day was named Saint Valentine’s Day after one or more early Christian martyrs named Valentine.


But it wasn’t until mid-18th century England that the passing of “love notes” became popular in England (those Victorians!). This was the true precursor to the Valentine's card as we know it today. Early ones were made of lace and paper. By the early 19th century, Valentine cards become so popular in England that factories start to mass-produce them. In 1847, Esther Howland of Massachusetts produced the cards stateside, with paper lace. In 1913, Hallmark produced its first Valentine’s card … and the rest is history.


Many GasLamp vendors are serving up similar cards, from the 20th century, in their booths this season. In the photo, right, these are just a few of a basket of vintage cards ($2.50 to $4 ; Booth B-115). At another booth, there was a postcard dating to 1910.






And at Carol Williams’ booth, Aunt Enid’s Attic (Booth B-110), she features an assortment of reproduction cards from the Laughing Elephant (photo, below left). There are packages of whimsical cards that include 15 unique designs, for $9.95, and single cards that sell for $2 each.


Also at Aunt Enid’s Attic is this framed “calendar girl” print from a 1940s “Esquire” magazine, by Alberto Vargas, a Peruvian painter (photo, right; $48; Booth B-110). Vargas became famous in the 1940s for creating these pin-up style paintings for the men’s magazine; they became known as “Vargas Girls.”


Another treat from Carol Williams, whose booth and showcase feature items that would be perfect for Hollywood starlets of yore, are these glamorous perfume bottles (photo, below left). The purple atomizer is from Marcel Franck of Paris, a firm founded in 1882 by Léopold Franck to produce perfume atomizers. His clients included all of the major Parisian department stores of the day, such as Le Bon Marché, Le Printemps, and Le Galeries Lafayette. When Léopold Franck died in 1907, the business was transferred to his son, Marcel — hence "Marcel Franck."


According to the National Retail Federation’s (NRF), Americans are expected to spend an average of $116.21 per person on Valentine’s Day merchandise this year. For those who start their shopping at GasLamp, there are not only deals to be found, there is a guarantee that they will be hard pressed to find anything like these gifts anywhere else.

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