Exploring the collections of the Mercantile Library:

With Love, from the St. Louis Mercantile Library
With Valentine’s Day upon us, we wanted to feature a few of the sweet little treasures held here at the Mercantile Library. I asked our director, John Hoover, to tell me about the two beautiful, elaborate antique Valentine’s Day cards he has displayed in his office, pictured below:  
 
"The Mercantile’s Greeting Card Collection includes Valentines which may have come as bookmarks inside gifts of books or preserved as a special object in a clutch of papers. They were likely part of larger gifts that span a century and harken to a gentler, slower time.” 
A Valentine's Day card made in Germany.
From the St. Louis Mercantile Library's Greeting Card Collection.
A Valentine's Day card distributed by the William Schotten Coffee Company in St. Louis.
From the St. Louis Mercantile Library's Greeting Card Collection.
The tradition of sending Valentine’s Day greeting cards is an import from Europe. In the United States, it really took off with Esther Howland, a woman from Worcester, Massachusetts who founded a Valentine’s Day card manufacturing firm in 1848. She sought to outdo the European cards that dominated the American market. Howland used lithographed pictures and embossed paper lace to assemble grand cards that sold widely across the States. Around 1900, German manufacturers dominated the Valentine’s Day market with “mechanical” valentines that folded out to create three dimensional scenes and used honeycomb paper, such as the ones pictured above. Increasingly, the cards were aimed more at children than romantic grownups.
A Valentine’s Day postcard, postmarked February 14, 1913.
From the St. Louis Mercantile Library’s Greeting Card Collection.
A Valentine’s Day card “For Son and Brother, Too,” 1928.
From the St. Louis Mercantile Library’s Greeting Card Collection.
We’ll leave you with “Valentine Day,” artwork by Gisella Loeffler which was featured on the cover of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch's Sunday Magazine, February 12, 1928. Gisella Loeffler (1902-1977) was born in Austria and came to St. Louis with her family in 1908. She studied art at Washington University and created posters for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was inspired by an exhibition of Taos painter Ernest Blumenschein, who was also from St. Louis, to move with her daughters to Taos, New Mexico. She spent the remainder of her life there. Loeffler also traveled through Mexico and South America, painted and illustrated Navajo and Pueblo children in books, and completed murals for children’s hospitals across the United States as part of the New Deal Federal Art Project.
Gisella Loeffler’s artwork on the cover of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch's Sunday Magazine, February 12, 1928. From the St. Louis Mercantile Library’s Special Collections.
Valentine’s Day greetings have a rich history here in the U.S. The day provides us with the perfect opportunity to reach out to loved ones, especially during this socially distanced time. We hope this inspires you to send a loving note to someone special this February 14th. The Mercantile Library sends our love to you!
 
-Alyssa Persson, Aubash Collections Access Librarian
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