Vintage Valentines on View
To celebrate the season and to put some color into winter, the Dollhouse and Toy Museum of Vermont has assembled an exhibit of vintage valentine cards, many of them dating back more than a century. Saint Valentine’s Day is thought to have been established by Pope Gelasius I in the Fifth Century in order to transform a Roman fertility festival into a Christian holiday. There are two Saint Valentines who share February 14th as their feast day. Both were martyred in Rome and neither is known to have any particular ties to romance.
The first known link of Saint Valentine’s Day to romance is found in Geoffrey Chaucer’s 1382 poem, ‘Parlement of Foules,’ in which three male eagles court a single female eagle. The first known Saint Valentine’s poem was written by the French Duke of Orleans to his wife, while he has a prisoner in the Tower of London after his capture at the Battle of Agincourt in 1415. He spent 25 years in England as a ‘prisoner,’ but was allowed a great deal of freedom to continue to live as a nobleman, and now is better known as an accomplished medieval poet who wrote more than 500 poems than as a warrior.
Now Valentine’s Day is a date for exchanging cards, flowers and candy in heart-shaped boxes, and is one of the busiest restaurant days of the year. More cards – an estimated 190 million – are exchanged for Valentine’s Day than for any other day except for Christmas.
“Some of the cards in these exhibits were saved by my family both in Chicago and Vermont,” said Jackie Marro, owner and curator of the Dollhouse Museum. “The ones from Vermont are mostly sweet, but some of the ones from Chicago have more of an edge to them. One of the Chicago cards shows a black cat as a mobster, with a box of chocolates in one hand and a pistol in the other.”
The Dollhouse and Toy Museum has many fully furnished dollhouses and hundreds of dolls. It also has many puppets, marionettes and vintage toys for boys, and is the home to Vermont MoMA, the Vermont Museum of Miniature Art. It is located at 212 Union Street in Bennington, and is open on Saturdays and Sundays from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. or by appointment. Admission is $2 for children over three, $4 for adults and $10 for families.