Valentines from the New York Public Library


Like most kids, I loved Valentine’s Day as a child. I would dutifully make a card for everyone in my class and then march around the room putting a card in each individual’s box. I remember scanning the cards I received to see if the boy I liked signed “love” or simply his name. (It was just his name.) But I still have that card I received from him: a Garfield card. Thankfully, the New York Public Library also has a soft spot for Valentines. This collection is housed in the Rare Books Division as part of their printed ephemera collection. Librarian Jessica Pigza was gracious enough to let us have a peek at the collection of cards that ranges from the mid-19th century to the 1980s. Happy Valentine’s Day to everyone from all of us at Design*Sponge! — Amy Azzarito

Photographs by Max Tielman


The New York Public Library’s collection was the work of Helen Adams Masten, a children’s librarian for 33 years, from the 1920s until her retirement in 1961. She had a personal passion for Valentines. Her collection numbers into the hundreds, and she donated it all to the New York Public Library for the benefit of future researchers. The collection includes Victorian cards, handmade Valentines, pop-up cards and even Valentines that Helen received from her young readers in the children’s room.

See more Valentines from the New York Public Library after the jump . . .

  1. oh my goodness, absolutely loving these retro valentines! great find :)

  2. Laurie says:

    Love all the different eras depicted! The radish head valentine is great – (but I don’t get the sentiment). Love the abstract one too. Great collection!

  3. Debora says:

    The cards are so beautiful and creative, but the questionnaire is *really* funny, lol.

  4. moonandsoda says:

    Great vintage finds! They really have special charm – time makes something strange to kitsch objects :)

  5. Rose Duggan says:

    Is that a bearded lady with a black eye hugging a donkey? As like as two peas.

  6. Samantha says:

    Thank you for sharing! These are such a great selection…that questionnaire may have to inspire future valentines for next year!

  7. susy says:

    oh, i just love this post! and the story of Helen’s collecting brought a real smile. So beautiful.

    When i was a kid my dad gave me a vintage valentine kind of like the victorian ones up here… it said
    “a heart without pleasure is no heart, it’s true.
    but love is it’s treasure when the love is
    like you.”

    happy valentine’s day d*s!

  8. Alex says:

    These retro valentines are so cute! My mom was recently helping to clean out a friends’ home and found this adorable vintage valentine– perfect for the graphic designer in your life! http://maddesigninterest.blogspot.com/2013/02/happy-valentines-day-from.html

  9. Libbie says:

    The library made some of their vintage valentines available as ecards: http://pages.email.nypl.org/valentinecard/

  10. Merissa says:

    Looove this! It’s so cool that they have this. I hope to see it in person one day. x

  11. kate says:

    Such a charming selection, my personal Fav has to be the peas in a pod… Happy Valentines All!

  12. Lizz N says:

    I just realized that I always find old xmas cards all the time at thrifts and yardsales but I never find old unused valentines… hmmm I wonder why? I would luv to find some.

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