“Harry,” said my father, a few days after I had reached home, “you have seen many sights since you have been away. If you come with me to-day you shall see another—a strange one too.”
“What is it, father?” I asked.
“Wait and see,” he replied.
We went a short distance by rail, and alighted at a pretty fashionable town, renowned for its medicinal waters, and called at a plain house in a short terrace, where we were ushered into a counting house which smelt strongly of some perfume.
A score or two of boxes lay about in different directions, but there was nothing very strange about it. My father transacted his business, and then addressed the clerk. “Oh, by the bye, will you let my boy see valentines in process of manufacture. He has been trying his hand for some time at them, and as it is near Valentine’s-day, I thought he would like to see the sight.”
“Yes, we make thousands of valentines,” courteously replied the manager, “but, strange to say, not near Valentine’s-day. They are made in the summer. Now we are making summer goods. Come and see!”
What a strange sight it was. A score of young girls and women were engaged in different rooms making those beautiful scent-sachets and ornamental cards which we send to friends on their birthday.
I was fortunate enough to see a dozen valentines made. I saw the flower Cupids, satin verse, ornamental border fringed with lace, all combined together by one of the young ladies so quickly that I could scarcely l>elieve my eyes.
“Only a small order,” the manager explained, ” of a pattern we had run out of.”
I learned then that one large manufactory was employed in producing the ornaments, another in designing the paper, a third the gilt ornaments, a fourth the pearls and flowers.
Printers and poets, artists and papermakers, merchants and traders, were all engaged in producing the handsome and beautiful offerings at the shrine of St. Valentine which we see in the shop-windows.
All these diverse materials are combined according to taste in a few places in the United Kingdom. There are two or three in London and one in Leamington, but no one can tell exactly the extent of the sale per annum. The comic valentines are another branch of industry, I learnt, and did not necessarily belong to a general valentine manufactory.
I had often wondered what valentine-makers did the rest of the year, and here it was explained.
You, gentle Cissy and Polly, as you peep through the window-curtains on the morning of the festival of St. Valentine for the always late postman, do not think that the perfumed trifle which will reach you in a snug little box by-and-by was the product of so much skill and enterprise.
You merely will think of the sender and guess whose handwriting is on the box, and you will try to decipher the postmark, which is hardly worth the trouble, considering that it has been posted here. A thousand thousand hearts are palpitating as well as yours, and wondering where the postman can possibly be staying.
Source: Every Boy’s Annual, 1871