Friday, February 14, 2020

A Pause to Consider:
Love in Past Years

Happy Valentine's Day! Whether you have been dreaming of receiving one of those quaint, Victorian-styled tokens of true love fit for a queen, or gearing up to laugh at some Vinegar Valentines, today might be the time to consider what greetings your ancestors might have been sending in their own younger years.

One of the most prolific producers of such greeting cards and postcards, at least in London, was the concern of Raphael Tuck & Sons (and no, despite the man's birth in Prussia, I'm not related; just love to look at these old-fashioned prints). Raphael Tuck, familiar to some genealogists on account of being the originator of the three-postcard "oilette" series known as "The Marriage at Gretna Green," created a commercial art concern in Great Britain which spanned nearly a century as a family business, from 1866 to 1959, at the retirement of grandson Desmond Tuck.

Of course, those of you who are privileged—or inescapably tasked—to work as part of your own family's business realize how much material can be gleaned from your occupational records and crossed over to your family history accounts, just as the line of ownership descended in the family business of Raphael Tuck & Sons has been detailed. Whether your firm became as well-known in your own occupational specialty as that of Raphael House, you can still share the story of your own family's success, both for its business history and for its family history.

As for those valentines wending their way to you—or making their way from your own anonymous hand—they may be as far afield from those quaint Victorian specimens or even those vinegar valentines of the 1840s onward as we are from those generations of our ancestors. But it's still fun to imagine what our great-great-grandparents might have slipped in the mail, or in a spontaneously-picked bouquet of flowers for a hopeful beau or belle. Hopefully, it didn't include vinegar.

Above: Undated and anonymous example of a "vinegar valentine," courtesy Wikipedia; in the public domain.

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