True love always

Looking for love? The Martha's Vineyard Museum has an excellent collection of antique valentines. — courtesy the MV Museum

Ever wonder why lovers started sending valentines? How they looked and how they reflected the times? Bonnie Stacy, the chief curator of the Martha’s Vineyard Museum will discuss the Museum’s collection of antique valentines at “Is It Not Love?” on Tuesday, February 11, at 5:30 pm at the Museum Library. The 19th century saw the transformation of valentines from homemade tokens of affection to the popular mass-produced cards familiar to us today. Ms. Stacy will trace the history of valentines, both humble and elaborate, and share some of the stories of the Island sweethearts who sent and received valentines. She shared some of her favorites, below, with the MVTimes.

These Disney-themed Valentines were found in the old Bradley church in Oak Bluffs.

The pinholes in the corners — and lack of writing on the back of the Valentines — led the historians at the MV Museum to surmise that Sunday school teachers tacked the Disney valentines to a bulletin board at the Bradley Church.

Lucy Andrews Dowd, the recipient of this Gibson-girl themed valentine, was born at the turn of the last century in Tisbury. Lucy would eventually marry three times and live to be 91. Because Gibson Girls (such as the one pictured here) were popular from the 1890’s to the early 1900’s, we’re guessing that the “Reginald” who sent Lucy this card was a grade-school suitor. Early animation: on the back of several of the Dowd collection valentines are tabs to make the front move.

Though valentine messages had been sent for hundreds of years, the industrial revolution introduced mass-produced valentines. Lucy Andrews Dowd sent this die-cut card to some “one” she loved while she was still Lucy Andrews.

Ready-made valentines with poems helped less eloquent suitors express themselves.

Julia Avila Dunham died in 1937, and is buried in the West Tisbury cemetery, along with her parents. A census shows that she never married, but for several years, she received valentines from someone — no one is sure if it was a man or woman — who signed the cards “MMP.”

Julia Dunham would have been about 51 years old when she started receiving these romantic valentines from MMP. On the backs of the cards, MMP would write sentiments such as: “I stopped in the pouring rain last night and got your postcard, don’t you think I wanted to hear from you? Pretty cold…this a.m. wish you were here. Sweetheart I want to see you. Take good care of yourself, dress warmly so as not to get sick.”

MMP sent Julia Dunham cards until 1915. Julia moved to Martha’s Vineyard some time between 1910 and 1915, but historians at the museum have not been able to determine what happened to the

Admission is $8 for members and $12 for non-members. for more information.