Early Works on Paper
  • previous image next image enlarge image back
  • Artist unidentified
  • Possibly Connecticut
  • 1840–1860
  • Ink and varnish on cut paper
  • 12 x 14 in.
  • American Folk Art Museum purchase, 1981.12.15
  • Valentine's Day is generally considered to be the first annual occasion on which greetings in the form of tokens and keepsakes were exchanged. The custom of giving presents, gloves in particular, to one's sweetheart is noted as early as the seventeenth century: "I resolved him as the other company did; which afterwards giving gloves unto their Valentines, wee also bought a paire costing 2s.6d. and bestowed them upon her." In his famous diary (written 1660–1669), Samuel Pepys also cites Valentine gift-giving, and by the eighteenth century, sweethearts cut love tokens of paper in the shape of hands intertwined with separate hearts with woven paper strips. Such expressions of affection became so popular that during the mid-nineteenth century, publications such as Godey's Lady's Book and Harper's Weekly were suggesting Valentine's Day verses and cut-paper projects for both men and women.

    Cut paper hearts and hands are more correctly termed "love tokens" because they were given as gestures of regard on days other than Valentine's Day. This love token is an assemblage of seventeen paper hands with a paper heart interwoven on each palm; a contrasting strip of paper is woven through the wrists. The hearts are different sizes—some are varnished, and two incorporate pieces of ruled paper. One hand carries the familiar sentiment "Hand and heart shall never part / When this you see / Remember me."
  • Photo by John Parnell