NEWPORT - “From Your Valentine,” cards, photos, and objects of affection from the collection of the Lincoln County Historical Society, is on display now through February at the Burrows House Museum, 545 SW Ninth St. in Newport. Admission is free; donations are appreciated.

“Exceptionally beautiful cards, as well as some humorous ones, decorative boxes, and photos of couples from the early years in Lincoln County make this a charming and nostalgic display,” said Steve Wyatt, executive director of the Historical Society.

One of the photos features Mac Hofer and Sabine Dent, who met in Newport in 1903 when both families vacationed at Yaquina Bay. The story of their summers here is told by Mac’s sister, Florence Hofer Bynon, in a small publication of the Historical Society, “When Time Seemed to Pause.” “My brother married the lovely Sabine after a five-year courtship,” Bynon wrote.

The cards and objects feature the symbols associated with Valentine’s Day including hearts, Cupid, flowers, and birds. The earliest card is from 1908. Americans and Britons probably began exchanging hand-made valentines in the early 1700s. In the 1840s Esther A. Howland began to sell the first mass-produced valentines in America, hiring women to work in her home writing verses and assembling the decorative layers. “Penny dreadfuls,” comic and insulting cards, circulated in the mid-1800s and early 1900s. One verse reads:

Tis all in vain your simpering looks,

You never can incline,

With all your bustles, stays, and curls,

To find a valentine

The display also offers historical information about the history of St. Valentine’s Day. The celebration has roots in the Roman Lupercalia, a pagan festival held on Feb. 15. Over the years the celebration was transformed into a Christianized version honoring an early Saint, though history is not conclusive about the person eventually known as St. Valentine. A poem from Charles, Duke of Orleans, written to his wife while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London in 1415, is the oldest known valentine still in existence, preserved in the British Library in London. Several years later King Henry V reportedly hired a writer named John Lydgate to compose a Valentine note to Catherine of Valois. Gradually, Valentine’s Day evolved into a purely romantic cultural celebration.

About one billion valentine cards are purchased each year, 85 percent of them by women, according to the Greeting Card Association.

The Lincoln County Historical Society is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the preservation and interpretation of the history of Lincoln County. It operates the Burrows House and Log Cabin museums located at 545 SW Ninth Street in Newport. The museums are free and open to the public. The Burrows House Museum is open Tuesday through Saturday 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.; the Log Cabin Museum is open Thursday through Saturday 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

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